The Shepherd (1984) - full transcript

Exciting "top gun" action and conflict in the lives of the men who push the edge of danger defending our skies.

(water rushing)


- Grandpa, when Dad and
Lyle get here, can we

go for a ride?

- How bout right after supper?

- You know, Lyle, you really
oughta get your hair cut

to regulation. (water splashing)

No, I'm serious.

They could drop you from the team.

Not only that, they could
drop you from the guard.

- Oh, come on.

Remember that flight of
mine during last year's

squadron gunnery competition?

Every bomb I dropped was perfect.

Nobody could touch me.

And there was a bad wind
shield during finals.

But I came in steep and
released just above.

It was as if I was hand
delivering those bombs.

All I can say is that my
best happens to better

than anybody else.

They're never going to drop me.

- Hey, what are you kids doing?

(water rushing)

(dramatic instrumental music)

- It's too rough Lyle, forget it.

- Go on, then.

- Forget it!

(Lyle cheering)

(loud grunt)

(water splashing)

(sudden dramatic music)

(water rushing)

- [Lyle Voiceover] (loud
bang) I'm hit, I'm hit.

- [Tom] Say again?

- [Lyle] I've hit a bird, hit a bird.

- [Tom] Lyle, get your nose up.

(plane engine roaring)

- I can't see.

- Hawkeye Two Three.

One has taken a bird.

I don't know how bad it is.

Trying to get hold of command post.

Get your own clearance.

- [Hawkeye Two Three] Roger, Lee.

Good luck.

- [Tom] Chicago center,
this Hawkeye Two Two.

Hawkeye Two One is declaring an emergency.

He took a bird through the windscreen.

Present position direct to
point, one zero thousand.

- [Radio Operator]
Roger, Hawkeye Two Three.

Chicago Center.

Your clearance requested at 10,000.

We'll tell Des Moines to approach.

- [Hawkeye Two Two] Okay,
Chicago center, thank you.

- Ed?

Hawkeye Two One's hit
a bird, they're gonna

bring him in and approach an
engagement runway two three.

They'll be here in about 12 minutes.

(sirens blaring)

(sudden dramatic music)

(dispatcher giving orders)

(paper slaps)

- What's going on now?

(dramatic instrumental music)

(sirens blaring)

(plane engine roaring)

- [Tom] Hang in there, Lyle.

We'll get you home.

(sirens blaring)

(dramatic instrumental music)

(plane engines roaring)

- [Tom] Hawkeye Two One, gear in flaps.


Now, get the hook.

(dramatic instrumental music)

(sirens blaring)

(dramatic instrumental music)

Okay, Lyle.

We're two miles out, now.

I'm gonna put you down about
500 feet from the cable.

(sirens blaring)

Can you see the runway at 12 o'clock?

- [Lyle] Having a hard time seeing you.

(dramatic instrumental music)

- We're gonna ease it on down, now.

(dramatic instrumental music)

About three-quarters of a mile out, now.

You're right on speed.

Easy does it.

You're looking good.

Right on the money.

Two Two is on the go.

(dramatic music intensifies)

(plane engine squealing)

(sirens blaring)

(dramatic instrumental music)

- Got several media inquiries.

We'll keep 'em out of
here until you got it

under control.

- Okay, we should have your runway

in five to seven minutes.

(dramatic instrumental music)

(sirens blaring)

- How bad was he hurt?

- Mostly wind blast, with
no debris in his eyes.

- Being a sheep farmer, I
guess you'll have heard a lot

about rounding up strays.

- Come on, Miller, give the guy a break.

- Okay, okay, let's go on
with the debrief, here.

Start taxi takeoff went alright...

- How'd he happen to get that bird?

- Well, he said he needed to
update his low level flying.

- We're not even flying
low level route 16-16 now,

because of the bird migration, right?

- That's right, sir.

- How'd the rest of it go?

Any problems on the emergency recovery?

- Oh, terrific.

Just like the book.

(phone ringing)

- Yes?

Good, well keep me posted.

Thank you.

(receiver clicks)

Good news.

That was Doc Miles at the hospital.

He said Lyle's in good shape,
and he's going to be able

to lead the powder keg competition.

- That's good.

- You sound hesitant.

You know if we're going to
win the gunsmoke competition,

we've got to win the powder
keg shoot-offs, first.

We need Lyle to do that, don't we?

- Well, it's going to be
tough picking the men.

This has got to be a team effort.

(car engine)

(doors slamming)

- Hi, could you use some help?

- Thank you, I would love some.

- Could you help her with her tire?

I'm still a little
dizzy from the accident.


Ma'am, you are in great hands.

This man is a top flight mechanic.

- What's so wrong with your hands?

- These hands?

Oh, no, these are finely
tuned instruments.

- Oh, karate.

Must be a beginner.

- Well, there's a diner
right down the road.

If you care to join me,
we could talk about it.

- Listen, I don't need to know about it.

And besides, I hae a lot of things I need

to get done today.

- What?

Nobody works around here after 4:30.

- Sir, I really do appreciate it.

I'm trying to get to the base
before they close the gate.

- Okay.

- Why, what's going on there?

- Didn't you hear what happened today?

- No, what happened?

- A pilot came in totally blinded.

- Totally blinded?

Must be one terrific pilot, huh, Coop?

Did he make it?

- Yes, thank heavens.

- Ah.

Do you know him?

- No, I don't.

- Uh oh.

You're going to file a complaint.

- No, no I am through filing complaints.

This time, I am going to take some action

and I am going to do something.

- About what?

- About the fumes, for one thing.

When the wind is right, I
can't even open my windows.

And the noise is so ridiculous.

Our phone conversations are interrupted--

- Look.

I'm sorry, I was pulling your leg.

- You are Major Martin, aren't you?

- Yeah, and I'm sorry.

