Veterans in Albuquerque, New Mexico recently got a chance to take the “dream flight” they’ve been waiting decades for. Six U.S. military veterans, all of whom now live at the Paloma Landing Retirement Community, got a chance to relive their days in the service by taking to the skies above Albuquerque in a fully restored 1942 Boeing Stearman biplane.
The veterans were given this opportunity thanks to Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, a non-profit group that has provided over 2,000 flights to veterans in senior living facilities since 2011. With around 25 volunteers running the non-profit program around the country, the foundation seeks to honor veterans for their service and give them a chance to relive the memories of their heroic youth with flights in the airplanes they originally trained in. The oldest veteran to fly with the group was a 102-year-old veteran in 2015.
At Albuquerque, the oldest veteran in the group was 95-year-old veteran Jet Jetter, who served for 26 years in the United States Air Force. Jetter enlisted when he was just 15, and from 1936 to 1962 he served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War, finally retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.
According to their website, Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation “provides free Dream Flights using three, fully restored Boeing Stearman biplanes. These open cockpit airplanes were used to train many military aviators in World War 2. The radial engine has the innate ability to bring back nostalgic memories for veterans and seniors. …The Foundation’s only mission is ‘Giving Back To Those Who Have Given.'”
One of the participants in Albuquerque’s flight was 92-year-old WWII veteran Ken Johns Sr., who was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge. Other veterans who flew that day included Francis Asbury, a 93-year-old World War II veteran who served in the Army and Navy, 81-year-old Korean War Army veteran Charles Webb, 89-year-old WWII Navy veteran Wade Fredrickson, and John Smatana, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran who served in both the Navy and the Marine Corps. “Everybody was excited about it,” Smatana said. “Like new kids on the block, we were ready to go.”
Pilot Mike Sommars said the goal of the flights is to “take them back to when they were the heroes of their generation.”
Watch the video below for footage of the six veteran heroes flying with Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation!
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Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.