For we who grew up tall and proud
In the shadow of the mushroom cloud
Convinced our voices can’t be heard
We just wanna scream it louder and louder louder

What the hell we fighting for?
Just surrender and it won’t hurt at all
You just got time to say your prayers
While your waiting for the hammer to Hammer To Fall

“Hammer to Fall”, performed by Queen (Music/Lyrics: Brian May)

I was born in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, and grew up on Lidingö, an island adjacent to Stockholm proper. The municipality had about 35,000 inhabitants at the time, and it was a mix of single-family houses (a few had two families living in one house) and apartments.

My dad was originally from Blekinge, a province in southern Sweden. He worked as a bus driver on the island where we lived. When he didn’t work, he was building us a summer house on another island further out in the Stockholm archipelago.

My dad was very good at wood working, having worked as a carpenter for a while when he was young. When my sister needed a violin, he built one from scratch. It took him two years, working on it several evenings each week, but it ended up looking and sounding great. He taught me a lot about wood working, something I am very grateful for. He was also good at repairing cars, or most things mechanical. He also taught me how to solder, as well as the basics of electricity. He was a great teacher, and had a very wide knowledge about different subjects. Thinking back at it today, knowing that he only had six years of school in the middle of the 1930’s, in a rural part of southern Sweden, I now realize how impressive his intelligence must have been. If he would have had the opportunity to go to school longer, I am convinced he would been an engineer.

My mom was from Pommerania in (then) northern Germany. After WW2 the part she was from became part of Poland. She came to Sweden a few years after the end of WW2, to work as a nanny for the daughters of a colonel in the Swedish Air Force. She ended up staying, and eventually met my dad.

I was born in the middle of the Cold War. I grew up with the air raid sirens being tested every quarter, Soviet fighters, bombers and ships (both above and below the surface) violating Swedish territory, and the newspapers, radio and TV frequently had stories about Soviet spies being caught, and Swedish military aircrafts crashing during training. Between 1945 and 1990 (when the Cold War ended), the Swedish Air Force lost 550 pilots. In peace time. That is an insane number, on average one pilot every month for 45 years. The Soviet Union was just across the Baltic Sea, 20 minutes flight time for a MiG-23, so the threat was very real.

Me in 1990 during a training exercise.

The year I turned 15 I joined the Home Guard, a part-time volunteer unit in the Swedish Army (similar to the National Guard on the US). At age 21 I did my mandatory military service in the Air Force, before going back to the Home Guard. I stayed active until I moved to the US at age 29.