Over 50 years have passed since I flew combat missions over North Vietnam. I wrote a book of short stories about flying that includes a few of these missions. It was my oldest sister who slowly drew out the stories and then encouraged me to include them in a book that is now in our local public library system.
The book’s title is Letters from the Cockpit. I encourage friends not to buy the book, but instead to request it from the library so the demand keeps the book in the system. I enjoyed writing the book and found that if the stories you write are true, you will enjoy reading them again. A repeat of what was exciting once is still an enjoyment, and there is a simple good in that.
An interesting problem was deciding the order of the stories. I decided that they would be in random order, since it would be more like an autobiography if they were in chronological order. It was a simple discovery that true short stories are history and, if someone reads these stories 500 years from today, they will get a cockpit view of what it was like then and learn how an American fighter pilot felt about war.
Another interesting discovery was the genre. I was told I could not call it a “short story book” because that genre is for fiction only. My response was to establish a new genre. My short story book is a “Familyiography,” and if you create a new word, you have the right to define it.
So, Letters from the Cockpit is a Familyiography, which I define as a history book of true stories about the writer. Each story puts a leaf on the family tree, complements the family photo album, and adds to the family legacy. My hope is that children would be encouraged to start writing for their Familyiography for many reasons.
For example, I would like to write a Familyiography of my own childhood: growing up in the Bronx and spending most of my free time in the Bronx parks and the Bronx Zoo. The title of the book, if I get to write it, will be Huck Finn in the Bronx. But it is very difficult now to remember that adventurous, wonderful childhood. Oh, if only there had been Familyiographies then!
If you’d like to fly over Vietnam with me, you can find Letters from the Cockpit at the Hillsborough County Public Library. Or you can click here to download the e-book version and share a few of the joys, thrills and thanksgivings of some of my combat missions.
Cornelius “Neil” Cosentino became a US Air Force pilot in 1960 and went on to log over 6,000 hours in military, commercial and private flying. He flew the B-47, the KC-135, and the F-4CDE, including three tours in Vietnam. He was awarded 9 Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Neil joined OLLI-USF in 2018. He has taken classes in writing, music, teaching, activism and online searches. Neil recently gave a well-received OLLI lecture about his passion: Think Tanks. He is interested in forming a Think Tank Shared Interest Group. (SIG) Watch for news of an organizational meeting in the new year.