- Yeah, you're sorry, alright.

(car door slams, engine starts)

(tractor roaring)

(birds chirping)

- Michael, call your dad
and come and get washed up

for supper, now.

- [Newscaster] There was
some excitement in the air

earlier today, when an
A7D jet fighter aircraft

from the Iowa air guard struck a bird

during a routine training mission.

Here with that report
is TV8's Beth O'Connor.

- [Beth] For some, today's
events had all the drama

of a good movie.

For others, it seemed threatening.

Sheila Ryan has organized
an anti air guard committee,

and is attempting to
get the base shut down.

- This surrounding area never knows

whether or not an aircraft is coming in

for a routine landing,
or if it's a situation

like what happened today.

You know, to us, this is frightening.

- A spokesperson for the air
guard, Colonel Paul Blaine

says today's incident
was really no different

than routine instrument
landing in bad weather.

Is that right?

- That's correct.

We train and practice for
this type of incident.

And today's procedure
came off without a hitch.

- Colonel Blaine, I do
understand that the pilot

who guided the other
aircraft in was your son?

- [Blaine] That's right.

He was the shepherd who
led Major Martin home.

- Well, it wasn't exactly a normal day

as far as the mission was concerned,

but there was little danger
to anyone on the ground.

- Thank you.

That was Captain Tom Blaine.

So, it looks as if the pilots will return

to normal operations, and
will forget what happened

here today.

As for the people who live near the base,

they say they won't forget.

This is Beth O'Connor, TV8 News.

Now, back to the studio.

- A movie star!

Did you guys wash your hands?

- Yes, ma'am.

- Thank you, sir.

Michael, pray, please?

- Thank you, Lord, for
this day and this food.

And thanks for helping
Dad and Lyle this morning.


- Amen.

- I can't for the life of me understand

why you and Lyle are such good friends.

He's so egotistical, he's arrogant--

- He's also one heck of a pilot.

- Aren't you one heck of a pilot?

Pass the butter, please, Michael?

- I'm a good pilot, Ann.

Lyle's one heck of a pilot.

He's got that golden hand.

And he flies the airplane
like he was a part of it.

- Or so he tells everybody.

- Okay, Lyle's cocky.

But flying is his life,
it's as important to him

as the air he breathes.

- There's more to lie than flying.

- How come grandpa called
you a shepherd, dad?

Was he making fun of you
because you raise sheep?

- Grandpa called me a
shepherd because a shepherd,

in World War II, was a pilot
who led another wounded pilot

back to the carrier or
base when he couldn't

make it alone.

(knock on door)


- It's Willie and Lyle!

- Here you go, partner, that
A7 model you've been wanting.

- Woah, thanks Lyle.

- You're welcome.

- We didn't mean to bust
in on your evening meal.

- That's okay, we just
started, have a seat.

- [Lyle] No, we already ate, thanks.

- Well, how 'bout some coffee?

- That, I can get.

Here you go.

- Oh, thank you.

- What are you planning
on doing after dinner?

- Oh, I think I'm going
to con Willie and Lyle

into helping me fix the gate.

- Work?

(pail clanking)

- Why don't you go feed Sarah?

- Okay.

- Hey, Tom, I was just thinking

about what happened this morning.

I know the colonel's going to come down

real hard on me, and--

- Lyle.

Why don't the two of you just sit down

and talk this thing out?

He's not after you for
what happened in 'Nam.

- He can say that, you
see, 'cause it's his dad.

- You know, I learned a
lot from these critters

when I was down in Australia.

And one thing I learned from 'em

was not to be afraid of
something that doesn't exist.

- What's that supposed to mean?

- Come on, Lyle, stop kidding yourself.

- What?

- You're afraid that what
we've got spiritually

is gonna rub off on you
and spoil all your fun.

- That's ridiculous.

- Oh, come on, we've
talked to you for years

about what Christ can do in your life,

and what have you done about it?

- [Lyle] I listened!

- Sure, you'll listen.

You even bring up the subject.

But you're still carrying
around that guilt from the war.

My friend, you're messing your life up.

- Yeah, well at least
I'm in control of it.

- [Tom] Control?

- Control.

Just what do you think Christ
intends to do in your life

if you let him in, make
too many demands on you?

That's it, isn't it?

I bet when you were a
child, someone you loved

and trusted just shattered your faith.

And you built this big wall
and posted this little sign

telling everybody to keep
out, Christ included.

Am I close?

- Let me tell you something, pal.

When you get too old to fly airplanes,

you and Jiminy Cricket
here should become shrinks.

I gotta go.

- [Tom] Hey, Lyle?

- Yeah?

- Think about where you'd be now

if you'd nosed in this morning.

(wind blowing)

(soft instrumental music)

- Why doesn't Lyle want the
Lord to be his shepherd, then?

- Lyle's probably afraid that
God'll make demands on him.

Or deprive him.

Actually, it's just the opposite.

The bible says, "We all, like
sheep, have gone astray."

We've each turned our own way.

We've wandered off, Michael,
that's what we as people do,

we wander off.

We want our own way, just like sheep.

Even if it means getting in trouble.

And sheep need a shepherd to keep 'em

from sinkholes and wild animals.

And I'm getting cold, let's
go see what Mom's doing, okay?

Come on.

Come on!

(soft instrumental music)

(door opening)

- Honey, your dad called.

And Michael, it is past your bedtime.

- What'd dad want?

- He wants you and Michael
to go on a canoe trip.

- Far out!

- Hey, buster, no more.

After devotions you can
have a small piece of cake.

- You know, maybe we ought to take Lyle

on the canoe trip.

- You think he'd go if he
knows your dad's going?

- We don't have to tell him.

- You wouldn't!

- Well, I'm serious.

After what happened this
morning, it might be

our perfect chance to
help him spiritually.

(Ann laughs)

Okay, partner.

