It's amazing what can be found online these days. I witnessed this plane crash up close and personal like as it damned near killed me that day. The plane blew-up to the front of me so closely that my face and body felt the heat from the blast. I would have been killed had the plane's drop tanks been full. Fortunately, they came from El Toro and had been flying enough to empty those tanks. One landed a few feet to my right, and the other a few yards to my front. A piece of circuit board landed right next to my right heel. We were on a training exercise where my unit was playing the Russian aggressors. The plane experienced a FOD (Foreign Object Destruct from a rock or bird strike), as it came off of a bombing run a few miles away. They had blown the canopy to eject about a mile from us, but we who lived it, (and the investigators who interviewed us), believe that they saw us down the road and held off ejecting until they were above us as the momentum would have carried the wreckage beyond us. By that time it was too late as the plane turned on its side, and they ejected into the side of a granite hillside that are so common in 29-Palms, CA. I never mounted a 5-ton as fast as I did that day when the Lieutenant told us to go to the wreckage. When I got to the impact zone I was first struck by the desert being on fire from the fuel. When you kicked it then it just lit your boot on fire. I ran up the mountain where the cockpit was to search for what I don't really know, (bodies, I guess), to find the nose and joystick there. I came back down just to be told by an Army Brigadier General that had been flying in a Huey nearby when the crash occurred to climb up a hill to retrieve the pilot's helmet's to identify them quickly, I had been told that one of the men's head had been mostly cut-off and rolled up in his skin to his groin, and that the other one had his head ground off. When I got to the second helmet I realized that I was walking through the guy's grey matter as I went to pick-up the helmet. Fortunately, the helmet was empty.
For years I have denied having PTSD from this incident. Why? Because many others have dealt with far worse in combat, and I felt like a pu$$y for thinking that I'd have it from something like this: however, my wife pointed out a huge difference: It was peacetime, and because of that I wasn't prepared for such a horrifying experience like I would if I were going into a combat zone. TO this day I do not like planes flying above me. My son lives in the landing path of planes taking off and landing at Nashville airport, and I can only stand being at his house for a short time before I'm telling my wife that we have to leave. I live in an area where the instructors from Murfreesboro airport take their students to practice. Apparently, part of their training is to turn off their engines and then restart them. I can't tell you how much this bothers me.
I finally decided to tell the head-shrinker at the Murfreesboro VA that I think that I have PTSD from the experience. I hope others may read this and decide to take action too if they've suppressed their feelings as well.