Armed Forces Celebration instills patriotic pride in local citizens

Escort for Pearl Harbor Survivor at Armed Forces Celebration, Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum, St. George Municipal Airport. St. George, Utah, May 11, 2013 | Photo by A.J. Mellor, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Veteran’s Day is still several months out, but that did not stop the Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum from hosting an event on Saturday that celebrated and honored the bravery and sacrifices made by veterans of wars dating back to WWII.

The Armed Forces Celebration was held in cooperation with and at the St. George Municipal Airport, complete with exhibits, souvenir booths and even opportunities to fly as passengers in two T-6 Texans, WWII-era planes. But the showstopper was a presentation delivered by Maj. Alden Rigby and Capt. David Fleischer, who regaled the audience with stories of how they became legendary war heroes.

The veterans are well into their 90s, but with minds seemingly as sharp as ever. At times, they had their audience at the edge of their seats in suspense, laughing and beaming with patriotic pride.

Being a veteran of the United States military is cause enough for respect, but these two men have gone a step further: They are aces, which means they have downed at least five enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat.

Even with all of the technology that military aircraft is equipped with these days, shooting another plane down in midair is hard – performing that task during the WWII era would be even harder and being able to repeat that act five separate times is something truly amazing.

Rigby and Fleischer did not extol the act of killing people. They were adamant that they were just doing their job – two young men doing their job, they said, serving their country to the best of their ability, which just so happened to be doing something extraordinary.

Two other men who served their country in a unique capacity under unique circumstances attended Saturday’s event; they were survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Retired Naval Chief Petty Officer and Pearl Harbor survivor Lee Warren said his service to the military and his country has never really left him.

He has garnered a reputation and an informal title as “The Flagman,” Warren said, in that he started a “Give a kid a flag to wave,” program. As part of this effort, Warren attends parades and gives out as many flags to children as he can so that they can show their patriotism.

Garth Sawyer was the other Pearl Harbor survivor in attendance. Though he was in the army, Sawyer said that he was on a naval destroyer at the time and feels very fortunate to have survived.

The event garnered many patrons, most of whom seemed to have some background or at least an interest in military history.

“It was an event that appropriately honored the sacrifice of our veterans,” St. George surgeon and WWII buff Richard Wintch said, “and it also was an experience that fed our passion for the sound of a radial engine.”

While the topic of war may bring out mixed feelings, few disagree that that those who have sacrificed their time, their innocence and even their lives to liberate the oppressed and secure freedoms are worthy of tribute.  The Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum and St. George Municipal Airport gave just such a tribute Saturday in exemplary fashion.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 

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Email: ajmellor@stgnews.com

Twitter: @stgnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Escort for Pearl Harbor Survivor at Armed Forces Celebration, Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum, St. George Municipal Airport. St. George, Utah, May 11, 2013 | Photo by A.J. Mellor, St. George News
Escort for Pearl Harbor Survivor at Armed Forces Celebration, Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum, St. George Municipal Airport. St. George, Utah, May 11, 2013 | Photo by A.J. Mellor, St. George News

 

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