Saturday, November 12, 2016

WWII vet flies again at age 92

Pilot Robert Benavidez, left, prepares to take Army veteran Florentino Pacheco, 92, for a flight over Deming and Luna County. Pacheco was a member of the 101st Airborne during his service in WWII and was honored Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 during the Veteran’s Day ceremony at Veteran’s Park, 301 S. Silver Avenue.
DEMING - A brisk Thursday morning wasn’t enough to stop local pilot Robert Benavidez from helping a 92-year-old veteran reach cloud nine.

Army veteran Florentino Pacheco was honored Thursday morning at the Deming Municipal Airport with a flight around Deming in a small Cessna 182 propeller aircraft. Pacheco is a WWII and Korean War veteran who was also honored for his service at the annual Veteran’s Day ceremony Friday, Nov. 11 at Veteran’s Park, 301 S. Silver Avenue.

Pacheco was a member of the 101st Airborne Division, better known as the Screaming Eagles. Following WWII, he transferred to the National Guard and became interested in flying. He obtained his pilot's license and flew planes over New Mexico through the 1950’s, but had not flown since. Riding in Benavidez’ Cessna marked his first time flying in a propeller plane in many years.

“It was a little rough up there,” laughs Pacheco. “Those Cessna 180’s are really light. I didn’t go that high, just maybe 300 or 400 feet.”

Pacheco was ecstatic to return to the air after a long absence in a familiar aircraft. The Cessna 182 is a 1957 model with most of the original gauges and instruments still functioning and intact.

During the 30-minute flight, Benavidez flew Pacheco and his daughter Mary Frances Leupold around Deming and near the Florida Mountains before touching back on the ground.

Leupold had organized the flight for her father and traveled from Farmington for the ceremonies on Veteran’s Day. Pacheco said he had a great time during the flight and was excited for Friday’s ceremony.

“Everything, you have to take it as it comes,” Pacheco said. “You can’t go too far ahead - something else might come up.”

During Friday’s Veteran’s Day ceremony hosted by members of the American Legion, Bataan Post 4, and the American Legion Auxiliary, Unit 4, Pacheco will be the honorary Senior Veteran of the event. Pacheco’s brothers Sammy and Albert also served in the armed forces and were decorated for their services, contributing to a family history deeply rooted in Deming and for their service to the people of the county.


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