What's the verse for tonight?

- John 10:3.

"The watchman opens the gate for him,

"and the sheep listen to his voice.

"He calls his own sheep by
name, and leads them out."

- Do you know what that means?

- Yep.

Let's go down and get our cake, now.

- (laughs) Oh, smart guy.

- That Jesus is the shepherd
and we are his sheep.

That means we hear him.

- Have you heard him?

- No, have you?

- Well, sure.

- Really?
- Sure, you have too.

God just spoke to you
when you read John 10:3.

He told us, we could hear his voice,

and that he would call us by name,

And that he would lead us.

- But that was in the Bible.

- That's one way God speaks to us.

Through His word.

John 14:6 says, "I am the way,
and the truth, and the life.

"No one can come to the
Father except through me."

Now, what does all this tell us, then.

- That anyone can hear God's voice?

- That's right.

But if we're not in tune
to the shepherd's voice,

we'll never hear it.

- What did Lyle stop by for?

- Oh, he thinks he's
in hot water with Dad,

and he wanted me to bail him out.

- And what did you say?

- I told him to talk to dad.

- What is it between your
father and Lyle, anyway?

I mean, other than Lyle's "I'm God's gift

"to the US Air Guard" attitude?

Your father's not a petty man.

What's the big secret, can't you tell me?

- We go to war and face
life and death situations,

and armchair critics with 20/20 hindsight

sit in their easy chairs and tell us

what we should have done in 'Nam.

Where were they when
we needed their wisdom.

I don't need to add you
to the long list of people

making judgements against Lyle

because of what they thought
he should have done in 'Nam.

- Must...

Must have been pretty serious
if you can't even tell me.


- Alright.

It was my first mission north in 'Nam.

We had a high-priority target.

- Right here.

The bridge is on this branch
of the Ho Chi Minh trail.

It's 30 miles west of Vinh.

So be on the lookout for VCs, okay?

Hello, Joe.

Got the latest intel on our target?

- Right here.

- Well, I hope it's easy.

This is Tom's first trip north.

- I don't know how easy
the mission is going to be.

We got these reccy photos last night

just before dark.

It looks like the big threat
will be this 57 millimeter

anti-aircraft gun, located right here,

overlooking the bridge.

About one click to the northeast.

There are plenty of troops with small arms

also in the area.

Now, your best bail out area
will be to the southwest.

The Jolly Green and the
Sandys will be orbiting nearby

if you need them.

- Thanks, Joe.

Anything special you want
us to look for on this trip?

- Not today.

You'll be busy enough.

- Yeah.

Okay, here's my game plan to shut down

this bridge for a while.

Keith, you and I are going
to shut the gun down.

It's located right here,
where these trails intersect?

Now this trail is from the bridge.

This one, to an ammo
dump, right about here.

Keith, if I get this gun,
put your bombs here, okay?

Alright, we're going to come in low,

with the sun directly in their eyes.

Charlie, Tom, you have 30 second spacings

and do a split.

Now, if either of us get the gun,

you guys are going to have to go for it

and be back for the bridge another day.

In any case, one pass.

One, and get out fast and low.

Anyone tries to re-attack, I'm pretty sure

we'll have another man
in the flight tomorrow.

Okay, why don't you look over the route

while we're waiting for
Major Cranse and the weather,

you've got about 50 minutes til step time.

Any questions?

Good luck.

(suspenseful instrumental music)

(plane engines roaring)

- [Tom Voiceover] When
the weather cleared,

we went into tactical formation.

As we approached the
target, Lyle called for us

to take up spacing.

Then, green 'em up,
meaning to arm the bombs.

(sudden dramatic music)

(plane roaring)

I watched Lyle go in on his target.

I was concentrating on
my position off Chuck,

when he said there was ground fire

at his three o'clock.

(artillery firing)

As I looked at my three o'clock,

I saw Keith in trouble.

- [Keith] I'm taking a
hit, I'm taking a hit.

(bombs exploding)

- [Keith] I'm off to the left, let's go.

- [Lyle] Roll out, now.

We got the gun.

(dramatic instrumental music)

(plane roaring)

- [Tom Voiceover] Keith
had taken hits, so Lyle

escorted him home.

While we went after the bridge.

- [Tom] Ease in to the southwest.

(dramatic instrumental music)

- [Tom Voiceover] I saw
Chuck's bombs hit the end

of the bridge.

(bomb explodes)

So I rolled in on the middle.

(plane roaring)

As I pulled off and checked my bombs,

I realized that earlier, when Lyle called

the green 'em up, I had
selected my stations,

but failed to arm them.

(artillery firing)

I knew Lyle had said not to re-attack,

but we needed that bridge.

And Lyle said he had gotten the gun,

so I rolled in on my second pass.

(dramatic instrumental music)

(bombs exploding)

(metal clanking)

Just as I pulled off, I
realized I was taking hits

from the big gun.

(dramatic instrumental music)

(speaking foreign language)

(plane roaring)

(speaking foreign language)

(dramatic instrumental music)

(speaking foreign language)

(plane roaring)

Chuck knew I'd been hit, so
he began to circle the area.

(plane roaring)

(speaking foreign language)

(dramatic instrumental music)

I got on the radio and
gave Chuck my position,

so he could call in the chopper.

(helicopter whirring)

- Where are you guys?

I need some cover down here.

Come on!

(speaking foreign language)

(dramatic instrumental music)

(gunshots firing)

(dramatic instrumental music)

(plane roaring)

(speaking foreign language)

(plane roaring)

(bombs exploding)

(dramatic instrumental music)

(bombs exploding)

Okay, I'm leaving cover.

(helicopter whirring)

Now, I'm going to use a flare.

Come on, guys, get down here.

(loud pop)

Come on, that's smoke, come on.

