As pilots in America, we enjoy a freedom to fly that is unique in the world. I am very grateful to be so fortunate and I know every pilot feels the same way when he or she takes flight in our beautiful country. But freedoms like these and others are not free; our country’s brave and honorable veterans have fought and sacrificed so that we and others in the world may live in freedom. This Veterans Day I would like to pass on a special thank you to the veterans in my family, including my grandfather who was a B-17 tailgunner based in Britain during World War II.
A small private airport in Carefree, Arizona invited the public for a static display of planes and cars to celebrate their local history and Veterans Day. My family and I thought it would be a fun outing for the weekend but knew little about what we would see. As fortune would have it, just as we arrived the distinctive sound of old radial engines caught our attention. Above, three Stearman biplanes were beginning a series of fly-bys! This was special not only because they are gorgeous, rare airplanes but because my grandfather learned to fly in the Army Air Corps in a Stearman and later bought one surplus after he returned home from the war. They flew low in formation down the runway a few times, trailing smoke, then turned off one by one to land and taxi to park for viewing.
When they had arrived and shut down the engines, the crowd gathered in close to admire the planes. Two were painted in the blue and yellow Army colors, while the third was the yellow Navy’s version. As we approached, I read the words on the side of the plane nearest me: “Thunderbird Field, Scottsdale Arizona.” This is the very airport where my grandfather trained in a Stearman! If only he had been there to see the planes with us, this Veteran’s Day would have even more of a fitting tribute to his service. Thank you, Grandpa Jack, and thank you to all veterans for what you’ve done for all of us. We owe you so much.