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Still Standing

Posted by Jolly on October 30, 2012


You can take a pilot out of the fighter, but you can’t take the fighter out of a pilot.  No one has lived this philosophy more than my friend Steve, “Blaster,” Hirst.  Blaster recently published a book about his recovery from traumatic brain injury.  Still Standing is written by Steve, edited by his high-school friend Ann Ryan Solomon, and is on our must-read list here at Fighter Pilot University. 

Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, wrote the foreword for the book.  Popovich is a 1970 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he played basketball and was an assistant coach from 1973-79.  Blaster, a 1981 Academy graduate, never played for Coach Popovich, but they have remained friends through the years.

Blaster and I have known each other since 1987, when we both flew F-15s with theblasterf15.jpg 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kadena AB, Japan.  I have many fond memories of the time we shared as squadron mates in the Fighting Cocks.  I still remember getting a call from a mutual friend back in 1996 and getting the news Blaster had been in a terrible car accident up in Alaska, and it was not looking good for him to pull through.  Multitudes of his brothers-in-arms took a knee and prayed for a miracle that our friend would be spared.  Our prayers were answered, but not without huge cost to Blaster and his family. 

Blaster had suffered brain trauma from his accident and would need massive support and rehab to recover.  His recovery wouldn’t be possible without two very important factors.  (1) Blaster would have to fly his best BFM (Basic Fighter maneuvers) to fight his way back, and (2) He would need one hell of a wingman for mutual support to do it.  Blaster provided the typical “never give up” fighter pilot attitude, and his wonderful wife Susan is the greatest wingman on the planet.

The first time I saw Blaster after his 1996 accident was during a layover in Colorado Springs in 2003.   Steve, Susan, and I shared some time and got caught up, and I got to see first-hand how Blaster was fighting his way back.  He took me to the YMCA where he was doing rehab on his own (without help from the VA), and wanted to show me how he could walk unassisted across the basketball court he had been so fond of in his college days.  I was positioned on Steve’s wing in close formation as a safety observer, but whenever I touched him over concern he was losing his balance, he’d just say, “Keep your damn hands off me you loser!” 

Just as important as his fighter pilot attitude, Blaster had not lost his sense of humor.  His infectious laugh and keen wit were still full up.  We’ve seen each other several times over the last ten years during reunions.  He always reminds me that he could still kick my ass in an F-15 and I’m quick to point out he’s full of shit.  During our most recent reunion of the 67th, Blaster and I shared a lot of time and stories.  He can’t get enough of the stories from the old days as he tries to reload his hard drive.  


67th TFS Bros Mange, Blaster, Pee Wee, and Max at USAFA Reunion

We would take turns helping Blaster hit the rest room while at the reunion.  He still needs a little help getting out of his chair.  On one particular visit to the cranium, Blaster was obviously doing some good work.  It sounded something like a big steel chain hitting the floor and I was considering the option of bugging out of the fight.  Blaster looked up at me, then to the TP, then back up at me.  I just got depressed and looked at my friend and said “Really, YGBSM Blaster?”  To which he replied, “Jolly, you’ve always been a good friend.”  So there I am, about to commit the ultimate act of bromanship, and as I got the TP just right and started my final approach, Blaster looked up at me and said “Jolly, I just wanted the TP, I can wipe my own ass you loser!” 

blasterjjtina.jpgBlaster and his incredible wife Susan continue to amaze us all.  Recently, Blaster was the honorary Captain for the USAFA Football Team and conducted the coin toss before their home game with New Mexico.  He had many friends and family on hand for this great honor and also held a book signing during the event.  I’m happy to have several copies of the book signed by Steve at home and intend to share them with friends and family.  It’s a very timely story of a journey that many of our War Veterans are experiencing returning from combat with brain injuries.  I’ll include links to the book, and also to Blaster’s Fans of Still Standing Facebook page.  I’m honored and proud to call Steve my friend.  He was--and remains--one hell of a fighter pilot.

To order a copy of Still Standing:

Barnes and Noble

e-mail Blaster:

Join Blaster's Still Standing FB Page


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