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My dad visited during jump school week. When he told me he was planning to visit me I knew that would be the perfect week for him. I started planning right away because I knew exactly what I wanted him to see and do.
Being a military man, and an aircraft mechanic for most of those years, I knew he would love meeting members of the WWII Airborne Demonstration team and seeing the team’s two planes up close and personal. How up close and personal, he didn’t know. The team allowed my dad and I to ride on “Wild Kat” while she dropped troopers one day during jump school. My dad said it was great fun. He loved seeing it from the plane, and the next day from the ground near the drop zone. It’s a different experience seeing it from the air than it is seeing it from the ground.
Riding on “Wild Kat” was my third plane ride ever, and all three were on WWII aircraft. I also got to see students jump from the drop zone. And by drop zone, I mean I actually saw them jump from directly underneath them. The drop zone was so muddy that it was going up to my shins in some places. I couldn’t imagine landing out there with a parachute and having to drag that through the mud to contain it and then haul it back across the field to the road. I got about halfway across the field and briefly considered turning back. I was so thankful when one of the guys on the weasels came and picked me up and drove me the rest of the way out there.
Another thing my dad was excited about was the Celebration of Freedom event. Frederick has some talented vocalists.
My dad got to pin wings on a jump school graduate. He wore his uniform to open hangar day and I wore my WAC uniform. While we were out there, a visitor asked me to hold her baby and take a photo with it. I think it was the first time I’d held such a small baby since my youngest was that small, nine years ago. I told my dad I felt like a famous person.
I think the thing my dad was most excited about was the bright yellow Navy Stearman Bi-plane that was at the hangar during jump school week and open hangar day. The pilot wanted a photo with my dad in his uniform next to it. My dad also got to ride in it.
And by ride, I mean he got to fly it. He told me when they landed that once they were in the air he asked the pilot if he minded if he took the controls and the pilot said yes.
He said it brought back some great and some sad memories. He took flying lessons from his Lieutenant in a nearly identical Stearman when he was still in the Navy. The Lieutenant has since died, ironically when he was piloting a WWII Era plane. He was taking a man up on his 41st wedding anniversary. Both he and the Lieutenant were killed on impact when the P-51 fighter jet named Galveston Gal crashed into waters near Galveston, Texas.
My dad fondly remembers his flying days along with his Navy days which makes it fun to listen to his stories.
We also got dressed in our Victorian clothes and walked around the Townsite Museum and took photos. We also went inside the grocery store dressed like that.
I’m so glad my dad was able to visit. We had a great time and I can’t wait to see everyone at Thanksgiving this month.
Reach Kathleen Guill at 580-379-0588, ext. 2602.