Posted by: leslieellissing | May 2, 2011

A Pilot, a Singer and a Submariner.

Me performing "Flyer Song"

For years I’ve had the pleasure of playing with Casey Kelly and Todd Cerney at the Balsam Mountain Inn. We’ve played shows at all different times of the year, and we’ve never missed a New Years Eve.

It was late one August evening in 2005 when I met Fred Tollison at our Balsam show. He introduced himself to me at the merchandise table at intermission.

I had just played “Flyer Song” (see the “Flyer Song” video) before the break and he wanted to buy a copy of my CD if that song was on it. I asked him if he’d like it signed and he said, “Yes, sign it to ‘Jim'” then went on to tell me about his friend Admiral James O. Ellis, Jr.; a retired 4-star admiral and former Commander of the United States Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base. Jim, his wife Polly and Fred’s wife Sarah Belle were all there with him in the audience that night had been touched by my song.

Admiral James O. Ellis

Fred said that his friend Jim was the third most senior officer in the Navy and that as a pilot, had had over 800 carrier landings.  Jim had just retired from 30 years in the Navy. I said, “Wow. I’m astounded by his achievements and I hope he enjoys the CD”. Fred looked at me and said, “I didn’t buy it for him. I bought it for his wife, Polly, who just retired from 30 years of living your song”.

James and Polly Ellis

Captain Fred Tollison

The next time I saw Fred was about a year later – back at Balsam – and that’s when he mentioned that he himself had served in the Navy as a Submariner and started getting on my case about writing a version of the “Flyer Song” that would go, “I won’t ask my baby not to dive”. (I think it should be said that Fred, Sarah Belle, Casey and I had struck up a friendship and could joke around with each other easily!)

Every time Fred and his wife graciously came to support Casey, Todd and me we had the same conversation and we’d just chuckle at the idea — Except the last time.

Fred and Sarah Belle Tollison

Last time when we performed at Balsam, Fred and Sarah Belle were there and Fred had an unusually mischievous look in his eye.  He presented to me a finished lyric he had written to the variation of “Flyer Song” aptly called “Submariner Song”. It was typed out and it wasn’t half bad!

I sang a little bit of it that night – even though I had already sung the “Flyer Song” because I was so honored that a man of such achievement who had served America on my behalf…liked my song that much.

Here it is; unedited  “The Submariner Song” by Leslie Ellis/Fred Tollison…thanks Fred!

USS Daniel Webster (SSBN-626) One of the Submarines Fred served on

Posted by: leslieellissing | January 27, 2011

“The Lady Let Him Fly” by Kathleen M. Rodgers

When I first “met” Kathleen, it was through a mutual friend, Marcia Sargent, who had also written a book about flyers called “Wing Wife”. While I have not had time to read either book yet (Kathleen sent me a signed copy and I’m taking it on my trip this weekend), I do feel the camaraderie of these wonderful and creative women and I welcome our continued friendship.

Shortly after we had first spoken, Kathleen sent me a poem she had written called “The Lady Let Him Fly”. In reading it for the first time I was struck with awe that someone with an entirely different life experience about whom I knew nothing, could write a piece that so closely resembles my “Flyer Song”. This was someone I had to know!

Even now when I read through the poem I consider the collective unconscious about which Jung spoke and how “Flyer Song” first came to me in a dream; though I didn’t know any pilots nor had I ever been one or married to one.  How lovely and mysterious life can be…if you let it.

The poem is below. I hope you are struck by it as much as I! Let us know what you think and if you haven’t heard my song yet, please take a moment to visit my website and watch the “Flyer Song” video.

Kathleen can be reached through her website or by e-mail at:

Kathleen M. Rodgers

Introduction by Kathleen M. Rodgers

I wrote the poem The Lady Let Him Fly for the wife of a fighter pilot after his plane hit a mountain in Norway in 1987. The poem was published in the anthology “Because I Fly” McGraw-Hill, 2002,  and in several other publications. My debut novel The Final Salute: Together, We Live On won the Silver Medal for fiction from Military Writers Society of America, 2009.  Long before I started working on the novel, I wrote essays, stories, and poems in an attempt to understand the world of the fighter pilot and to share what I learned with others.

