Carianne McLellan, CFI, MEI
I grew up with both my grandparents in El Cajon, California overlooking a small airstrip called Gillespie Field. I loved my grandpa. He was a retired high-ranking Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. He dropped paratroopers over Normandy on D-Day and was the air attaché in Cuba during the Bay of Pigs. He was one of the first to occupy Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan in the aftermath of the 2 atomic bombs. He worked tirelessly to help rebuild a devastated Japanese nation and for his commitment and dedication, he personally received the Key to Tokyo from them.
Growing up in that military family, I had no idea how amazing and admirable he was. I only knew that my grandpa had been a pilot. Boys in my family were encouraged to join the military while girls were expected to be excellent caretakers at home. But secretly I wanted to be like grandpa. I wanted to make a difference and be something special.
Life caught up with me fast and before I knew it, I was a young single mother with two little girls. I worked hard and sacrificed much. In return, I have developed wonderfully unique relationships with my two daughters, who are excelling in college and will no doubt live out some of the dreams I wished for myself.
When my grandfather passed away, it was the catalyst which brought me over to the small airport known as KMYF. I must have looked a mess, with tears, sniffles and red nose. A nice voice behind asked if he could help me. I responded that I was just there to remember my grandpa who had been an aviator hero to me. The man introduced himself as a flight instructor, and we spoke for a minute. He said, “If you’d like, I can take you up in the air so you can experience what your grandfather liked doing.”
The rest is history. I became hooked … line, and sinker! It was a defining moment. I finally knew what I wanted to do with my life. It’s never too late to change what you do, and to do what you love!