- Associated Press - Monday, December 21, 2015

NOVICE, Texas (AP) - She’s 70 years old and still feeling the need for speed.

“I always wanted to be in the Air Force and fly a jet,” Doris Haynes told the Abilene Reporter-News (http://bit.ly/1P6e5VA), giggling a little as if it were a secret she was telling.

“I did, and in 1961 when I was getting ready to graduate, I popped this on my mom and she had a heart attack, almost,” Haynes added, laughing at the memory and waving a fist over her head as she pantomimed her mother’s reaction.

“‘You can’t do that.!’,” was the inevitable, and perhaps a tad hysterical, reply to the young girl’s dream.

Haynes shrugged her shoulders, a tiny smile twitching at the corners of her mouth. When she spoke of her dream, she knew it wouldn’t be more than that. Not all dreams come true, after all, and maybe it’s better they don’t. A person’s got to have something to chase, right?

Besides, if Haynes can’t fly, then maybe at least her cookies will.

A few weeks ago, she started thinking that too many people take the young people serving in the military for granted. She wanted to figure out a way to let at least a few of them know that people back home were still keeping them in their thoughts.

How to do that? Send ‘em cookies.

“It was kind of my little, birdbrain idea,” she admitted, a tinge of shyness in her voice. Haynes was standing outside United Methodist Church earlier this month as about 15 volunteers stacked boxes of homemade and store-bought snacks into a car bound for Dyess Air Force Base.

“I didn’t know how to go about doing anything like this,” she said.

She contacted Wes Hays, a local World War II veteran, who in turn called his friend Bob Mehaffey, also a longtime veteran still involved with Dyess Air Force Base.

Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Miller of the 317th Maintenance Squadron and Master Sgt. Eric Siemsen First Sgt. 317th Operational Support Squadron drove out to Novice to receive the gifts and express their gratitude.

“We’ll send it to our deployed members either in Afghanistan, Africa, or so forth,” Siemsen explained.

If it’s to be there by Christmas, it’s likely at least the first leg of the trip for the gifts won’t be on a C-130 transport. Nor would they use a B-1 bomber, though the mind paints an interesting image of how many cookies a Lancer could drop on a target.

No, sadly it’s not that sexy. Just the good, old U.S. Mail.

Not that letter carriers aren’t sexy, especially those pith helmets. Or so I’m told.

OK, moving on.

Aside from Haynes’ homemade cookies and cakes, it’s true that troops can get snacks through the Air Force Exchange system. When deployed, the military goes to great lengths ensuring as many conveniences as feasible will be available to its members. It’s part of maintaining morale.

But even so, nothing holds a candle to getting a package from home. It could be the same exact thing sold at the Exchange, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still so much better.

“When somebody back home sends you something, it’s different,” said Mehaffey. “It tastes different, makes you feel different. It makes you feel somebody somewhere cares that you’re out there.”

Mehaffey spent 19 years in Air Force deployed overseas.

“I spent a lot of Christmases away from home,” he said. “I don’t care how stable you are, they get lonely. It’s not any fun.”

Miller, one of the two active-duty airmen, felt the same way about the power of these gifts.

“When you’re away, it’s phenomenal,” he said. “It brings you back to home.”

Miller’s son is currently deployed in Germany with the military and called home recently.

“The other day he said, ‘You know, I haven’t gotten any mail from anyone,’” Miller recalled. “Well, now he’s getting mail from a whole lot of people.

“It makes a difference, it makes the days better.”

Haynes didn’t keep track of how many things she baked for the airmen.

“I baked some fresh apple cakes and made some coated pretzels,” she said, adding she made four different types of cookies the next day, not finishing until 12:30 the following morning.

“I don’t know, it’s just something I love to do,” she said, self-consciously hunching her shoulders. “It’s just great and it gives me a good feeling.”

But just because she’s never gotten to fly a jet fighter, don’t think she hasn’t slipped the surly bonds of Earth.

“My niece’s husband, his family had some stunt planes,” she recalled. “I went up one time with him in a Russian-something stunt plane.”

She recalled it had an open cockpit and an engine she said ran backward.

“He took me up and we did all kinds of flips and curls and dives,” Haynes said, a wistful tone to her voice.

Did that scratch the itch? She thought about that for a moment.

“A little bit,” she finally said, then laughed. “But I wanted more!”

___

Information from: Abilene Reporter-News, http://www.reporternews.com

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