Kathleen at Book signing at Kirkland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, NM

My work has appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, Family: the magazine for military families, and innumerous publications. Stories about my novel The Final Salute have appeared in The Associated Press, USA Today,Military Times, Family magazine, Mobile Press-Register, and several other publications.

The Lady Let Him Fly

Never once
did she bind his wings;
take away his boyhood
nor try to force him
down to earth
when it was the air and sky
that beckoned his worth.

Never once
did the lady
hold him back,
or trounce his joy
for an air-to-ground-attack;
nor weep like a spoiled child
when he ventured into the blue wild.

In the background she would wait
chasing away twinges
for her fighter pilot’s fate.

With wings straight and unfurled
he and the titanium bird
lifted above the runway’s end
seeking freedom on the wind.
And when he did not return
the lady waited proud and strong
knowing he’d been – “happy all along.”

And when the aged hands of Father Time
called him home
beyond the sky,
the young flyer smiled
because the Lady Let Him Fly.

© Kathleen M. Rodgers, 1987 Alaska

Meet Kathleen Rodgers

You can buy Kathleen’s Novel, “The Final Salute: Together, We Live On” at

Posted by: leslieellissing | February 1, 2010

Letter from a New Friend

This is a letter from a woman who saw the video on YouTube and sent me a note about how she had just lost her beloved husband whose nickname was, ironically, Crash. Through her healing we have corresponded and become friends. She has agreed to work with me on developing the Flyer Song Blog and in developing the idea of a future foundation to aid the families of our fallen troops.

Hello My Dear Leslie,

Yesterday marked one solid year since my beloved Crash was killed. It was a strange day. I took my doggies out to the accident site, despite everyone saying they thought I shouldn’t. It is about an hour from Las Vegas, in the desert; you would have to know where it was to find it.

I spent a couple of hours there; I know Crash is not there. But, because Crash is buried in Ohio, I don’t have a grave to visit, so for me, the accident site is sort of that. Visiting was difficult, but easier this time; it’s the third time I have been out there and the first time by myself.

It is very hard to explain how I felt out there. There was almost a feeling of familiarity–almost. But I couldn’t quite get my mind around what felt familiar. It was like trying to remember a word or the title to a favorite song–it’s just right there on the tip of your brain, but you still can’t quite recall it.

I wore my “Flyer Song” shirt out there — “I Won’t Ask My Baby Not to Fly” — because, essentially, Leslie, a lot of my “acceptance” of Crash’s death comes from that. I have blamed myself, him, the airplane, the builder, the manufacturer, and everyone else for his accident. But truly, like so many other pilots killed before him and those after him, he was just doing what he loved. He lived doing what he loved and he died doing what he loved.

Crash loved flying long before he loved me. It was just part of his make-up; the way he was designed. And the very night before he went out to fly that plane, we met in the hallway between his office and our bedroom and he said, “I’m thinking about going out to fly that plane in the morning, what do you think?”

I wanted so badly to argue with him but knew I couldn’t; what good would it do? Sooner or later, he had to go fly that plane. I wanted to say, “Can’t you just be done with the whole flying thing?” but there was no way I could. I knew he never would be. And I couldn’t — and wouldn’t — ask that of him.

So when I was sitting out there in the soft, warm sand, surrounded by tiny bits and pieces of what was once an airplane, I think God or Crash or both were trying to  explain to me that Crash did live his purpose–and how many people can say that?

I send you so much love, Leslie. I just know Crash thinks you are so cool! I can’t help but think that we are on the cusp of something big here–not sure where it will lead, but I can feel that it is meant to go higher and reach further–it is fantastic.

Much, much love and light and Grace to you, Leslie,

Posted by: leslieellissing | September 23, 2009

Lt. Gerard B. (Rod) Creagh: The Story Behind the Picture

Here is an amazing photograph and story from my friend Rod Creagh. You may notice his comment on the post from last week containing all the comments from the first video; that’s how we met. Cheers Rod!

