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The starboard engine on the author’s F/A-18D takes licking, keeps ticking after a February 21, 1991 Iraqi missile strike. (Courtesy John Scanlan)

“We’ve Been Hit”

F/A-18 vs. surface-to-air missile: Guess who won.

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I tried to imagine that Iraqi gunner back on the ground. I pictured him watching his missile go right up our exhaust pipe and explode—then seeing our jet simply fly away. In my mind, he would look at the missile launcher in his hands, throw it down, and jump on it, screaming, “You Russian piece of sh*t!”

Whenever the naval aviation community heard of a cruel injustice, the older, more experienced guys would shrug their shoulders and say, “That’s the breaks of Naval Air.”  In September 1993, Cheyenne Bode died of leukemia. For me, it was hard to reconcile Cheyenne’s surviving a surface-to-air missile and then dying from cancer as just a bad break.

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