A 96-year-old WWII veteran went for one more flight in a vintage Boeing Stearman plane thanks to the organization Dream Flights.
Veteran Rocky Gannon participated in over 400 combat missions during his storied service career. “Somebody loves me,” Gannon joked. “I was in WWII, Korea, a year in Belgium Congo in civilian clothes, and Vietnam. So everything I thought of as a child, I’ve done.”
Volunteer pilot Marcus Smith took Gannon for a flight in a vintage Boeing Stearman plane. “I had not been in that particular airplane since I was nine years old” Gannon recalled. “My first airplane ride was in 1934, so as it left the grounds today, my life went back to 1934.”
The veteran became nostalgic regarding his first flight on the Boeing Stearman that occurred some 87 years ago. He reminisced:
I think back to that first day and how kind that gentleman was. I was 9 years old. He didn’t realize, he died later after flying into a mountain somewhere, but I think of him all the time. I say if only he could see the things that I’ve done as a result of him giving me that airplane ride.
Pilot Marcus Smith was happy to take Gannon up in the air and emphasized the importance of the sacrifice our servicemembers made during World War II. “If they didn’t go off and do what they did, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing now,” explained Smith.
Gannon’s flight was made possible by the organization Dream Flights. Dream Flights was founded by Darryl and Carol Fisher back in 2011 with the mission of providing one last flight for veterans. The company funds plane rides for veterans, “through donors, community support and volunteers.” Since its establishment, Dream Flights has provided free plane rides to over 4200 combat veterans.
As we lose more and more of our WWII veterans to age, Smith claims “there is no better time than now,” to provide flights to our nation’s heroes. “We estimate that we have about 5-7 years left before the majority of the WWII veterans are gone.”
While standing next to his daughters, Rocky thought back on the good and bad times throughout his life. “I’ve had the world’s worst and this is the world’s best,” he said. “So I’m happy and I’m hoping that I can hang out a little longer.”