Lt. Gerard B. (Rod) Creagh: The Story Behind the Picture

Rod's Crash

Rod's Crash

As a naval aviator assigned to Fighter Squadron VF-13 (Carrier Air Group Ten) aboard the U.S.S. Shangri-La, I was completing a routine intercept flight in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of France. The aircraft was a Douglas Skyray F4D-1 (“Ford”) single seat all-weather interceptor equipped with air to air weapons capability, radar intercept equipment and a Martin-Baker ejection seat. The weather was perfect for day carrier operations. Also, the ship was due to anchor that night at Cannes, giving the Air Group and ship’s company personnel some well-deserved liberty ashore.

On June 10, 1962, after a routine day flight of approximately one hour and forty minutes, my landing approach was done routinely, lining up on the aircraft landing area centerline and paying close attention to the visual landing aid (which gave me an indication of my position on the desired glide slope) and my airspeed. Touching the deck on centerline and on proper speed, I felt the initial contact of the tailhook with number three wire, followed by a sudden release. My first thought was that the tip of the tailhook had broken and I would have to fly the aircraft to a divert field in Sicily, missing the layover in Cannes. A radio call from Primary Fly (the ship’s aircraft control tower) alerting me of a possible fire situation and a glance at my rapidly dropping fuel gauge confirmed that I had just enough time to gain some altitude and then eject, At approximately one thousand feet the engine flamed out, and I ejected successfully. On the F4D, the cockpit cover had to be opened and swept away (done automatically), before the seat would fire. On the descent in the parachute, I noticed the aircraft somewhat higher than I was which was disconcerting since I was vulnerable to the falling aircraft. Fortunately, the plane struck the water abeam the ship at the 180 degree position of the landing pattern.

The rescue helicopter, which was always airborne during day landings, was over my location in the water in a matter of minutes and a sling was lowered to lift me out of the water. Safely aboard the helicopter, I was surprised at how quickly all of this had happened. The cause of the accident was a structural failure of the cross member in the aft section of the aircraft’s tail due to metal fatigue. The fuel drains in that area that were torn away were under high pressure, vaporizing fuel in the planes exhaust, evident in the photograph. The tailhook, afterburner shroud, and the rest of that portion of the plane were left aboard the carrier. The aircraft, with minimal flying speed, was able to stay airborne.

Back aboard the carrier, the Air Group Flight Surgeon made X-rays of my back and neck for possible skeletal injuries (there were none), and then asked if I would like a vial of medicinal brandy. …I accepted, of course!!

I give credit to the expert parachute rigger who packed my ejection seat, to the chopper Pilot who lifted me out of the water and for emergency training drills which saved my life and made it possible for me to recount that experience today. Thanks!

Rod Creagh

Posted by: leslieellissing | September 16, 2009

YouTube Comments from the Original Video

Over 15,000 people have viewed the original version of the “Flyer Song” Video. Along the way I have saved stories from the people I have had the good fortune to meet over the Internet.

Here is a collection of some of the posts and comments from YouTube, and any I could find across the net, from the original version of the video. I love meeting people and reading their comments. Even when their stories don’t have a happy ending, I want to know them – I want people who have experienced any kind of life to be heard…and I’d like to be the listener.

Please feel free to make comments and to share your own stories. If you have photos you would like me to feature, please let me know and I’ll try to make it happen.

There are more stories to come and I hope you’ll leave a posting about yourself or someone you know whom you love…no matter what.

I sign off with great admiration for the troops and their families and friends; all of whom are true heroes.



The Flight Deck » Weekend Plane PrOn // Jul 21, 2007 at 15:40
Featuring the Captain’s mistress.

Deborah Aylward // Jul 21, 2007 at 17:40
Eagles are a special breed and so are their wives. This song is the best interpretation of a wife’s love and understanding for her Eagle which I have ever heard, sir. Would that there was a way for all those in the Navy to listen to this song, even if they couldn’t watch the video.