(helicopter whirring)

- The chopper arrived
and I got out, obviously.

- Did you blame Lyle?

- I don't know.

It was the big gun that got me.

The time it took to
re-attack may have given them

time to recover.

- Does your father know
about the re-attack?

(laughs) Of course he doesn't.

I guess I still don't
understand why your father's

so down on Lyle.

- Because he thinks
Lyle never got the gun,

so he jeopardized two
airplanes and two pilots

going after that bridge.

And one of those pilots was me.

Lyle just won't admit
that he missed the gun.

- Well, that sounds like
Lyle, if he did miss.

- Now, dad's upset over
this bird incident.

He's catching all kinds of flack.

It's just one more thing, Ann.

I guess these people are pretty serious

about closing the base.

- I think I can guess
what you're all out here

to talk about today.

I'm sure it's about Major
Barton's bird strike yesterday.

- And the noise, and the fumes.

And all the things that we--

- Excuse me, Sheila,
couldn't we just address

one of those at a time?

I know, the area you live in
is pretty heavily trafficked

by jet aircraft.

But our aircraft are schedule to take off

after 9:00 a.m. in the morning and to land

before 9:00 p.m. in the evening.

- Then what is that
racket I hear at night?

- I assure you, that our aircraft

are on the ground by 9:00
p.m., unless we're on a higher,

headquarters-directed mission.

- Working hard, working hard.

- (chuckling) Yeah.

- You know, I've been
giving a lot of thought

to what you said the other day,

concerning my accident?

- Good.

- Hm.

But there's one thing that bothers me.

I can't quite understand how a person

can be a Christian,
and be in the military.

- Because God has ordained governments

to keep order and peace.

I'm serious.

It says so in the bible, Lyle.


"Do you want to be free from fear

"of the one in authority?

"Then do what is right,
and he will commend you.

"For he is God's servant to do you good.

"But if you do wrong, be afraid.

"For he does not bear
the sword for nothing.

"He is God's servant, an agent of wrath

"to bring God's punishment
on the wrongdoer."

- Really?

- Yeah.

The stronger a nation's military,

the less likely it'll have to fight.

- Why do so many have to take of together?

- Well, Sheila, our
unit's training 45 pilots.

And each of those pilots
maintains the same

combat readiness as an
active Air Force pilot.

- Are you getting ready for war?

- You know, our country was
freed by the citizen soldier,

the famed Minute Men.

And we in the Air National
Guard are actually

direct descendants of
these citizen soldiers.

- I get sick and tired of hearing about us

preparing bigger and
better ways to kill people.

- I agree.

But living peacefully
requires being prepared

to protect yourself.

Do you oppose programs to teach
women to protect themselves?

- Of course not.

What's that got to do with anything?

- These women are not
being trained so that

they can go out and beat people up.

But rather, to protect
themselves from bullies.

And that's exactly what we're trying to do

in our part of the national defense.

- How does a person know he's a Christian?

How do you know?

- John 1:12 says, "Yet
to all who received him,

"to those who believed in his name,

"he gave the right to
become children of God."

- You say you love God?

How does one do that?

- Well, when I say love, I'm not talking

about a soft, sentimental emotion.

I'm talking about a
deliberate act of our will.

When you love, when you really love,

God or anyone, it's going
to cost you something.

Want you to read something.

(soft instrumental music)

Here, Romans five, versus seven and eight.

- "Very rarely will anyone
die for a righteous man.

"Though, for a good man,
someone might possibly

"dare to die.

"But God demonstrates his
own love for us in this,

"while we were still
sinners, Christ died for us."

(dramatic instrumental music)

(loud footsteps)

- Hi.
- Hi.

- Listen, do you think that--

- Look, major, I'm not interested, okay?

- Now, wait a minute,
you don't even know me.

How 'bout giving me a chance, huh?

- I know you're arrogant.

- Well, sure, that makes me a good pilot.

- And does being deceitful
make you a good pilot, too?

- You bet, makes it hard for the enemy

to shoot me down.

I'm also very tricky.

- Are you for real?

- I have had many women
ask me that same question,

must be something wrong.

- You are egotistical.

- Oh, yeah, uh, you got me on that one.

Can we talk about it?

- You're persistent, aren't you?

- I am, I am.

- And I must be crazy.

- Well, I would never
hold that against you.

Listen, I have a short
meeting, would you wait for me?

- How long?

- A half hour.

- Oh.

- 20 minutes, no more.

Okay, what you do is, you
go down the cafeteria,

get anything you want,
put it on my bill, okay?


- Okay.
- Okay.

Wanted to see me, sir?

- Come in.

I want to discuss the incident
while it's still fresh

in our minds.

What happened up there?

- I had a gunnery mission to
Harwood, I thought I'd get in

some low level flying time.

- You know we're not flying low level

because of bird migration.

My job is to run this flying program

with the highest proficiency level

at the lowest risk factor.

That low level flying
restriction is to reduce

a hazard we don't need.

And when you broke that rule,
you not only jeopardized

your own life, but someone else's.

- Tom, always Tom.

You know, you have been
on my back ever since--

- Major.

Sit down.

You're pushing your limits again.

And because of that, I'm
recommending to the general

that you get a letter of reprimand.

You know, I've seen quite a bit of that

this past year.

You're pushing the weather limits--

- I've never gone beyond my limits.

- Major.

When you're assigned as flight leader,

your limits are the same as
the most inexperienced pilot

in your group.

And whether or not you
jeopardize their lives.

Powder keg's coming up.

You're top gun, you should be team leader.

But the key word is team.

You don't show some professionalism,

you're not going to be on that team.

Let alone, team leader.

- But--

- That's all, major.

- Yes, sir.

- Well, doesn't look like
you were congratulated

for all your efforts on proving
your combat readiness, huh?

- I get into it with him every time.

- What do you mean, get into it?

