Alex Orlando’s dad is the subtle type. He’s not one to heap a lot of praise. But Alex’s accomplishments in the Navy makes it tough for his dad to stay subdued — especially when Alex asked his dad to do the one thing that symbolizes everything Alex has achieved.
Video by Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua DuFrane, DOD
Navy Lt. J.G. Alex OrlandoThey tell you, you know, you’re cleared for takeoff, and wheel this thing out onto the runway. And, I mean,…and it’s…it’s like a drag race. You know, a behemoth of a plane that weighs north of a 150,000 pounds. Push the throttles up, and you just start barreling down this thing. But instead of a drag race, which ends at the quarter mile, you pull back and just pull this whole thing, you know, off the runway, and all you see in the windscreen is sky.
And you’re just become a rocket ship. My grandparents used to always say, when I was younger, “I want you to always act like I’m there. “You know, “If I was standing in the room, would you do that?” But now it’s…it’s, I mean, I guess it sunk in, but I always, you know, kind of picture that. You know, I want to make myself proud, but I want to make my dad proud, too.
Steve Orlando: Watching Alex become a pilot is sort of getting to see my dream come true in somebody else. And what better person to see it come true in, than your own son.
Alex Orlando: He kind of has, like, a subdued proudness. You know, he’s not the kind of guy who’s gonna come out and just burst into tears and hug you or anything. But, you know, he kind of like slug you in the arm, “Proud of you kid.” Stuff like that. You know, “You did all right.” That’s how, that’s how, he…but when he says something like that, it just…it means the world to me.
Steve Orlando: When we went to Corpus Christi for his winging, shortly before we made the trip, Alex asked me to pin his wings on. And I was…it…it really choked me up when he asked me to do that. It really did…it just…I was so incredibly honored that he would ask me to do such an important thing. I remember my hands were shaking a little bit, and it was just…I was almost overwhelmed with the emotion of it, but we were so proud of him.
Alex Orlando: When I was growing up, I remember playing in the water, you know, sitting on the dock with my grandpa, my dad and they’d always point out planes to me, “Oh, hey, there’s Blue Angels or F-18s.” I remember I was right near one of my last flights. It was sunset. We took a southern route, and I knew at some point we were gonna fly over Blackwater Bay, which was where my grandparents live. And the route that we took…I kind of veered a little further south because I knew where I was. I look down and I … and I saw their house. And it just kind of came full circle for me being that kid looking up and now being that flight student looking down. And I got choked up in the plane. From all that I’ve been through, to finally end up, you know, I’ve been to another country, I’ve been doing the two other careers and I’m … I end up, you know … 2,000 feet above where I started.