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smokyray
12-27-2011, 10:51 AM
As a Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom I have had mixed emotions over recent events leading to the return of US troops. Having spent over 20 years of my life flying a very cool airplane most people only dream of in very austere circumstances, many of which took place over Iraq I still feel blessed. Even after the loss of life I witnessed, the damage I helped inflict, and hurt of those around me, I am still thankful. Why?

Most US citizens when reading the news responded "I-where?" When most people hear of my service I invaribly get the question "was it worth it?" or "do you think we accomplished anything?". To both questions I answer yes. Serving is something some people do naturally, as part of their very existence. Those who do feel a kinship with those around them doing the same. It is a motivating factor for others among them to witness and desire to emulate their behavior. In the 20 years since the first hostilities in Iraq, less than one tenth of one percent of US citizens have served there. The ones that have know each other in a crowd, sometimes by a article of clothing, backpack or even how they carry themselves. Many carry scars and pain that will never heal, myself included. Most of us can't go 5 minutes without a painful memory rearing it's ugly head. This goes for anyone who has served in combat throughout history. The kinship and love for those who served alongside me is the "why".The very act of service before self makes one justifiably proud or close to fellow service members. What's my point?
Giving back.
While serving our Fly-4-Life feature at Oshkosh 2009 I met the president of the Veteran's Airlift Command who is part of our F4L Public Benefit charitable organization membership. Their members give back by flying Veteran's to various destinations based on need. These veterans may have a debilitating injury (physical or mental), lack of funds or even capability to travel. VAC pairs pilots and airplanes to transport them to where they need to go, quietly, humbly and safely. It is completely tax deductible as a 501-C3 and a great, great experience. Their website asks that pilots be Instrument rated, the aircraft be a multi-engine or high performance single, standard airworthiness certificate. That requirement however is changing as we speak.

What can you or I do? Get involved, volunteer! Help organize a flight for a Vet you know. You, as a Pilot and aircraft could help make someone's little world better by a simple act. The most valuable thing you can give is your time. The good news? You get to fly, chat with a real Vet, see somewhere new and be part of something really cool.
A win-win in my book.

http://www.veteransairlift.org/

Thanks!
Smokey

pierre smith
12-27-2011, 11:06 AM
Let me know when/if they'll allow RV-10's. I'm IFR rated and I'd consider the -10 as a high-performance mount:)

Thanks,

jimpappas
12-27-2011, 12:03 PM
Smokey you said it perfectly.

My daughter, right BEFORE she deployed there, had coffee one day with in Seattle at the FIRST Starbucks store. After completing training to deploy THAT was all she wanted.

There were people protesting the war, the President, homeless folks were in the park in the middle of the tourist part of town as well as people swarming off numerous cruise ships.

Those that know me know I tend to talk more than most but this day I was quiet. I'm a Navy vet during the Carter years and I had lost friends and didnt know where her head was at about being ready to go to war and possibly never seeing each other again. I'm her Dad, it wasn't me going in harms way, it was my little girl!

We drank our coffee, not speaking for what seemed a very long time when she suddenly, calmly and matter of factly said: "Dad, all these people walking around us have no clue!".

I didn't know what she meant so I asked.

She replied: "These people are having fun being tourists or shopping or protesting and they have no clue what my freinds and I are doing in training not far from here or what we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan!"

I didnt get if she was angry, confused or worried so again I asked.

"Dad, that's OK! That's why we put the uniform on and go to those places and some of us dont come back. The same reason you, and your Dad, and your Grandpa wore the uniform is why I do. It's so these people, and all the people here at home can just go about doing whatever they want without a clue that we are somewhere, out there, so they can!"

Made me very proud, still does, she got it, just like you do, and I do. She came home safe but with the pain that we all keep deep down.

Right now she's in Korea, her choice of orders, could've had Hawaii! She's very close to where her Grandpa served back in 51-52!

Smokey I've seen you on here for years and if I never said it, one brother in arms to another, Thanks for YOUR service!! And thanks for saying it so well!

Ron Lee
12-27-2011, 12:47 PM
From their website:

Aircraft Qualifications
VAC missions often exceed 250 miles, we look for multi-engine or high-performance single-engine aircraft with:
? Certification for instrument flight
? A standard U.S. airworthiness certificate
? Licensure in the normal or utility category

This would seem to preclude RVs.

Bubblehead
12-27-2011, 01:00 PM
One of my sons grew up with a very easy going attitude and didn't seem to care about things of any real importance. He ended up going into the USN (like his old man) and becoming an Aviation Machinist Mate assigned to a MH3 squadron. I started seeing signs of intelligent life when he started taking young sailors under his wing and mentoring them.

Then one day he called to say he'd swapped squadrons and was headed for Iraq. I was (and still am) so very proud when he said it just wasn't right for him to be just cruising along in Norfolk when others were deploying.

He was there about 6 months and made a lot of friends in the Army and Marines on the base and came back with a whole new appreciation of life and the US. He's told me it was worth it. That's good enough for me.

rv7boy
12-28-2011, 10:16 AM
Thanks, Smokey, I had heard of VAC but I must admit I have never checked into it. I'm not instrument rated but I have friends who are, and I believe I know some folks who would be interested in flying these missions.

Both of my sons are in the Air National Guard and both have been on active duty during the last 10 years. One spent six months in Baghdad two years ago, and he just departed Monday for a short tour "over there somewhere."

Makes this dad mighty proud that both of my sons are willing to serve our country.

Veterans Airlift Command is providing a wonderful service.

Pablo
12-28-2011, 11:50 AM
I've flown one VAC mission and look forward to more in the future. It's a meaningful way to show appreciation . . .

Dave Hirschman
Frederick, MD

wacarlton
12-28-2011, 03:10 PM
One of the most rewarding things I did last year was fly an Air Force vet, his wife and son to see his 90 year old grandpa. TSgt Del Toro was severely burned (over 80% of his body) in Afghanistan as a result of roadside bomb. He was in a coma for four months and was given a 15% chance of survival. When he woke up the doctors told his family he would be on a respirator for the rest of his life and never walk again. Two months after waking up he walked out of the hospital and was breathing on his own. He fought to continue on active duty and was granted permission on Feb 8, 2010.

I was blown away by his courage, determination, and desire to be of service to his country. We had a great flight and it was truly an honor to get to know him and to in some very small way thank him for his service. I hope to fly several more missions in 2012. If anyone wants to fly right seat with me, let me know. I also fly for Angel Flight SC (aka Grace Flight) in the DFW area. Sometime I have an extra seat on those flights too.

Happy New Year all,

eric.kallio
01-01-2012, 03:49 PM
When I contacted VAC, albeit nearly a year ago, despite the fact that I hold an ATP and am a veteran and military pilot they do not allow experimental aircraft to participate. Anyone getting a different response in their region?