However, I must disagree with a certain Captain. The sea is a sailor’s mistress, yes, but the sky……that is in your DNA.

God Bless all the crew of the USS John C. Stennis during their deployment. I hope that they know their service is not taken for granted and is very much appreciated and valued. As much as your service was valued and appreciated.
It’s difficult to be concise when something touches the soul. Enjoy your weekend.
Veritas et Fidelis Semper

Rod Creagh/3 Wire Music // Jul 24, 2007 at 12:25
Great Job, Leslie !
As a former tailhooker (Air Wing Ten) on the USS Shangri-La, and a songwriter as well, I can definitely relate!
Rod C

Babs // Jul 26, 2007 at 10:48
Funny, I thought of my son. “I won’t ask my baby not to fly”…
He is currently in flight school having just recently selected for carrier aviation. Yes, I could clip his wings. I could make it so emotionally uncomfortable for him that he would have a hard time doing what he does.
But, “I won’t ask my baby not to fly.”

YouTube: The Flyer Song – A Tribute to the Troops and Their Families


I thoroughly enjoyed your video provided by the USS John Stennis. I posted it on Facebook with the anotation that “Finally, a woman who gets it.”

My wife hated my flying, especially when I was deployed during the Cold War era and first Gulf War. My flying days ended on a Friday the 13th; photo of my canopy, which ironically, has my name on it is enclosed. Miss the flying, don’t miss the boat.

Thanks for such a tender and understanding song of the men and women who fly, and the turmoil we put you through.

God Bless,
BN Akiyama Maj USMC (ret)

hmm.. guess I can’t enclose the pic, sorry.

After my response asking for his story:

Hi Leslie,

Bruce is just fine. I was usually called Banzai.

I was with on an exchange tour to the Air Force when I crashed. Just before I departed the base, a friend’s wife released her first CD. She sang at my pilot’s funeral; his favorite song was Wind Beneath My Wings, and I’m pretty sure not a squadron member had a dry eye. I don’t know much else about her opportunity since we lost contact after I left. It’s often not very fair what military spouses are asked/demanded to endure, and their/your sacrifices are quite high. I’m sorry you had such a self-centered spouse who could not appreciate the gift he had in hand. Of my own wife, the song Eagle When She Flies is quite descriptive.

Again, thank-you for your creative talent, and I hope you can share more of your creative and inspiring muse.

Sing out loud and strong,

YOU TUBE COMMENTS – (Most recent to least recent)

oldschool19461 (4 months ago)

WOW!!! Thank you for the post Leslie, hope all is well with you and yours. Between ’63 and ’67 I loaded ordnance on Phantoms,
Skyhawks, and nukes on Vigilantes. Drivers (pilots to the non-airdales) were our best, and only, customers and it was great to
see them come back confirming our “products” delivered as advertised. We cherish those air warriors who didn’t due to reasons

beyond their control and ours. The spirit of Naval Aviation lives on………

PeteDriver530 (5 months ago)

Great video, and a BEAUTIFUL song! Thanx n God bless!

TCarbonaro (5 months ago)

you should always respect the armed forces no matter what. they are fighting for u! *__*

RBW0074 (6 months ago)

No matter how hard it is – don’t ever ask a flyer not to fly.

Weintraubeheld221 (7 months ago)

Joshua Keys “The Deserter’s Tale”

Bovfo (8 months ago)

Godspeed there guys, godspeed :'(

pilotsdaughter27 (10 months ago)

as a daughter of an ex naval aviator that song is very touching

toolmantimorg (10 months ago)


zoidberg83 (11 months ago)

That’s an awesome song. Thanks for uploading!

ineedcuervo (11 months ago)

after being addicted to the song over the past few weeks i had to stop listening to it as i was starting to hum it lots (lol),
my best friend and soulmate has gone away in his little jet and i have nightmares… then yesterday i received an e-mail
titled with his name… it took me 3 hours to open it.. it was from his dad, just to tell me that he asked his dad to tell me
that he LOVES ME as he had used his call time to call his mother. then i came back here… to feel all warm again. I THANK YOU

