To win the Broken Wings, a pilot must safely land a crippled aircraft. There are two criteria: The problem cannot be pilot-caused and the pilot must bring the craft down with minimal damage to property and life.
Coleman first won the award some 20 years ago in Czechoslovakia, but that's another story for another day. This is how he won his second Broken Wings in 2006 over the skies -- and among the piney woods -- of Louisiana: Coleman and a copilot were flying an OH 58 Charlie helicopter over a heavily forested area of Ft. Polk. Suddenly the copter's engine died and Coleman was forced to make several quick decisions.
Anyone familiar with helicopters knows that engine failure normally results in horrific crashes with fatalities. Landing a "dead copter" is a quick and grim fight with death.
During an interview with the Beauregard Daily News, Officer Coleman explained, "When something goes wrong, you must keep the rotors moving in order to have any control. Due to our low height of 400 feet and our speed of 40 knots, there was no time or room for error."
This is when his training kicked in. He stood on the brakes to make the aircraft stand vertical on its tail. As gravity took over, he was able to negotiate the controls and maneuver the copter toward a small clearing.
Before impact he told his copilot, "This is going to hurt."
Neither pilot was injured in the rough landing, and the helicopter suffered little damage. As the dust cleared and the rotors stopped turning, the two men stared in relief and amazement at the small clearing surrounded by tall pines. As they looked at each other, the younger copilot reached across the cockpit, shook Officer Coleman's hand and solemnly said, "You're the man!"
You're the man. That says it all.
It's the term we want those around us to say. Most of all, we want our family saying it honestly to us.
You are the man. You are respected. Esteemed.
John Avant, pastor of First Baptist Church in West Monroe, La., uses this life motto: "To be a man that God can use and be respected by my wife and children."
That says it all -- you are the man. If God can use you, and your family holds you in respect, you are the man. What others think -- and say -- pales in comparison if your Creator and family are pleased.
Conversely, for a man to be esteemed at work or in the world, but not by those closest to him -- who know him best -- that man is not a success.
Even more importantly, to be usable by God and seeking to please Him is the best success of all. It has nothing to do with being chauvinistic or domineering. Rather, it's about servant-leadership. The towel-toting, foot-washing, life-sacrificing kind that Jesus lived.
Yes, Chief Warrant Officer Edwin Steve Coleman was "the man" in the skies above the Louisiana piney woods. He was a pilot who knew what to do. His story is a clear word picture to each of us -- men and women -- that our actions will always affect and influence others.
I'll end this story with a short prayer, a prayer from the heart of the man writing this: "Jesus, You're the real Man. If You don't lead, I can't lead. Teach me to lead. Lead through me. Amen."
Curt Iles (on the Internet at www.creekbank.net) is a writer and speaker based in his hometown of Dry Creek, La. His eight books chronicle life among the good folks in the Piney Woods of rural Louisiana. Iles is a deacon at Dry Creek Baptist Church and a trustee of Louisiana College, which is affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
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