- I could fly a perfect mission,

which I've done on a few occasions,

and he would still find
something wrong with it.

He's been after me ever since...

Ah, well, did you get all the answers

you wanted from him?

- Not the ones I was looking for.

- Hmm.

- How would you like to see what happened

to my airplane?

- Am I allowed?

- Hey.

- [Sheila] What did you hit, an eagle?

- [Lyle] Oh, it's probably a
meadowlark, or a blackbird.

Weighed less than half a pound.

- Look at all these gadgets.

What do they do?

- Well, these are my
onboard computer controls.

You know, this was the first jet fighter

to have a computer.

Up here's the HUD, heads up display.

That's another first.

What it does, is flashes
my instrument readings

on the windshield.

Don't have to look down anymore.

Over here is my attitude indicator.

- Does it tell you when
you're getting arrogant?

- Okay.

- Is this the ejector?

- Yeah, how'd you know?

- The first time I heard all this

was at the Williams Air
Force base in Arizona.

The young man who told me was a proud,

enthusiastic 2nd Lieutenant.

His name was Jimmy.

I was so impressed, I married him.

But he never told me the whole story.

He never told me about the
pilots meeting in the bar,

talking about the jet that
crunched into the desert.

And he never told me about
the body that was scattered

in the sand that just the day before,

was talking about the son that he wanted.

In an instant, our hopes and
our dreams just vanished.

And then came the telephone
calls all over the base,

where the pilots called their wives

and told them not to worry.

But my phone never rang.

Only my doorbell.

(Lyle sighs)

- Come on, let's get out of here.

You know, I remember my dad telling me

about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

That's only 2,000 miles west
of his home in California.

He told me about the air raid alerts,

when people had to draw
their shades at night.

One day, he showed me this
old magazine he'd saved,

and on the back was this
advertisement for war bonds.

There was a cartoon of a Nazi soldier.

Under it, it said, "If
they win, only the dead

"shall be free."

(dramatic instrumental music)

Now, maybe your husband
didn't die a combat hero,

Sheila, but nonetheless, he was training

to keep this country strong enough

so that kids could go to bed at night

without having to draw
their shades in fear.

- But I hate war.

- And so do I.

But there's one thing I'd hate more.

- What's that?

- Losing our freedom.

(plane engines roaring)

(triumphant instrumental music)

Had us on the tanker for 26 minutes.

We've got to cut that down below 20.

And I thought I made it pretty clear

that I didn't want anyone sliding back

before going into pre-contact position.

You two turkeys were
at least 150 feet back.

- Come on, Lyle, ease up.

- Ease up, nothing.

You're making me look bad.

I could spend the next two
days showing you how it's done.

Probably would if I
didn't have other plans.


(water gurgling)

(dramatic instrumental music)

- Stay here, kids.


(dramatic instrumental music)

- Get Lyle!

(soft grunt)

(dramatic instrumental music)

(water rushing)

(dramatic instrumental music)

- Lyle!

(soft grunting)

(dramatic instrumental music)

(Tom yelling)

(dramatic instrumental music)

(Lyle coughing)

- [Paul] Tom, Tom!

(dramatic instrumental music)

Tom! Tom!

- I know that one of Tom's
favorite portions of scripture

was the 23rd Psalm.

And I know of no other man
who believed more than he,

that truly, the Lord, was his shepherd.

And now in death, he
passes not into darkness,

but into the very presence of God.

Lying in green pastures,
beside the still waters.

His soul is truly restored.

Tom loved his Lord, and like his Lord,

he was a man of action.

And I think of 1 John, chapter
four, verses 20 and 21.

We read, "If someone says, 'I love God,'

"and yet hates his brother, he's a liar.

"For the one who does
not love his brother,

"whom he has seen, cannot love God,

"whom he has not seen.

"And this commandment we have from him,

"that the one who loves God
should love his brother, also."

I saw Tom live that kind of life.

And I believe he exemplified
the words of Jesus Christ,

"Greater love hath no man than this,

"than that a man lay down
his life for his friend."

(trumpet playing taps)

(planes roaring)

- On behalf of the president
of the United States,

and the United States Air
Force, for meritorious service,

I present this flag.

(music continues)

(model crashing)

- (crying) Why?

Why him, why?

- We have no right.

In God's eyes, to go through our lives,

dissecting our circumstances,
looking for something

or someone to blame for our misfortune.

- He was your son.

He was my husband, he's Michael's daddy.

What do you want me to say?

Okay, okay, I understand
you did what you had to do?

You let Tom die?

- [Paul] I'm just trying
to help you understand.

- What good is it if I understand?

It's not going to change anything, anyway.

- I think it will.

I really think it will.

God loves Lyle, too.

And you're telling me
that Lyle doesn't deserve

an opportunity for eternal life.

Not if it means you have to suffer for it.

You know, Lyle thinks
that life is a sports car.

Prestige, an airplane that
turns tighter, and goes faster.

That type of thinking can one day take him

right into eternity without God.

(plane roaring)

- [Lyle] I'm hit, I'm hit!

I've hit a bird!

- [Tom Voiceover] Hey, Lyle,
think about where you'd be now

if you'd nosed in this morning.

- [Sheila Voiceover] And he
never told me about the body

that would be scattered in the sand.

(Lyle yells)

(suspenseful instrumental music)

(gear clanking)

(soft footsteps)

- Why don't you take a break?

(gear clanking)

Willie, you're a Christian.

How come you never talk about it?

- Well, you're a fighter
pilot and you talk about it

all the time.

Who listens?

- Well, you never were one
to beat around the bush,

were you?

- Well, life's too short
for that sort of thing.

Why do you ask?

- I don't know.

I was always in control
of my life, and now--

- No, you weren't.

You've bluffed your way so
far, and gotten away with it.

- What are you talking about?