DMB31122008 (1 year ago)

i used to listen to this every day while my fiancee was away, and as from 31 july i just cant hear it anymore with out beating
my self up, BOY I WISH ID ASKED MY BABY NOT TO FLY” .. but….. i didnt, he did, its done,.. so God Bless all who serve today,
and in the future,.. all soldiers, regs and reserves, god bless them

TINYMCFIESTY (1 year ago)

God bless the soldiers.
As an air force pilot. this is an amazing video. I just sent it to my wife and daughter back home. And my wife jokingly says
this is “our song” and my daughter watches this every night before she goes to bed. Thank you
God bless the fallen serving and the loved ones.
104th FW

DMB31122008 (1 year ago)


mpgirlfriend (1 year ago)

AMAZING! God bless our soldiers and those who love them. Keep them in your prayers, they are forever needing it.

haroldsays (1 year ago)

God Bless our soldiers, their families, and the USA. This is a good video.

KnightKiller1000 (1 year ago)

Great vid. God bless the troops and our country.

DMB31122008 (1 year ago)

ok las posting from me on this video…

A Soldier’s Wife’s Prayer
Dear Lord,
Give me the greatness of heart to see
The difference between his duty and his love for me.
Give me understanding so that I may know
That when duty calls him, he must go.
Give me a task to do each day
To fill the time when he is away.
And Lord, when he is in a foreign land,
Keep him safe and in your loving hand.

DMB31122008 (1 year ago)

i dont like it when my baby flys at all,… EVERY SINGLE WORD IN THIS SONG IS HOW MY HEART FEELS, ITS SOOOOOOOO TRUE !!!!

DMB31122008 (1 year ago)

Bless the hearts and sould of the troops!! bring them home safe

DMB31122008 (1 year ago)

oh wow , this video is like a magnet, I am back so often to view it..
I wish I HAD asked my baby not to fly though!

DMB31122008 (1 year ago)

what an absolutely amazing video….it brought tears to my eyes, the vid and song, thank you for sharing it..

DMB31122008 (1 year ago)

amazing song….very true words in this song

johnbadams (1 year ago)

Beautiful song by a beautiful singer.
Leslie is one of those oh so rare individuals with a true gift from God.
Listen and hear heaven.

TheologicoPisco (1 year ago)

Leslie, both as an musician and country music addict, I have to say: this song is radio hit quality. Seriously. Why doesn’t
anyone know about it? Knowing many people in the armed forces and having wanted to be a pilot myself, I was very moved by your

RabidWolverine4Life (1 year ago)

Awsome song,and video.

Good Luck to our troops that are still fighting.
And rip to the fallen,and the ones dieing as i type this.

countyhunterin (1 year ago)

Great vid, great message, cant wait to fly with the angels……..someday

sldhead (1 year ago)

amazing song great vid

ineedcuervo (1 year ago)

reminds me of my honey!!! kept expecting him to pop up on the film (no such luck)!! what a beautiful song… it brought tears
to my eyes (in the best kind of way)!!!

***i love you, baby!!! see you next week***

AnimatedEnigma (1 year ago)

God bless the red, white and blue! and all the brave warriors that protect freedom in this world!

littlebirdtheoutcast (1 year ago)

Leslie? You are superb!!! I’m just wow’d by your song and talent. Thank you so much. Father? I can’t tell you how thrilled I
am at listening to this facinating video. Praise and thank you so much. It is just exciting to hear someone give our precious
troops any mention at all, let alone a challenging film and the like. You did good girl!!!!

Memphisbelle70 (1 year ago)

great song, Leslie-you have a beautiful voice. Flying at night is fun, it’s the landing at night that not so much fun!

FFFFFFFFFFFF18 (2 years ago)

AMAZING Video!!, Big fan of the Us F18 Hornet. God bless you guys