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Rae: Thank a veteran by lending a helping hand

Rusty Rae/News-Register##Ye Olde Pub, a part of the Erickson collection with a home field of Madras, Oregon, at speed during the International Air Show in McMinnville in August. In this case the pilot and crew were giving rides. The plane is named in honor of the men who flew it in the skies of Germany during World War II from their home bases in the UK.
Rusty Rae/News-Register##Ye Olde Pub, a part of the Erickson collection with a home field of Madras, Oregon, at speed during the International Air Show in McMinnville in August. In this case the pilot and crew were giving rides. The plane is named in honor of the men who flew it in the skies of Germany during World War II from their home bases in the UK.
Rusty Rae/News-Register##An Air Show attendee takes a closer look at the ball turret of the B-17, Ye Olde Pub, which was parked during the three days of the show. About four feet in diameter, gunners operating the two 50-caliber machine guns rarely wore parachutes.
Rusty Rae/News-Register##An Air Show attendee takes a closer look at the ball turret of the B-17, Ye Olde Pub, which was parked during the three days of the show. About four feet in diameter, gunners operating the two 50-caliber machine guns rarely wore parachutes.

I was trying to make a photographic image of the B-17 at the air show in July.

It’s a technically difficult shot, as it requires a shutter speed of 1/20th of a second with a telephoto lens. That takes a very steady hand, so I pretty much failed to get the shot.

The owners of this grand old dame of the air were taking folks for rides for a fee. After the plane landed and they began loading the next group, I reflected on how large that plane must have seemed 75 years ago and how small it seemed this July afternoon.

Thinking of all the things the plane accomplished during World War II, my mind wandered back in time, bringing to life an image of my late uncle George.

Uncle George grew up in Sheridan, Wyoming. He fell in love with airplanes and flight one day, when a biplane flew over town.

When World War II erupted, he was a senior in high school.

As soon as he graduated, he signed up for the Army Air Corps. However, his birthday was in October, so he didn’t actually get called until October 1943.

My uncle completed basic flight training and was stationed somewhere in the Midwest — Iowa maybe — while awaiting a bomber school placement. Before those orders came through, he was furloughed, as the war was nearly over and the need for pilots thus subsiding.

One of the buddies he sat next to in algebra went right into the Air Corps after graduation in June of 1943. His buddy crash-landed a B-17 in France while returning from a mission in Germany.

Back in the U.S., he told George about his exploits.

The Heart of Competition

Rusty Rae Guest writer Rusty Rae is an award- winning editor, photojournalist and photo educator. Holder of a bachelor’s from Linfield and MBA from the University of Washington, he first worked for the N-R out of college. He returned six years ago, serving as sports editor, a staff photojournalist and associate editor of the ancillary publication Old Stuff. He’s traveled extensively in the U.S. and abroad. He and his wife, Sheila, reside in Mac.

Uncle George retold it somewhat wistfully several times. It seemed as if he thought he was less of a man for missing the opportunity to go to war.

Another pilot, who flew a small Vietnam-era jet in the show, was giving the B-17 the once-over as I was photographing it for the paper. He was one of the many who just wanted to catch a whiff of aeronautical history via the plane they called the Flying Fortress.

He told me his father flew a bomber in World War II. On one mission, a plane in the group ahead took a direct hit and exploded, forcing his father to fly through the debris.

The gunner in the ball turret rarely wore a parachute because the turret was too cramped. If the gunner had to bail out, he first had to get out of the turret and strap on the chute.

As his dad flew through the debris, a turret with a gunner still inside fell past, the gunner obviously going to his maker. I’m sure his dad had to live with that ghastly image the rest of his life.

No one should have to carry that memory. But American men and women have always answered the call to serve our country, regardless of the price they had to pay.

My uncle lived a full, rich life.

He was a solid family man who raised a daughter and stepson while working as an aeronautical engineer for Boeing. He was one of many who helped birth the now ubiquitous 737 back in the 1970s.

As I was waiting for them to load up and take off, giving another try at capturing the B-17 in flight, I said a short prayer for my uncle. I was happy he didn’t go through combat, because it seemed as if he was being saved for other equally important work.

Today, we honor the service of all veterans.

However, it’s not enough to say thank you for your service. We must honor veterans with our actions. We must ensure that those who have served, those have returned home, perhaps broken in body or spirit, are not only honored, but are restored.

If you have a neighbor or friend who is a veteran, the best way you can thank them for their service is ensuring they get the care they need.

This Veterans Day, start a conversation with them. It doesn’t have to be about their service, just about how they are doing.

What are their challenges? What are their needs?

Then take action to ensure those needs are met. Write to your congressional representative. Volunteer your services. Advocate on their behalf.

They have earned that right with their service to our country. That’s how you can really celebrate Veterans Day.

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