- [Willie] You're scared to death.

- Of what?

- Life.

You're in a real pickle, my friend.

And you must know it, or you
wouldn't be coming to me.

You know what the answer is, don't you?

Except you're scared to death God's going

to take something away from
you if you turn your life

over to him.

Well, God does not take, my friend.

He gives.

He gives.

- He took, Tom.

- We can't judge God by
what he thinks is right.

Tom is where he wants to be.

Besides, God'll give
so much more in return.

- Yeah, well, you tell
that to Tom's wife and son.

- You really don't see it, do you?

Don't you realize that's twice now

God's tried to get your attention?

How many years did Tom pour
out his love for Christ to you?

And defend you?

Who was it that stood by
you when no one else would?

That guy gave you
everything he had to give.

Lyle, when you roll in
on a target at 500 knots,

it doesn't take very
many mistakes to nose you

right into the ground, does it?

- Yeah.

I've been thinking a lot
about that since the accident.

- You know what the bible
says about where you're at

right now?

It says, I think it's
in Luke, "You're a fool.

"For this very night, your
life might be demanded of you."

- Yeah.

Well, I guess that's what I had to hear.

- You need to do more than hear it, Lyle.

You need to do something about it.

- I need to talk to Ann,
but I don't have the guts.

- You need to be talking to God, first.

- I got to make it right with her, Willie.

I can't even concentrate on flying.

- Lyle.


- Can I come in?

(dominoes clicking)

(model plane clicking)

You know, after the bus picked
you up for school today,

Bobby's mom called.

Guess the team isn't doing too great

since you retired.

- Why couldn't it have been him?

(dramatic instrumental music)

- Michael.

I've asked myself that
question a million times.

I miss your daddy so much.

(dominoes crashing)

(somber instrumental music)

(soft footsteps)

(door opens)

(door closing)

(soft knocking)

(door opening)

- Hey.
- Hi.

- I thought if I called you
might not want to see me.

- You thought right.

Since you're here, you
might as well come on in.

(paper rustling)


(door closing)

(coffee pouring)

- You know, it's funny,
you go over and over

in your head what you want to say.

And the time comes, it's not there.


I think you should know that I didn't make

that decision at the river.

- You didn't make that
decision at the river?

I really feel sorry for you.

Suppose I told you it wasn't your fault,

would that make you
feel any better, major?

(soft laugh) As a Christian,
I'm supposed to forgive you.

I'm supposed to help you,
I'm supposed to love you.

I don't even like you.

I just want to hurt you
as bad as you've hurt me.

- Ann.

- The colonel saved your life,
you didn't even thank him.

Tom brought you down safely in your jet

you didn't even say thank you to him.

What makes a guy like you tick, anyway?

The colonel's trying to help you.

You wont' even talk to him civilly.

- The colonel.

He's been riding me ever since Vietnam.

- (clicking tongue) Oh.

- Ann, I'm a good pilot.

And a good gunner.

Now he has never once, not once,

said, "Lyle, you're
doing a great job, here."

He's just like my father.

You know, people are
holding me responsible

for what happened.

You're holding me responsible.

It was the colonel's decision.

- It was the colonel who saved your life.

- Why, why?

- [Ann] To give you another chance.

- A chance at what?

- (sighs) I think you better go now.

I don't think I can help you any more.

(dramatic instrumental music)

(door opens)

(door closes)

(loud sigh) Please, God, help me.

It's not fair, you're asking too much.

How can I love a man I detest?

(phone ringing)


Hi, daddy.

Yeah, I'm okay.

No, I'm not okay, I'm miserable.

(soft instrumental music)

- Lyle.

We need to have a serious
talk about powder keg.

Your scores have been very
poor ever since the...

Ever since the bird strike.

And I'm at a point where I
have to name a team leader.

Frankly, your scores barely keep you

in contention as a spear,
let alone team leader.

I've given you every opportunity
to get yourself together.

I have to make a decision
after today's mission.

- Look, colonel--

- Major.

Just get your scores up.

(paper rustling)

- Yes, sir.

(door closing)

- Roger, where's L38?

- Maintenance control says
you'll have to take the spare.

- What's wrong with L38?

- The aphis failed the
self test in pre-flight.

- Where is it?

- Willie's got it in the hangar.

- How's it going, Dick?

- Mike's got a problem up here on pin 12.

Would you check that one diagram and see

what it leads us to?

(door slamming)

- Willie, what is going on?

I told you how this thing was acting,

but that it was okay.

Now, who did the pre-flight?

- Mack, but it failed the pitch check.

Now, that's a grounding
item, why didn't you

write it up?

- This plane has been
assigned to me for powder keg.

I don't want you guys messing with it.

- Hey, when it comes to maintenance,

we decide whether or not we mess with it.

Now that airplane failed a grounding item

on our checklist, so we red X'd it.

- I know what you're doing.

But you guys are like little old ladies

with these things.

I mean, you scratch the
paint, you want to pull 'em.

- You bet we do.

- Well, I gotta fly this plane today.

I gotta turn my scores around.

- Lyle, we're not dealing
with emotions, here.

We're dealing with facts.

Now, the fact is--

- Come, Willie, just this once.

- No!

I had a pilot in 'Nam
say the same thing to me.

And he never came back from his mission.

- Well, we're talking
about a career, here.

- You're right, a career.

Not war.

At least, not mine.

Now that airplane does not have to fly.

If you want to wage your own
private war with yourself,

have at it, but not with
one my airplanes, you don't.

You know what I think?

It isn't your career, it's false pride.

You have to be top dog.

It's been a long time
since I've felt sorry

for anyone, major.

But you seem to bring
out feelings in people

one would rather do without.

(sudden dramatic music)

(planes roaring)

(dramatic instrumental music)

(planes roaring)

(radio dispatchers talking)

(planes roaring)

(dramatic instrumental music)

- Three hits to the right.

