Midway All The Way!
When we heard that our patient, Jack Rollins was a Yellow Hat (docent) on the Midway, we thought, “What a great story!” While it’s most interesting that Jack is a volunteer on the Midway, the real story is how he got there!
It was Jack’s friend, Ev (already a docent on the Midway) who encouraged Jack to become a volunteer. Of course, it makes sense that someone who served in the Navy for nearly 30 years would be a perfect fit for the Midway. Jack is a Retired Navy Commander and served on the Valley Forge, the Ticonderoga, the Shangri La and the Kitty Hawk during his many tours in the Far East. Jack was an aircraft mechanic for 12 years and then was commissioned and became a Radio Interceptor Officer (RIO) for the Navy’s F-4 Phantoms.
It was during this time that Jack met friend and pilot, Charles Everett “Ev” Southwick.
They flew numerous missions together before the fateful day in May 1967 when their F-4 Phantom went down over Vietnam. Jack and Ev were captured immediately and held as POW’s in Hanoi for nearly 6 years! Thankfully, through their strength and perseverance they made it home to the United States and their families.
Many years later, an American contractor, Foster Gary Wayne came across the wreckage of an F-4 Phantom while building a road in Vietnam. Intrigued, he did some research and was able to locate Jack and Ev. Interested in writing a book about the plane, he invited Jack and Ev to return to Vietnam. 37 years later to the day, Jack and Ev were able to tour the site where their plane crashed, and view the wreckage of the Phantom. The plane is now on display in the Hanoi Air Defense Museum.
Sharing His Experience
As a Yellow Hat, Jack interacts with guests on the Midway answering questions and sharing some of his own experiences. Jack said, “It’s very rewarding to connect with the guests. They always have plenty of questions and show a real interest in learning more. We have a presentation explaining how we catapulted the planes off the ship and about the traps used to stop the planes when they land. The planes go from zero to 150 mph in 250 ft and they come in at 150 mph and stop in 300 ft.” When asked, “What was the best thing about the Navy?” Jack responded, “The Esprit de Corps… it’s a brotherhood.” He’s maintained that bond with Ev and other Navy buddies to this day!
Having cataract surgery with the Crystalens implant in 2010 has made it possible for Jack to continue volunteering. After wearing glasses for many years, Jack is now free to wear nothing but a pair of over the counter sunglasses when he drives down and spends the day on the Midway!