Sunday, November 09, 2014

Spirits, WWII planes soar for Veterans' Day at John Bell Williams Airport (KJVW), Raymond, Mississippi

WWII B-17 Bomber pilot Charles Hull (blue jacket) poses with Army National Guard Black Hawk pilot Joe Spears and his children Parker, 2, and Noah, 6, at J.B. Williams Airport on Saturday.
(Photo: Therese Apel)

On Saturday, Spc. John Patterson got to live out a lifelong dream. 

 Even though he's served in the infantry for more than 10 years, including fighting in Iraq, he has always wanted to fly in a North American T-6 Texan. Thanks to a local pilot and business owner, he got to do that.

Patterson was there with his wife, Holley, and his service dog, Tucker.

"I was raised around and in airplanes my entire life, my father flew, and he took us up to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to the big fly-in every year since I was about 10 years old," Patterson said. "My favorite section was the warbirds, and that's pretty much where I pretty much stayed the entire time I was up there, and I always wanted to ride in one. This is my chance."

John Mosley, owner of Clinton Body Shop, said his business sponsored the event and picked up the tab for the gas for the flights because it was a way to honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have defended our freedom.

"We want these veterans to know they're not forgotten, and that we appreciate what they did," he said. "It doesn't by any means pay them back, but it's a small token. It's something to let them know they're appreciated."

Lonnie Mallory is a Vietnam-Era Air Force vet. He and his wife Alta, who first rode in a plane when she was 7 1/2 months pregnant and he was deployed to Germany while he was in the service, were among the crowd of excited participants. Mallory worked on B-52s and F-4s during his time in the service, working in electronic warfare.

He said it touched him that Mosley would put such an event together.

"Just them saying thank you for the service, and getting to fly in a small airplanes," he said. "There's nothing more pretty than getting to be up there in a small aircraft."

National Guard Black Hawk pilot Joe Spears brought his wife Bonnie and his two children, Noah, 6, and Parker, 2. He said he has tried to instill in his family an understanding of the military, and events like Saturday's help drive the point home.

"So we don't forget how we got to where we are right now, and to continue that for every generation, so they know it was important back then, right now, and in the future to live in a free country," said Spears.

WWII B-17 Bomber pilot Charles Hull also was on hand. He didn't go up in one of the planes, but he told stories of his time as a pilot, and how he once flew a private plane around the world.

J.B. Williams Airport Manager Michelle Jackson said it was an honor to host the event.

"It's always a privilege to honor the brave men and women who have kept our country safe," she said. "We owe them a debt that cannot be repaid."

Story, Video and Photos:

A Navion awaits its next passenger Saturday when veterans were given free rides in WWII-era aircraft, courtesy of Clinton Body Shop and JB Williams Airport.
(Photo: Therese Apel)