(dramatic instrumental music)

Six hits slightly right.

- [Lyle] Ah, junk.

(plane roaring)

(door closing)

(soft footsteps)

(loud sigh)

You wanted to see me, sir?

- I hate to do this, Lyle.

But I'm taking you off powder keg.

- What?

- Your scores have been
consistently lower than our goals.

- Now, wait a minute, you
know the general's feelings

about powder keg.

You're throwing it away.

I think you're going to
regret this decision, too.

(dramatic instrumental music)

I've decided to take
Lyle off powder keg, sir.

- Well, how'd he score today?

- Up, slightly.

But he fouled again.

- I see.

Does your decision have anything to do

with what happened to Tom?

- Sir?

- Are you thinking perhaps
you pulled the wrong man

out of the river?

You know Lyle's our top
pilot, best we have.

We need him on that team.

- I don't think we can win
with him on the team, sir.

- Can we win without him?

You know, Lyle's been
through a lot, lately.

And I think with a vote of confidence,

he'll come through for us
when the chips are down.

- Like he did in 'Nam, sir?

- Paul, taking Lyle off the
team won't bring Tom back.

(phone ringing)


Okay, I'll be right over, thank you.

I've got another meeting,
I'll talk to you later.

(door opening and closing)

(car engine running)

(rake scraping)

- How you feeling?

- Good.

- How's Mike doing.

- Not so good.

- Mind if I talk to him?

- He's up in his room.

(soft instrumental music)

- I guess there are times in our lives

when pieces just don't fit together, huh?

(soft instrumental music)

You know, your dad was
a special kind of man.

- Why couldn't it have been you?

(soft instrumental music)

- Yeah, well, I've been
asking that same question.

And I was kind of hoping that
we could help each other.

(soft instrumental music)

- Lyle, there's been a change in plans.

You're going to lead powder keg.

General apparently has more
confidence in your ability

than I do.

And I hope for the team's
and the unit's sake,

you're right.

Your performance had better
match the other guys.

Because in the last couple
of weeks, it hasn't.

Ball's in your court.

(soft instrumental music)

That's all, major.

(dramatic instrumental music)

(employees chattering)

- Good morning, Harold.

- Good morning.

- You've got the charts here where we can

take a look at 'em?

- Yes, sir.

- Okay, if I understand
this right, we've got

two targets today.

The first one is this flat 23 gun area?

- That's correct.

(dramatic instrumental music)

- As I see it, we have to
complete three key events today

to win powder keg.

Number one, meet that tanker on time

and complete the air refueling.

Number two, the order
of the targets, on time.

And three, drop good bombs.

Now, remember, we can
lose points if we miss

that air re-fueling, so
we're going to have to keep

a sharp eye on the weather.

- [Ground] How's the
spool run, fight check?

- [Lyle] Two.

- [Ground] Power?

- [Lyle] Moses Four One,
ready to take off in sequence.

- Remember, now, Lyle has
to confirm a hit on that gun

before they can go after the command post.

I think our guys can do it.

I think we'll win it today.

(plane engines roaring)

(dramatic instrumental music)

- [Lyle] Well, Two, better pull it in.

Looks like we've got some weather ahead.

- [Pilot] I hope we can climb the tanker.

- [Tanker Pilot] Moses Four
One, this is Petrol Three Three.

- [Lyle] This is Moses Four One, go ahead.

- [Tanker Pilot] We're
at the IP and holding

at flight level two five zero, in weather.

It looks like it might
have improved down track.

- [Lyle] Roger.

We'll be at the IP in 10 minutes.

We'll stay at flight level two zero zero.

- Now, we got time and
weather to contend with.

They got to be at their
target at zero nine 47,

and get their gas by zero
nine 25 in order to make it.

- That still gives them 22
minutes to be at the target.

(planes roaring)

- [Lyle] Moses Four One is out-bound

on two four zero radio and 35 DME.

- [Tanker Pilot] Roger.

Petrol Three Three is outbound
on two four zero radio

and four zero DME.

We have descended to
flight level two one zero,

still in weather.

Looks like we're about
five miles in front of you.

- [Lyle] Roger.

We'll pull up closer to
see if we can get a visual.


We've got to get a visual on
the tanker in three minutes

in order to have time to get our gas

and still make our time on target.

- [Preacher Voiceover] If
someone says, I love God,

and yet hates his brother, he's a liar.

Love God, and yet hates
his brother, he's a liar.

He's a liar. (words echoing)

(plane engines roaring)

- [Lyle] God, if you're
out there, help me.

(dramatic instrumental music)

- [Preacher Voiceover]
For the one who does not

love his brother, whom he
has seen, cannot love God,

whom he has not seen.

(dramatic instrumental music)

(plane engines roaring)

- [Lyle] Woohoo!

Petrol Three Three, I got a visual.

- [Tanker Pilot] Roger,
Moses Four One, you're clear

for free contact position.

- [Lyle] Roger.

Two, take the right wing.

(dramatic instrumental music)

Moses Four One, ready.

- [Tanker Pilot] Petrol
Three Three is ready

and clear for contact.

(dramatic instrumental music)

This is Petrol Three Three, contact.

- [Lyle] Moses Four One, contact.

- [Tanker Pilot] Moses Four
One, you're taking fuel.

(everyone cheering)

- Great, that was close.

- All we got so far is the gas.

We haven't hit the target, yet.

(dramatic instrumental music)

- [Tanker Pilot] Two,
you've got your upload.

- [Pilot] Roger, Moses Two, disconnect.

- [Tanker Pilot] Petrol
Three Three disconnect.

- [Lyle] Moses Four One, post
refueling checklist complete.

- [Pilot] Two.

- [Lyle] Thanks for the gas.

We gotta run.

