The last few months have hurried along faster than any of us expected, and it is quite hard to believe we are halfway through the month of June. Some of us are still scratching our heads and wondering where March and April went. All that to say, that hopefully in the next few weeks, we can catch up a bit on some of the doings of "Operation Meatball."
Two weekends ago, through a great blessing and provision, we found ourselves in Reading, Pennsylvania, after a rather interesting trek up North (the rains of Texas seemed to be following us the whole way).
Each year the Mid Atlantic Air Museum (MAAM) holds a grand Airshow over the D-Day anniversary. It's called the Reading WWII Weekend. We've been hearing about this great event for several years now, but the timing had just never worked out; however this year it did, and it was fabulous. For three days, the grounds surrounding the MAAM are transformed into the various theatres of operation during the war.
Walking around you can go from fighting forces on the European front to the Marines of the Pacific. Go a little further and you run into the Brits and Russians, while just a brief turn in the road takes you to home-front America with Singers and Entertainers (like Abbot and Costello) in a little cafe, a walk-in home from the 1940s, Red Cross workers, a movie theatre, Candy-shop and more.
One of the main highlights of the event is the large assortment of guest speakers and veterans of WWII you can come to hear. A Marine Corps veteran talk of his experiences on Iwo Jima, or a 1st Division man about the Beaches of Omaha on D-Day. An Auschwitz survivor, even a former Hitler Youth member. Their stories are remarkable.
Because it would take a great while to catalogue the whole lovely weekend, below are some of the highlights.
One of the high points of the Reading WWII Weekend was meeting Mr. Sal Castro and his delightful wife (not pictured). Mr. Castro was a combat veteran of the 32nd Infantry Division and recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal for his service in the Civil Air Patrol during the war.
Mr. Sebastian de something-italian-and-very-hard-to-pronounce, an adorable little Italian who didn't walk - he danced everywhere - declared to me, "I'm 93, I still have my hair, and I still have my teeth!"
One of the nicest veterans we met was Mr. K., a sailor from the USS John W. Weeks. During one of the musical programs at the event, we were just getting up to escape the rain when he motioned for us to come over. "I have a question," he said. "You look like you are dressed the way they were in the 1940s." "Yes sir!" We told him. "You see," Mr. K. said, "I am a WWII veteran, and I grew up in the 30s and 40s and that is how all the girls dressed then." He then went on to tell us about the clothes and the music of the time, tearing up at the latter. When we asked why the music made him cry, he told us that it was the memories attached to them. Some hard, many wonderful.
The song, "White Cliffs of Dover," was especially close to him and made him tear up because it reminded him of his late wife, a lovely Irish war-bride whose heart he had captured and brought home. "We weren't in love at first," he said about his wife. "We just clicked and got along real well. It was after we were married that the romance came." He told us that he saw her "27 times" during his time in the Navy, and decided to marry her when he was sailing around New Guinea. She agreed and they were happily married nearly 65 years. We eventually had to say goodbye to our lovely new friend, and as we were going he said, "I'm so glad you came over. Because I was sure you girls were dressed like they did (and like my wife did) in 1945, but I had to ask." To see the delight in his face at recalling these old memories really made our day complete, and added a fresh reminder of why we love what we do.
Faith chatting with our a dear friend John McCaskill. Mr. McCaskill is entirely to blame for getting us hooked on Honor Flight, and we couldn't thank him enough for it.
The whole weekend in Reading was just as lovely as it could be. Though our first, there will be hopefully many more times to come.