Friday, November 10, 2017
I do--many, many veterans, plus two in my family and one really big American flag. In fact, it sits atop a 20’ pole that my dad put up when the Supreme Court said burning the flag is free speech. So, dad exercised his own free speech and flew his flag as high as he could.
A few years ago, I bought a bigger flag for dad’s big flagpole because the 3’x5’ size on the big pole made it look like a junior flag. Yes, it will be flying 20 feet high again tomorrow.
One more question, “If you know a veteran, do you know their story?” Of course, that could be followed by, “Do you care?” I pray you do. It will make you richer by far to know their history. It's an important part of the history of America. And, knowing that history should encourage you to be grateful for those who have gone before who were willing to pay the price of freedom.
I've been honored to know many veterans, including those two in my family. From them and so many others, I have learned that serving your country is an ‘above and beyond’ kind of job. It’s not just a job, it’s a calling. And there’s something really special about those who have been called and have answered. Even those of my generation who were drafted answered the call. They stepped up when their number came up. Would you?
The thousands of young men who were called to serve in the 1970’s strapped on their boots and packs and waded into the murky waters of Vietnam. Just like their dads before them, they served. From the Forest of Hurtgen to the skies over the oil fields of Ploesti, from the icy cold ground of Korea to the sands of Iraq and Afghanistan, stories emerged of courage and honor and valor. They are all special.
Just as impressive are the incredible women who stepped up and volunteered, serving right alongside their brothers in every conflict and war around the world. I have been honored to know some of the extraordinary women pilots who flew across America during WWII and those from another generation who flew over Iraq and Afghanistan as combat pilots. They were trailblazers and for me, they are ALL our heroes.
All of these Americans are just the best. The very best.
Today, we say “THANK YOU.” Today, we pause, grateful for their willingness to put their lives on the line for ours. They served.
Today, I’d encourage you to find a way to connect to those who are the best of America. Shake a hand, smile, look them in the eye and say, “Thank you for your service.” Ask them where they served. It will make your day, I promise.
Happy Veteran's Day? Well, I'm not sure about happy, but I'm always overwhelmed with gratitude on this special day...and a lot of other days, too.
What else can you do to help to say thank you? GIVE when you can, what you can. Homeless veterans need our help, so do veterans with PTSD or those still doing PT for catastrophic injuries. Here are a few ideas:
WAGS for Warriors: http://www.wags4warriors.org
Wounded Warrior Foundation: https://support.woundedwarriorproject.org
and, the terrific Central Texas Veterans Research Foundation
God bless you all...and God bless the country we love!
Friday, September 01, 2017
Director, Wings Across America
but backwards and in high heels.” Faith Whittlesey
WASP Marion Hodgson, 43-W-5
WASP Ruth Thomason Florey, 43-W-4
March 10, 2010, the WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, highest civilian honor Congress can bestow-- for their trailblazing, honorable service to our country in World War II. It was an important moment -- for our country to finally say 'THANK YOU' to the WASP. It is also important we remember why they did what they did.
WASP Deanie Parrish, 44-W-4
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Reprinted from "100 Years of Aviation"
The romantic image of a daring young pilot in an open cockpit plane, wearing helmet, goggles and flowing white scarf, widened the eyes and the horizons of many a young boy and girl almost one hundred years ago. All over the world, the news of the Wright brothers' success at Kitty Hawk echoed everywhere as an exciting hope for children with the courage to dream. They looked to the skies. They, too, wanted to race the wind and reach for the stars, and they all believed that someday, they could fly.
Only the most courageous fulfilled those dreams and became pilots. Even fewer became pioneers, blazing giant trails across the sky, becoming a part of aviation history. Daring young pilots named Lindberg, Mitchell and Doolittle became legend. Nonetheless, throughout the last one hundred years, there have also been pioneering women pilots - blazing their own trail, earning their rightful place by proving over and over again that they could fly wingtip to wingtip with any pilot, in any plane, anywhere!
