Today is for remembering our veterans. I doubt there’s anyone who doesn’t know at least one veteran. Most of my family members who served died before I came along, but back in Asheville we were blessed to live down the street from a WWII veteran.
Bill served proudly in WWII as a pilot. He had pictures and books about planes and even historical accounts of some of the sorties he flew, but what was so amazing about Bill was that he’d talk about his experiences. I understand that many soldiers prefer not to relive the horrors of war. I feel pretty certain I wouldn’t want to talk about it. But Bill loved to tell his stories.
Some of the stories were innocuous, but others chilled us to the bone. He told of one mission when he and his buddy were in a dogfight. His friend saved Bill by shooting down an enemy plane. Bill then watched his buddy’s plane disappear into the clouds–and never saw him again.
I can’t begin to recount the twists and turns of the battle that day, but in spite of his plane being hit, Bill made it back to the base. He had some trouble landing and when he got on the ground, he looked the plane over. The many-stranded cable connecting his rudder to his tail fin was down to ONE strand. The rest had been shot away. Without that cable and the control it gave him, he would have been a goner.
Bill always said, “someone was looking out for me,” when he finished the story. I’m so grateful for that and for getting to know Bill. He died in 2015 at age 94. Here’s what else I remember about Bill:
- He brought us sweet corn from the farmer’s market just a few days before he passed.
- He always called Thistle “big dog” even though she’s not all that big.
- He loved to laugh and to tell stories about growing up on a farm in Virginia.
- He still drove in his 90s. When I rode with him, I was nervous at first, then I decided a 90-year-old fighter pilot probably drove better than I did.
- He could grow ANYTHING and kept a small vegetable garden in the flower bed in front of his house.
- I loved him. And he loved me.