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Up and Away: Traceway veterans take off

Six local veterans slipped the bonds of earth to dance in the clear blue skies Tuesday (April 1, 2019). In a restored 1942 open air Boeing Stearman, the veterans who live at Traceway Retirement Community took a trip into the wild blue yonder with the help of Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation.

Don Shepherd, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1958-60 in central France, couldn't stop smiling after the Stearman returned him to Tupelo Aviation. Shepherd, who held a private pilot's license for 65 years, but didn't fly for the Air Force, said it was his first trip in an open air cockpit. "It was a blast," said Shepherd. "I loved it."

Dream Flight volunteer pilot Scott Delong, who works as a crop duster in Nebraska, ferried Shepherd and the five other veterans into the sky Tuesday. He said the flights are as much fun for him as they are for the veterans. "They are full of life and full of stories," said Delong, who got a big hug from Shepherd.

Since 2011, Ageless Aviation has been offering the free Dream Flights to veterans across the country, said Dream Flight volunteer pilot Tim Newton, a Columbus native and Air Force veteran. With volunteer pilots, the foundation provides about 800 flights a year. This year, the foundation will reach the 4,000-flight milestone with the support of private and corporate sponsors. "We do it to say thanks to them," said Newton, who was serving as crew chief Tuesday.

Planes like the Stearman were used to train military aviators in the 1940s. Airless Aviation uses the bright blue, gold and distinctive stars of the U.S. Army Air Corps, the forerunner of the Air Force, for its planes. "I always wanted to fly in one of these," said Traceway Cottages resident Charles Reece as he waited his turn.

Reece, 80, served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army from 1961-63. As the Cold War was heating up between the United States and the Soviet Union, Reece was stationed in Bamburg, Germany. "When the Berlin Wall went up, things got a little testy," Reece said. After his flight, he had the same big grin as his fellow veterans. "I appreciate these guys for giving their time," Reece said.

The past four years, Mississippi Methodist Senior Services has partnered with Ageless Aviation to offer the Dream Flights to veterans and veterans' spouses who live on the 12 campuses. Starting Sunday, the Ageless Aviation crew visited Hattiesburg and Raymond before spending the day in Tupelo.

"It's such an amazing honor for our veterans and such a fun, fun day," said Renee Reid, Methodist Senior Services director of public relations. "As long as my elders want to go flying, we'll keep putting in the requests."

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Wednesday, 22 May 2024

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Methodist Senior Services

Telephone : 662-844-8977
Fax : 662-844-9053
Email : info@mss.org

 

 

109 South Broadway
Post Office Box 1567
Tupelo, Mississippi 38802-1567

Office Hours Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm