That there have been and still are men and women willing to serve and even sacrifice their very lives on my behalf, fills me with awe and immense gratitude. They aren't forced to do it. They just do. They sacrifice time with their own family, so that I get to spend time with mine. I get to wake up each day and do the mundane, the routine and ordinary things. The things I sometimes forget to be grateful that I get to do. And I get to do those things wrapped in freedom. It's because someone chose to sacrifice their time, their chance to do those things and instead stands up for me and every one else in the County of ours. Sometimes they even give their lives, defending my right to be free. That can never be taken lightly.
Brigadier General Bob Stewart
Our day began at one of our local Veteran's Park. While all Veterans were the focus, this year the theme was World War II. We first got to see Brigadier General Bob Stewart. This man was awesome. He was not only a veteran, but an astronaut as well. He's a highly decorated veteran and yet so down-to-earth! He's real spitfire and hearing some of his stories was awe inspiring. It was truly incredible because we were walking among living legends like General Stewart as well as our future protectors. The Junior ROTC was well represented by a large group of individuals.
We heard from a 93 year old man that served on a bomber. His nickname was "Hoot" He was such a delight! He told us of crashing landing on their 24th mission. Back then, if the bomber crews completed 25 missions, they got to come home. On this mission, Hoot and had ot bail out because the plane was going to crash land. They landed in a river in France. It was a rough landing and the crew was split up with some landing on one side of the river and some landing on the other. The navigator happened to have landed on the same side as Hoot and was able to drag him to safety on the river bank. They recuperated and went back to fly more missions! Hoot was hit by flak on one of those next missions and nearly lost his arm. He spent 8 months in a hospital before being well enough to come home. After Hoot Spoke, we got to watch an old film about the Memphis Belle that was shot with her crew and in real action. While we were watching A gentleman sat down next to me. He was also a veteran and his hands and body shook and he had a hard time lowering himself into the chair. I reach over to help him and he smiled and said "It's hell when nothing works right anymore". Bless him.
Mrs Linda Morgan, widow of Mephis Belle Pilot, Col. "Bob" Morgan
B-26 Pilot, Julian Campbell
After the movie we ventured back out into the cold and looked at some of the vintage aircraft. They had come ot fly for us, but the rain just wouldn't allow it. We then went to see the things that had been set up in tents. There were some cool artifacts in one tent and they were conducting interviews in another. We were able to catch the interview with Linda Morgan. Mrs. Morgan is the widow of the pilot of the Memphis Belle. She was very engaging and delightful. I would have loved to just sit with her and talk! We then watch a gentlemen sit down at the table to be interviewed and found out he was a "local". He and his wife live right here in our county! Mr Julian Campbell was a B-26 Bomber Pilot. I beleive I heard him say he was 95! He served in WWII, was in the military for several years, was recalled for Korea, decided to stay in the srevice and served during Vietnam! He was very spry and quite funny! After what they have lived through, it is so great to see these veterans laugh and have such a great sense of humor!
We wandered over to the other tent and spoke to another wonderful vet. My husband actually started talking to him first while I was looking at the items on display so I regretably didn't catch his name. He was very insightful about the items displayed.
Next we got to hear some swing music from the World War II era, performed by members of the Wallace State College Jazz Band.
In the midst of the music, a couple in period clothing showed us their swing dance moves!
After the musical performance we went back to the tent and got to hear Brigadier General Bob Stewart speak again. It was a little more casual than that morning at the park and he was able to speak for a longer time. I certainly hope to get the chance to hear him again sometime! He recounted his tales of being a pilot from a very young age and how he was disappointed when he went into the military and they sent him to be trained to fly helicopters, only to discover he loved it! He also flew in space on two of the space shuttles, Challenger and Atlantis. General Stewart was the first active duty U.S. Army soldier to make a space flight. While on the Challenger mission he and Bruce McCandless performed two EVAs (extra vehicular activities) and tested the Manned Manuevering Units (MMU). These were the first untethered tests from a spacecraft in flight. Upon completion of that flight, General Stewart was the first Army officer awarded the Army Astronaut Badge. Seeing as how he has actually flown an MMU, a lady asked what he thought of the movie Gravity... let's just say he didn't like it at all! He said it was a highly unrealistic portrayal of how MMUs really work and react in space. He did say that Apollo 13 is one of the best space movies. As I said, he is not only highly entertaining, but very smart.
It was such an great day. Despite our disappointment that the Memphis Belle couldn't come and most of the outdoor activities were cancelled, I think it worked out for the best. I'm not sure we would have gotten the amount of time with these wonderful people and their stories if all the other things had been going on. I can say we need to not only salute the people that have done and continue to do so much for us, but we need to listen to their stories and appreciate them. If you know a Veteran or even if you see one while your out and about, shake their hand. Tell them Thanks. Don't wait for this one day of the year to show your appreciation. It's the least we can do to let them know we care about what they've done for us and that that we are grateful for our Rights and Freedoms.