SLOAN COLUMN: Dream Flights to land in Darlington
“Every day, memories of World War II - its sights and sounds, its terrors and triumphs - disappear. Yielding to the inalterable process of aging, the men and women who fought and won the great conflict are now in their late 80s and 90s. They are dying quickly—according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 325,574 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2020.
” Those are the words shared on the National World War II Museum web site on the passing of “The Greatest Generation.” That nickname for those men and women in uniform who sacrificed and served our nation with extraordinary valor from 1939 to 1945 is not hyperbole. It was earned and is very much deserved.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 245 WWII veterans are lost every day. Considering the present COVID-19 pandemic, that number may be even higher. We need to do our very best to say thank you and honor, in whatever way we can, those WWII veterans who are still with us.
The Dream Flights organization is doing just that.
Each year the nonprofit group based out Carson City, Nev., makes its way around the country offering WWII vets a chance to fly in a Boeing Stearman biplane, the same aircraft used to train many military aviators in the late thirties and early forties. Since it began in 2011, Dream Flights has flown over 4,000 vets in 42 states. Founder and president Darryl Fisher says the organization’s mission remains unchanged: to give back to those who have given.
The Dream Flights team will be landing at Branham Airport in Darlington on Friday, Sept. 3. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., WWII vets from the Pee Dee region will be given the opportunity, free of charge, to soar into the wild blue yonder in a Stearman open cockpit biplane.
The visit is part of “Operation September Freedom,” the organization’s annual effort that began Aug. 1 and will continue through the end of September. According to the Dream Flights web site, it is the largest barnstorming event in U.S. history.
A team of 10 pilots, all of whom primarily fly for major airlines and are active duty or retired military veterans themselves, volunteer their time. During the 20-minute flights, participating vets experience the freedom and exhilaration of flying through the clouds at roughly 1,000 feet in the air.
This will be the sixth visit the Dream Flights team has made to Darlington. Any World War II veteran interested in taking a Dream Flight can register or find out more information at www.dreamflights.org. They can also call Mike Beckham of Darlington’s American Legion Post 13 at (843) 393-1409 or (843) 319-2764.
The public is invited to be part of the experience by attending the Dream Flight event and watching magic unfold.