Can life be a danger zone at times?

By KIM LAMBERT
Posted 6/7/22

“I went to the danger zone” Sunday. If those lyrics sound familiar, perhaps you’re a “Top Gun” fanatic, too. “Top Gun: Maverick” is a satisfying sequel …

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Can life be a danger zone at times?

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“I went to the danger zone” Sunday. If those lyrics sound familiar, perhaps you’re a “Top Gun” fanatic, too. “Top Gun: Maverick” is a satisfying sequel — it’s action-packed, thoughtfully written, and so well orchestrated, I found myself singing, gasping, laughing and crying before its ending credits.

When we returned home Sunday night, I thought about how all the events that transpired on the silver screen were so applicable to real life. Despite the sequel fast forwarding three decades, it is Tom Cruise’s character — Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell — whose past continued to haunt him.

With 34 years with the Navy, Maverick’s career has seemed to stall: He never surpassed the rank of a captain. The career of the once highly ambitious fighter pilot couldn’t get past his former wingman’s fatal accident in flight.

Navy officials had been attempting to thwart a project to craft the world’s quickest flier — having its hypersonic jet exceed a Mach 10 speed level. Those in authority had initially set their quotient at a minimally acceptable 9 G, only to unreasonably raise their requirements to 10 Gs.

Just as in life — when expectations are set too high — those officials could be setting folks up for failure, or even worse, destruction.

When Maverick poignantly reminisced his past with the late Lt. Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, he continually blamed himself for Goose’s demise. It was when Adm. Tom “Iceman” Kazansky met with Maverick that he urged the fighter pilot to get on with his life — exclaiming it’s “time to let go.”

Sometimes when we’re met with life’s challenges, we should do just that: Let go and let God take the wheel.

As evidenced by this movie, those in a leadership role should not only build camaraderie, but they should always support his or her team. If someone is struggling, the authoritarian should always humble himself or herself — and go back to help them. Maverick did just that: He learned to never leave his wingman.

In life, team leaders should be up for the tasks ahead. Maverick told his colleague, Hondo, that he wouldn’t allow his Fighter Weapons School to be compromised or shuttered if they weren’t able to surpass the minimal 10-Gs-requirement.

The flick also emphasized that the most successful leaders aren’t necessarily the top students or first choices. When Adm. “Iceman” climbed the ranks, he continually pledged his support for Maverick, who actually finished second to him in their Top Gun class.

During the sequel, Jon Hamm’s character, Adm. “Cyclone” Simpson admitted to Maverick that he hadn’t even considered the pilot for Project Darkstar. He was only heeding the instructions of Iceman.

Goose’s surviving son, Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw qualified to be a Top Gun fighter pilot and was assigned to Maverick’s tutelage. His prior knowledge of the captain’s fatal flight involving his late father created havoc for the two characters. The pressure was only exacerbated as Maverick is forced to train “Rooster” and the young pilots whose international assignment appeared to be a suicidal mission. They are instructed to locate and to dangerously eradicate a uranium enhancement facility in enemy territory.

“Rooster” implored Maverick to see the near-fatal mission to its fruition — repeating back to the captain his phrase, it isn’t the plane [who calls the shots], but rather, the pilot.”

During this second installment, Maverick confessed that teaching was not his greatest attribute — stating that being an aviator and a fighter pilot “was who he was.” Like Maverick’s character, we all tend to grow wiser with age; our levels of life’s discernment seem to increase; and we may more readily admit our limitations.

Prior to the movie’s denouement, Maverick’s life seemed to come full circle. Not only did he protect his best friend’s son from a fatal crash, he led by example, he overcame the past that had haunted him for decades and he found personal redemption in his career and with his long-lost love.

During what is perceived as life’s “danger zones,” we, too, can follow Maverick’s example — never losing hope and faith in ourselves and in our fellow man.

Kim Lambert is a former reporter with The Daily Record and former editor of The Angier Independent.

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