From time to time, as was the case last week, I’ll get an opportunity to get back on the radio as a fill-in host. Usually it’s for Greg Kerr, who hosts a sports talk show in Bakersfield. Given my history with that station and the format, I’m happy to do it should it fit into my schedule.
Last week was unique. It was actually a remote broadcast from the new D-Bat indoor baseball training facility in northwest Bakersfield. They gave me a call knowing that remotes tend to be a little tricky and it helps to have an experienced hand trying to pull that off. As part of the grand opening of D-Bat, they were helping to raise money for Honor Flight Kern County, the organization that sends veterans to Washington, D.C., on all-expense-paid trips to see all the war memorials and monuments.
I had prepared a pretty in-depth show. There was lots of NFL Draft stuff to talk about, plenty of baseball news and even some silliness regarding the mascot name at Long Beach State. Of course, when they requested that I talk to some Honor Flight veterans about their organization, it was a no-brainer. Although not directly related to the sports format, it tied in to the day’s activities and the opening of this new businesses.
Chester, Frank, Rick, Al and Arlene were all guests and their stories stole the show. Sports was put on hold and all of a sudden the amount of money the Cardinals were going to pay for their top draft choice Kyler Murray didn’t matter any more. For half an hour we spoke about their service to our nation in places like Vietnam, Korea and the seas. We talked about the healing that trips like the Honor Flight provided these men and women some decades later.
We went around the table. Pulling off five guests with one extra microphone is no easy task. In hindsight, I should have just shut up and let them take mine too, which I essentially did because the best of interviewers know when it’s time to keep your mouth shut. There was appreciation, smiles, laughs and tears. These are the type of moments full-time radio hosts cherish; when they happen to ex-personalities like me, they are a blessing.
Al’s story resonated deeply. His service in the Air Force included preparing planes that dropped bombs for the support of ground troops. He was choked up when he mentioned every time one went out, he prayed there wouldn’t be friendly fire. He also admitted it took more than 40 years to get closure on his service, and Honor Flight helped, especially after his visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. There were times when he paused when he spoke as the emotion got the best of him. I remember thinking, “Let it breathe, silence is appropriate.” Many of the best moments on radio and in life are when nothing is said, even on a media dependent on sound.
After that there was really no going back to the regular show. How could I have possibly previewed the next few rounds of something as trivial as the NFL Draft when some of those gentlemen were subject to another kind of draft that changed their life? The good news is they found camaraderie once again thanks to Honor Flight, and it even created the urge for me to get involved with our Kern County chapter. I’m looking forward to it.
Perfect strangers, all from different branches of the military, one microphone, one fill-in radio host and one-half hour I will never forget. An appropriate brake-check, if you will, about what really matters in life and usually it isn’t the final score.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.