I've been away for awhile but thought I'd get started back with some stories from the Wings of Freedom tour I was on in July 2009. I was reminded of it all at my recent Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War camp meeting. Our commander, Kirk Nystrom, mentioned his father was a B-26 bombardier and had used the Norden bombsight. Well the stories started to flow and when I got home I looked up my old notes. I hope you'll enjoy them. Here's part 1.
Notes from the road, Part 1, July 8, 2009
Well, exactly as promised, I arrived home from work to meet Co-pilot Brad the Dork McNary at 1730 (we must use military time of course on this trip), loaded up the Blue Goose and were wheels up at 1750. GPS said we would arrive at 1935 but we had to make a pit stop to refuel the Goose and shove an angus burger from the Golden Arch Supper Club down our gullet. The revised time was to be 1954 and we lowered the landing gear and gave ourselves 15 degrees of flaps just before touching down exactly on time at the Quality Inn-Salina. Steve and his buddies had been kind enough to arm-twist the management of the facility into giving us the Collings Foundation rate of $50/night, down from the $75/night rate I had gotten on my good deal. We walked to the front door and were greeted by the Wings of Freedom flyer and then passed through and were greeted by our volunteer “supervisor” Steve Arnold. He was looking mighty tanned and scraped up from his last few weeks crawling around the planes but has his usual smile and excited manner. We wandered around looking for room 115 only to find that to our surprise we got one that opened onto the interior atrium not far from the pool. How will ya ever get ‘em back on the farm once they’ve been to the big city?
We unloaded and Steve met us back at our room to give us a CF video to look at and we shot the bull while he gave us the low-down on what to expect tomorrow. We’re to get breakfast in the lobby then all meet about 7:30 to head to the Salina Airport (earlier the Smoky Hill Army Base and Schilling AFB). He said since we all were volunteers we could basically just wander around in and out of the planes and do whatever we wanted. I allowed as how I’d been studying WWII planes since I was able to read and had never even been close enough to touch one, the opportunity to be this close was of such a nature that he had me body and soul and if they wanted me to wash the tires with my tongue I’d even donate the saliva. I guess we may sell shirts, help folks in and out of the planes, talk to people, keep the wild Indians off the P-51, etc. The 17 and 24 are open for tours, etc but he 51 is off limits except to look at and sometimes folks can’t overcome the urge to go under the tape and crawl on it with their golf spikes.
Anyway, back to the room. We unloaded our gear and I was very meticulous about making sure I got EVERYTHING this trip, including the deodorant I had managed to forget the last two times I packed for trips. Imagine my dismay when I went to put my gear in the drawer and lay out clothes for tomorrow and then find that I had not packed one solitary pair of under drawers. But I did get the jalapeno pretzels, camera, laptop, batteries, etc. So, as is the case with every trip I’ve ever been on, it was to the local Wally World for the essentials.
Brad and I viewed the CF video on his laptop and I must say the emotion of the trip started to settle in. Watching the 17, 24, 25 and 51 and the shots of old veterans started to choke me up. I can only imagine what I’ll feel to actually get to touch the same planes that were lovingly built in the states by men and women and then loaded with our nation’s finest flower of youth and sent off to defend our freedoms, many to never return. I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to control myself when, I’m sure, I’ll be overcome with a mixture of awe, honor, history, melancholy, sadness, and pride that always seems to go with such occasions. Especially if a veteran shows up and I’ll get a chance to shake his hand and say “thank you”. Those old guys are almost all gone and surely our nation will be worse off when they’re gone and this current flock of whining children (my generation included) forgets what it cost so we could be free to sue McDonalds because the coffee was too hot. These folks who lived then surely are the Greatest Generation and I’m afraid and sad to say, probably the apex of the people of character who built the US to what it became. But I digress and must hope that the tour helps people remember and is part of the catalyst that turns this generation around to better things.
Well, it’s 2316 and Brad’s already off to bed long ago. Young pup. You’d think the old man would be the first to bed. Time for me to grab my new underwear and head for the shower. 0600 comes pretty early around here and the weather man says 97 degrees tomorrow. Probably a lot hotter out on the tarmac. But not for me, as my head will be in the clouds. Thank you Lord for this great opportunity and to my great wife for encouraging me to go. I’ll never forget this. More tomorrow night.
Part 2 next week.
I Went Searching For an Indian and Found I Was a Dutchman
I Went Searching for an Indian and Found I Was a Dutchman.
I've always been interested in history so when my Uncle Wayne gave me some information about our family roots I had to begin changing the way I've always thought about where I came from. We had always been told, "there's Indian blood in our ancestry, we just haven't been able to prove it". I have been surprised to learn that while searching for an Indian link, I found a Dutchman. Now I'm not saying there may not be some Indian blood somewhere but the prospect looks dimmer the more I find out.
I also have had some general prejudices about folks back east, especially areas like Ohio (I grew up in the Woody Hayes era and couldn't stand Ohio State). What a surprise (and God ordained I believe) to find we arrived in Ohio in the early 1800s, my ancestor fought in an Ohio Regiment in the Civil War, and came to Kansas afterwards. That, and some visits to Ohio, has adjusted my thinking.
And the other reason why-to keep communication between the far flung members of my family and encourage them to drop a note so we can keep in touch with the details of their lives. We miss too much by not being there in the day to day workings of life. So, leave a post for all of us.