I am proud to be an American, proud of my father and grandfather’s service in the military. My patriotism and gratitude for the men and women that serve in our armed services has been increased with our Wasatch County Veterans Program on Memorial Day and the Commemorative Air Force event showcasing the B-25 Bomber "Maid in the Shade" happening now until Monday, June 16.
With my stomach in knots, today I climbed into the core of the B-25 escorted by Jim Wilson, a retired pilot from Chandler Arizona. The Arizona Airborne volunteers travel with the plane, giving rides, tours and share a bit of history from World War II all over the U.S. and Canada. Jim showed me the three bullet holes on the nose of the plane, causalities of combat.
Riding in the gut of the B-25 you first notice the noise and the smell of oil. From my seat in the middle gunner position I looked out across the Heber Valley. Thoughts of flying over Europe or the Pacific Ocean filled my mind, as I imagined the men that served in this aircraft, fighting for democracy.
My co-passenger in the middle gunner position was TJ, a retired Marine that had served four combat tours in Iraq/Afghanistan. Still a young man, TJ was so honored to be flying with the Maid in the Shade. We talked about the flight afterwards, as we cleaned off oil that had seeped from the props. TJ explained to me that to see the oil on the plane was good, even healthy, as it kept the props turning and kept the plane lubricated. He was so humbled to clean the plane that served so honorably.
Our pilot on this brilliantly beautiful summer day was Captain Ross Gilmore, retired commercial pilot and full time volunteer. He shared with us an experience from the war, the "Maid in the Shade" was one of four aircrafts sent on a combat mission. She was the only plane to return, another reminder of the price of war.
The B-25 Bomber was one of the best light bombers of World War II. It was named after General Billy Mitchell who, as far back as 1920, had the foresight to urge the U.S. to build a stronger and better-prepared air force. On the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, only 40 B-25s were in service, but before the end of the War more than 11,000 were operating on all fronts in almost all Allied air forces, achieving extraordinary feats. 33 B-25’s are still flying. After 70 years the Maid in the Shade has earned her wings. For more information about the Arizona Commemorative Air Force event, or to book your flight contact 435-671-6441. Rides are scheduling now until Sunday, June 15th.