Next time we're in the neighborhood,

we'll pick up our green stamps.

Okay, Two, let's push it,
we've gotta make the target.

(dramatic instrumental music)

- They oughta be over the target...

Right about now.

(dramatic instrumental music)

- [Lyle] Four Two, arm up.

Target is at your left at 11 o'clock.

(switch clicks)

- [Pilot] Roger, Lee.

Don't mistake the second
gun for the real target.

- [Lyle] Two guns.

That's it!

(artillery firing)

(dramatic instrumental music)

- A second gun.

- [Pilot] Speed is up.

(dramatic instrumental music)

(guns firing)

(plane engines roaring)

(dramatic instrumental music)

(guns firing)

- [Lyle] Nice hit!

Okay, Four Three, you guys
can drop on the bombs.

(dramatic instrumental music)

(bombs exploding)

- [Lyle] To ragpole,
this is Moses Four One.

One quad 23, and one
command post destroyed.

(all cheering)

- How about that?

I knew our guys could do it.


Well, how do you feel now?

- General, I feel terrific.

- [General] You have a good flight back

to Des Moines tonight.

(plane roaring)

(cheerful instrumental music)

(planes roaring)

(loud sigh)

- [Preacher Voiceover] And
this commandment we have

from him, that the one who loves God,

should love his brother.

- Dear God, forgive me.

Forgive me, Lord.

Forgive me.

(plane engines roaring)

(soft grunt)


You did a good job this morning.

- Thank you, sir.

- I...

I need to talk to you.

Not, colonel to major, just man to man.


I loved my son very much.

And I never realized until the general

put you back on the team,
that I held you responsible

for Tom's death.

I also blamed you for the fact that he was

shot down in 'Nam.

- Sir, there had to have been
a second gun put out there,

after the recon photos, I'm positive.

- I know.

That came to me as you were
talking to your wing man

about the target.

I've been using you to cover up the fact

that my son disobeyed orders.

That's what got him shot down.

I don't know how else to say this, Lyle,

except, I'm sorry.

And I ask for your forgiveness.

- Whew.

You know, something happened this morning.

Remember when I couldn't find that tanker?

Do you remember what the
pastor said at Tom's funeral?

For anyone who does not love his brother,

whom he has seen, how can he love God,

whom he has not seen?

Well, I couldn't get that out of my head.

It was as if God was saying to me,

I want to help you, Lyle.

But you got to do something, first.

And I knew what it was I had to do.

My bitterness towards you was the barrier.

I don't know, maybe
hate's too strong a word.

Whatever it was, it went away after God,

somehow, helped me to forgive you.

And you know what?

A couple seconds later, I
had a visual on the tanker.

20 minutes later, we got the target.

- And the right target, at that.


Did Tom ever explain to you how to receive

God's gift of salvation?

- No.

I never gave him the opportunity.

- Would you give me that opportunity?

- Yes, sir.

- I always carry a
pocket testament with me,

so I can share God's
word instead of my own.

(soft instrumental music)

In Romans 3:23, God says, "All have sinned

"and fallen short of the glory of God."

And over here in Acts 16:31, he says,

"Believe in the Lord Jesus,
and you will be saved."

And, back in here in Romans, it says,

"If you confess with
your mouth Jesus is Lord,

"and believe in your
heart that God raised him

"from the dead, you will be saved."

You see, Lyle, it's by grace
that we are saved, by faith.

Not of works, lest any man should boast.

- Well, I guess I just never felt

that anything I'd done was that bad a sin.

But I see it, now.

- Lyle, is Christ in your heart?

- I hope so.

- (laughing) Some day
when you get married,

and someone asks you, are
you going to tell 'em,

I hope I'm married? (laughs)

- Okay.

- You know, God assures of our salvation.

When he says in I John five,
"I write these things to you

"who believe in the
name of the Son of God,

"so that you may know
you have eternal life."

And you know, Lyle?

Our salvation is a fact,
not just a feeling.

I believe with all my
heart, that God allowed us

to go through this, just
to bring us to this point.

(clothes rustling)

Oh, Lyle.

- Yes, sir?

- Get a haircut.

- Yes, sir.

(soft instrumental music)


(sighs) Wow, I'm not very good at this.

When I think of all these
years that I've wasted

'cause I thought I had all the answers,

I'm overwhelmed by the
circumstances that brought me

to this moment.

Please forgive me.

And thank you, for
sacrificing your son for me.

Help me to trust in you,
in the name of Jesus, amen.



(people chattering)

- [Woman] Hey guys, nice
meeting you, talk to you later.

- Have fun.

- See you later.

- No, no, that's not fair, now, come on.

Have I been wasting my time or not?

- Does that answer your question?

- That's an acceptable answer, yes.


- And they're all chanting, this aircraft

doesn't meet my standards!

(men laughing)

- Listen, you knucklehead, if
it wasn't for my standards,

some of you guys wouldn't be
here tonight to joke about it.

- But you haven't been wasting your time.

- How's that?

- Well, I mean, you've
managed to convince me

that everything you're doing
here really is important.

- Oh, the general's gonna
really be disappointed.

- Disappointed, why?

- Well, when something goes wrong,

who's going to call him and let him know?

- (laughs) He'll love it.

- I thought I told you to get a hair cut.

- What?

- (laughing) Gotcha!

- Excuse me a minute.

- May I join you, Sheila?

- Sure.

- Hi, sport.

- Hi.

- Hi.

- Hi. (sighs)

Go ahead, give it to him.

- It's got my dad's name on it, see?

- Ah, that is a thing of beauty.

You hungry?

- Yeah.

- Let's get something to eat, okay?

(dramatic instrumental music)

(plane engine roaring)

(dramatic instrumental music)

- [Pastor Voiceover] And now in death,

he passes not into darkness,
but into the very presence

of God.

(dramatic instrumental music)