Cynical Synapse

Mon, 14 Jun 2010

WWII Vet Honored on Eve of Flag Day

Filed under: Flying, Heroes, History, holidays, Military, Patriotism — cynicalsynapse @ 8:11 pm

WWII B-25 pilot Larry Kiger with his hat and medalion from the Yankee Air Museum crew

My Dad bought rides for himself, my brother, and me on the Yankee Air Museum’s B-25 Mitchell bomber on 13 June. Lots of people don’t get to see historic aircraft like that, let alone ride on one. The event was part of a fly-in at the Mason Jewett Airport in Mason MI. Generally, these are events with historic and experimental aircraft and a lot of comeraderie among the pilots and crews. The weather was kind of punk, however, with low visibility and low ceilings, meaning cloud cover was close to the ground. As a result, attendance was low and not that many aircraft had flown in.

FAA regulations require 3 miles visibility and 1,500 foot ceilings before the B-25 could take on passengers. It was almost 2 PM by the time those conditions finally materialized. Persistence pays off and the lucky 7 got their ride on the Yankee Warrior, the only B-25D documented combat medium bomber still flying. During the flight, passengers were able to explore the dorsal turret, which is actually remote-controlled, and the waist, tail, and nose gunners’ positions.

B-25D Yankee Warrior

What truly impressed me, however, was when we landed. After the 7 passengers got certificates signed by the pilot, the Yankee Air Museum crew presented World War II veteran Larry Kiger with a medalion and thanked him for his service. This is all the more significant since Larry was a B-25 pilot during the war. One of the Yankee Air Museum folks told me that, when we were preparing to taxi for take-off, Larry said he could remember feeling the vibration from the controls in his hands. What an amazing connection to history!

Most of the B-25s were flown by the Army Air Corps. It’s only fitting we were able to be part of honoring Larry’s service on the eve of the Army’s 235th birthday, 14 June 2010. I’m proud to have been a part of this small ceremony in mid-Michigan and to have honored such a great American. I’m sure Larry doesn’t think of himself as a hero, but there’s no doubt those of us who met him consider him such.

In the US, 14 June is also Flag Day, representing the day our Stars and Stripes were adopted as the US Flag. Flag Day has always been an under-recognized holiday. This year it took on a grand new significance, at least for me.


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