General Yeager talked to the South African Air Force and some of the honorary Colonels. They could not believe that someone of such stature would visit them. We flew with them and they took a lot of photos.
I stayed out of the photos until one older black Colonel, standing with General Yeager and about 30 pilots in uniform, called out with a big grin: “MRS. CHUCK! Come get in this photo!”
How could I resist a summons like that?
I jumped in happily.
At lunch we were sitting next to Col Sexwale. He was thrilled. Chuck Yeager is one of his heroes. As I tried to address him, I looked dubious, so he explained, it’s pronounced: Say-whall-ay. Sort of. Or the xw is more like the Mexican pronunciation of the “j” in Jose only harder like you’re (if American English is your first language) going to hack. He said it was from Arabic.
I asked if he had kids. He did. He got started late because he was in prison so long.
Wow. That was forthright. So I decided I could be as well.
Toyko Sexwale was in prison with Nelson Mandela. And Tokyo has the same approach, as far as I know. He is all about forgiveness and helping his country and the people of his country whatever race or tribe they may be. I have to find some books about him – but I think he told me he took up arms with the ANC as a teenager.
Some people had tried to engineer an introduction between General Yeager and President Mandela but it was not to be. President Mandela, true to priorities, wants to spend his remaining days with his family. I can’t help but think that if he had known and we could have engineered it – it would just ben Gen Yeager and me, he might have introduced his family to us.
However, I was thrilled to meet Tokyo. What a role model from what I have seen and now know of him. And a bundle of enthusiasm and positive energy for life. Prison sure didn’t break him. Thank goodness. And imagine, General Chuck Yeager one of his heroes. Who would have put that together?
So I like the moniker. Kinda formal-ish but not too formal. And with an Air Force, that is who I am. “Mrs. Chuck”.