The USAF Thunderbirds are performing in Wichita this weekend.
One of the benefits of owning an aircraft company in Wichita, KS is receiving an invitation to a reception in honor of the Thunderbirds, at McConnell AFB. (I say this with a hint of humor -- with four full time employees, [including myself, Kathy] we are not (yet) deserving of such an invitation, but we are very appreciative.)
The reception had some great food. Before the jazz band started playing, we were privileged to hear from 3 WWII veterans. The first of these three men was Loren Corliss, and he told a gripping story of parachuting out of a destroyed B26, then surviving and moving through the jungle, towards eventual rescue many days later. This man's story was originally told and printed in our hometown Wichita Eagle, in an article which you can read here.
Loren's rescuer was a PBY Catalina pilot, who landed in hard surf, and yanked Loren Corliss and several others out of war's grip to safety. Loren Corliss never knew or got to thank his rescuer, until the story ran in the Eagle, and his rescuer read the story -- and discovered who he had rescued.
The rescuer was Harold Strub. Harold was our second speaker last night. His story of landing in extraordinarily difficult conditions was amazing. You can read his story here.
The first person account of both these veterans held the entire crowd in awe.
A third WWII veteran also spoke; I'm sorry that I don't have his name. He had bailed out of another plane over Italy during the war; badly burned, and losing both hands, he still survived. Another gripping story.
I thought of my father-in-law, Pres Huston. Now deceased several years ago, I was reminded of his participation in WWII; how he fought, how his voice would now sound older and more grizzled were he still alive. How he would also have stories to tell. How he was a peer of our aging WWII veterans, with just a few still living.
After the aging veterans had said their pieces, the USAF Thunderbird lead pilot made comments of these aged veterans: echoing comments made by other writers, "these were our greatest generation".
I thought again of Pres Huston.
My wife, Kathy, was standing in front of me. I gently stroked her shoulder, as we listened to the speakers, as I thought of Dad.
The evening ended; the huge Thunderbird group left; the band continued to play.
|USAF Thunder Bird Lead Solo Rick Goodman, with Kathy and James|