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Warm Salute to Veterans at AirVenture

Parade from Warbird Alley to Boeing Plaza gave convention attendees a chance to thank vets for service

By Frederick A. Johnsen

July 27, 2018 - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is a place where veterans walk among us, and we’re glad. The AirVenture family had an opportunity to thank veterans in attendance during a parade from Warbird Alley to Boeing Plaza on Friday afternoon.

A turnout of about 200 veterans lined up with color bearers carrying the flags of each service branch. The crowd, including World War II veterans, Korean War veterans, those from Vietnam, Desert Storm, and all locations and operations up to the present received special commemorative veterans caps.

As the veterans were instructed to get in line and wait, the irony was too perfect to ignore. Someone good-naturedly yelled “FUBAR!” That’s an old barracks acronym that means — well, in polite society — fouled up beyond all repair. There were smiles and handshakes all around as visitors and EAA volunteers thanked the veterans for their service.

Some of the veterans walked the parade route; others rode a convoy of vintage military vehicles and golf carts commandeered for their use. Bernie Faust rode in a jeep with a U.S. Navy sign attached. “I’m a tin can sailor,” Bernie vouched. He served from 1949-57. “We used to do plane guard duty behind aircraft carriers. We called them ‘bird farms,’ he recalled. This is Bernie’s 44th AirVenture; he supports air show operations.

John “Des” Howarth rode in a jeep and wore his 8th Air Force cap, signifying his service as a B-24 Liberator navigator in the 36th Bomb Squadron, a special radar countermeasures unit. John survived the crash of the B-24 Beast of Bourbon in England in 1945.

David Watson was in Vietnam in 1970-71, assigned to the 1st Aviation Brigade of the U.S. Army, flying and maintaining O-1 Bird Dog aircraft.

Roger Witz, a self-described “ground-pounder” served in a variety of positions in the U.S. Army from 1954-86. His most indelible memory from that time? “Having a beer,” he said with a smile.

Larry Maurer served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967-75 as an aircraft mechanic on aircraft including the C-97, C-7, and KC-135. He has a memory of that time: “When I went to Vietnam and I hopped out and the very first thing I heard was bombs,” he recalled, as B-52s were pounding a site within earshot.

Fred Williams served in the U.S. Navy as a communications technician during the Korean War, both on land and at sea aboard the USS Yorktown. He said he really doesn’t have that many recollections because his was a hush-hush life due to the security considerations of his position.

Jeremy Bennett proudly queued up with the Army marchers at AirVenture. He still serves in the Army, and plans to retire in a bit over two years when he’ll have 30 years of service under his belt. “Time for the young guys to have it,” Jeremy said.

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