Posts tagged ‘VETERANS’

THE READING WORLD WAR II WEEKEND

The World War II weekend at the Reading Airport is now history.  A short time ago I posted a piece describing the event and providing the date.  Along with the information I included my first published short story centered on that weekend event.

After working the mornings of all three days of the event this year, I would like to share some observations.

We had quite a few veterans of that war, along with more recent wars, in attendance.   I watched the World War II veterans, mostly in wheelchairs or supported by walkers, make their way through the gate to relive their youth.  Although there was one spry 94 year old, who could have passed for 70, come to enjoy the show and I’m sure relive a time long gone.  I tried to imagine what life was like when they were young men, in a foreign country, facing death any day.  And what life must have been like for the civilians.  In this day and age, could we muster the dedication on the scale to defeat the evil foe of that era?

These gallant men, participants belonging to the great greatest generation, rapidly dwindling, need to reveal their experiences.   If you know a participant of that war, gently try to persuade them to talk of their experiences.  Some are just waiting for someone to ask.

Also, if you know someone who lived during that era on the home front, ask them to share their experiences during that stressful time.

Their history needs to be preserved while we can still touch it.     

 

June 6, 2016 at 8:28 pm Leave a comment

A FADING GENERATION

For the last twelve years, or so, I have volunteered to work admissions for World War II weekend, held the first weekend of June by the Mid Atlantic Air Museum located in Reading, Pennsylvania. This year, it was held on June 5, 6 and 7th. I would like to share some of the special moments I experienced that weekend and which I will never forget.

First, I want to set the scene.

Picture this, fighters and bombers from both the navy and army air force, most more than 70 years old and representing the aircraft this country used to win the war. Among the bombers there was Fifi, the only flying B-29 in the world, along with a B-24, B-17 and multiple B-25s. I know to many, these designations are meaningless. But to students of history and those who share a passion for WWII aircraft, these titles have meaning. I won’t go on to name all the fighters, but all told, there were about 80 aircraft present. During the show, troop encampments were also present with more than 1000 reenactors and over 100 authentic military vehicles from that period. Represented were units from the American army, navy and marines. There were also British, German, Japanese, and French resistance reenactors. On occasion, I would also see uniforms I could not place, especially one lad dressing in brown with a huge black feather sprouting from his pith helmet.

What I enjoy most since I began volunteering has been meeting and talking to the veterans of that war. Ten years ago most walked in, now most are wheeled in by family members, but they still come. You can see the anticipation in their eyes as they enter the gates, a chance to relive their ‘glory days’. What I found special this year as I worked the gate were people who showed up with an extra ticket, and would say, “Give this to the next veteran you see.” This happened several times, and when the tickets were presented, usually to a wheelchair-bound former soldier, you could see the gratitude of someone’s generosity, and also, the appreciation for the recognition of their service.

For me, another special encounter was when I talked to a reenactor. I don’t know what unit he represented, though I think it was a marine outfit. He told me he had learned something of the hardships and sacrifices the men he now acted as endured. Here was a man, not even 40, telling me that knowledge brought tears to his eyes.

Honoring and remembering our history, the importance cannot be overrated.

June 9, 2015 at 7:16 pm Leave a comment

D-DAY REMEMBERED

Since I was a boy I’ve always had a love for airplanes. While a senior in college, I learned to fly – thanks to the Air Force, and reported to pilot training five days after graduation in 1969. I’ve soloed in two types of aircraft, the Cessna 150 and the Cessna 172 which the Air Force calls the T-41. I then began flying the T-37, a small twin-engine jet. I never conquered that aircraft, the T-37 conquered me and I washed-out on Labor Day 1969.
Keeping alive that love for aircraft, 15 years ago I became a member of the Mid Atlantic Air Museum (MAAM), an organization dedicated to preserving the history of aircraft produced in the Mid-Atlantic region and aircraft of World War II. One of MAAM’s prized possessions is the B-25J Briefing Time. Their inventory also includes a navy Avenger and a host of trainers, a PT-23, PT-26 and SNJ-4B Texan. Located in Reading, Pennsylvania, I highly recommend visiting or joining the museum if you are a history or aircraft buff.
Every year the MAAM holds, on the first weekend of June, World War II weekend. This year the event fell on June 6, 7 and 8th, and being there on June 6th held special meaning for it was the 70th anniversary of D Day. I try to volunteer all three days of the show manning one of the entry gates, taking admissions and thanking people for attending.
The air show draws a host of historic aircraft, trainers, fighters, bombers and cargo planes, all of them having played an important role in winning the war. In addition to the aircraft are hundreds of reenactors representing America’s army and navy as well as the soldiers of England, Germany, Japan and Russia. These troops bring along over 100 military and civilian vehicles representing the era.
In attendance are veterans, some famous and some that just did their job and want to share their experiences. I enjoy being around these men and women who risked so much in a time when the enemy was clearly defined and the reasons for the conflict beyond doubt.
In addition to the veterans drawn to the show as speakers, a number of them also are among the spectators. Testifying to this is the size of the handicapped parking area to make it as easy as possible for the elderly to attend and the staff who offer all the respect and aid they can for these cherished individuals. I never miss the opportunity to shake the hand of these elderly heroes and thank them for their service.
This past weekend, on the morning of June 6th, I was helping a speaker to where he wanted to go and noticed his baseball cap which displayed the slogan, B-26 bomber pilot. I asked him what he was doing 70 years ago on this day and he said he was dropping bombs on Cherbourg, France in support of the landing.
At the entry gate another gentleman made his way toward me, short and hobbling along using a cane. He was 90 and was a soldier there on D Day. I also had the opportunity to shake the hand of a veteran of The Battle of the Bulge. All these encounters are very special to me.
Over the years I have met some impressive individuals whose lives were changed forever by a time requiring unbelievable dedication and personal sacrifice. I cherish the opportunity to talk to these individuals who participated in a time which cannot be truly appreciated unless you were there. As the years go by, fewer and fewer veterans remain to tell their stories, to remind us of the price paid so that we are able to enjoy the life we live.

Here are some photos from the show.

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C-46 COMMANDO

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P-47D THUNDERBOLT

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ENCAMPMENTS

June 11, 2014 at 11:46 pm Leave a comment


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