The Lady Let Him Fly … a poem that keeps touching lives

Susan Hunter's first husband, Bruce Netardus, was killed 8/10/92.
Susan Hunter’s first husband, Major Bruce Netardus, was killed 8/10/92. Her mother had it rendered in needlepoint.

I wrote this poem for the wife of a USAF fighter pilot after his plane hit a mountain in Norway in 1987. Over the years, the poem has appeared in numerous military journals and in the book Because I Fly (McGraw-Hill 2002). It’s also depicted in needlepoint and cross-stitch, and I am always honored to learn how it keeps touching lives years after I wrote it. (Click on each photo to enlarge the image.)

The Lady Let Him Fly

 Never once

did she bind his wings;

take away his boyhood

paper-airplane-dreams;

Matt and Amy Netardus at their father's grave in Arlington National Cemetery.
Matt and Amy Netardus at their father’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

 

nor try to force him

down to earth

when it was the air and sky

that beckoned his worth.

 

Matt and Amy Netardus as adults revisiting Arlington.
Matt and Amy Netardus as adults revisiting Arlington.

Never once

did the lady

hold him back,

or trounce his joy

for an air-to-ground-attack;

nor weep like a spoiled child

when he ventured into the blue wild.

USAF fighter pilot Bruce Netardus clipped this copy of my poem from the Spring 1992 issue of Daedalus Flyer and stuck it under a piece of glass on his desk. After he died a few months later, his wife found the poem and she contact me 22 years later to tell me her story.
USAF fighter pilot Bruce Netardus clipped this copy of my poem from the Spring 1992 issue of Daedalus Flyer and stuck it under a piece of glass on his desk. After he died a few months later, his wife Susan found the poem and contacted me 22 years later to share her story.

 

In the background she would wait

chasing away twinges

for her fighter pilot’s fate.

 

With wings straight and unfurled

he and the titanium bird

lifted above the runway’s end

seeking freedom on the wind.

And when he did not return

the lady waited proud and strong

knowing he’d been – “happy all along.”

From the book Because I Fly (McGraw-Hill 2002).
From the book Because I Fly (McGraw-Hill 2002).

 

And when the aged hands of Father Time

called him home

beyond the sky,

the young flyer smiled

because the Lady Let Him Fly.

© Kathleen M. Rodgers, 1987 Alaska

After Paul's first husband Mike Ayotte was killed in a plane crash in 1990, she found comfort in reading The Lady Let Hm Fly. A few years later she met Dave Mills and he made her smile again. They are pictured here with their daughter, Maddie.
After Paula’s first husband Mike Ayotte was killed in a plane crash in 1990, she found comfort in reading The Lady Let Hm Fly. A few years later she met Dave Mills and he made her smile again. They are pictured here with their daughter, Maddie.

 

 

 

 

USAF Lt. Mike Ayotte killed April 4, 1990.
USAF Lt. Mike Ayotte killed April 4, 1990.
Paula (Ayote) Mills cross-stitch peom PG
After Paula’s first husband was killed in an A-10 crash over Louisiana, she had “The Lady Let Him Fly” cross-stitched and framed. It hangs in her home today. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
MWSA Dispatches Magazine, November 2011.
MWSA Dispatches Magazine, November 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by

kathleenmrodgers

Author of the novels The Final Salute, Johnnie Come Lately & Seven Wings to Glory. Former contributor to Family Circle Magazine and Military Times. Future work represented by agent Diane Nine, Nine Speakers Inc.

4 thoughts on “The Lady Let Him Fly … a poem that keeps touching lives”

    1. Dear Irvin,

      Your support is endless, and I am always so honored when you take a few moments out of your day to invest your time and emotion in my work.
      Hope you have a joyous Sunday and a good week.

      Kathleen

  1. Beautiful and moving, Kathleen. It’s clear why you speak for so many military wives and now mothers and why this poem is widely shared and lasting. Women resonate with your clear voice expressing what they all must feel. Thank you for giving me a glimpse into this world.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      Honored that you read the poem. There’s a story behind the poem that I didn’t share. Maybe I’ll write about it for a future blog.
      I did fictionalize part of the true story in my first novel, The Final Salute.

      Funny thing about writing for the military and about the military. I never set out to be a “military writer.” If anything, I’ve tried to write past that label. And yet,no matter how I’ve tried to stop writing about the military, the harder it calls to me to keep on keeping on. LOL.

      Thanks for your support. I received your beautiful ARC in the mail. I’m looking forward to the read and spreading the word about your new book.

      Kathleen

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