During World War Two, with male pilots in short supply, a new generation of women pilots became pioneers as they blazed a different kind of trail, this time flying military aircraft for their countries. Russian women pilots ('The Night Witches'), flew combat missions in the Russian air war. Under the command of Pauline Gower, women pilots from England, America, Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Poland and Chile ferried aircraft for the RAF as part of the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). However, in America, up until late 1942, all military pilots and civilian ferry pilots were exclusively and decidedly male.
Having women fly for the United States Army Air Forces in any capacity was definitely not a morale booster for the exclusive male military pilots 'club', nor was it an easy decision for the Commanding General of the AAF, Hap Arnold. In 1942, he encouraged Jacqueline Cochran to fly a bomber to England to help publicize Lend Lease and to learn about the women who were ferrying planes in England. Cochran had already formulated her own plan.
Jacqueline Cochran, who still holds more distance, altitude and speed records than any pilot, living or dead, male or female, was confident that, if given the same training as male aviation cadets, women pilots could serve in every flying capacity in every command in the Army Air Force - flying stateside missions that would relieve male pilots for combat duty. General Arnold was not convinced. "Frankly, I didn't know in 1941 whether a slip of a young girl could fight the controls of a B-17 in heavy weather."
Nevertheless, Cochran persisted, and in September of 1942, the first group of trainees paid their way to Houston, Texas, to enter an experimental Army Air Force Flight Training Program. The successful program soon moved to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas where the women (all licensed pilots) received exactly the same training as the male cadets, except the women received more cross country training and less acrobatics. Meanwhile, Nancy Love had recruited 27 licensed women pilots to fly for the Air Transport Command as civilian ferry pilots. In mid 1943, the two group' merged and became WASP, Women Airforce Service Pilots, the first women in history to fly America's military aircraft - truly aviation pioneers.
|Trainees ready to FLY!|
In all, 25,000 women applied for the training program, 1,830 were accepted and only 1,074 graduated. WASP were stationed at 120 AAF bases across the United States and, in less than two years, flew more than 60 million miles in every type of aircraft and on every type of mission the AAF had (except combat).
Thirty-eight WASP were killed flying for their country - their bodies sent home in cheap pine boxes at the expense of their family or classmates. These heroic pilots were denied any military benefits or honors - no gold star in their parents' window - not even so much as an American flag for their coffins. Even though they had completed the training, learned to march, to salute and were subject to all AAF rules and regulations, the WASP were never 'officially' made a part of the military.
In the early days of the training program, the fact that women were flying military aircraft was classified 'Top Secret'. "Tell 'em you're a baseball team or tell 'em you're German prisoner of war," a 2nd Lt. told trainees. "Just don't tell 'em you're pilots." The women assumed that the government didn't want the Axis powers to know how hard up America was - using women to fly their military planes. The WASP were, perhaps, the best kept secret of World War Two. WASP ferrying planes to different air fields across America had trouble getting landing instructions from tower operators.
|WASP Deanie Parrish, strapping on her chute|
When victory seemed certain and pilots were returning from combat, the WASP were quietly and unceremoniously disbanded. On 7 December, 1944, in a speech to the last graduating class, General Arnold said: "You and more than 900 of your sisters have shown you can fly wingtip to wingtip with your brothers.... I salute you and all the WASP. We of the Army Air Force are proud of you. We will never forget our debt to you." Thirteen days later, the WASP were disbanded. They hung up their parachutes and paid their own way hack home. Their military records were sealed, stamped either 'classified' or 'secret' and filed away in the Government Archives for 33 years. Consequently, their records were not available to the historians who wrote historical accounts and textbooks of World War Two. The AAF did forget and so did America.
In November 1977, 33 years after the WASP were disbanded, Congress finally voted to give them the Veteran status they had earned.
However, the history of this pioneering group of women pilots is still not included in most textbooks and is still unknown to millions around the world. In the next 100 years, that will change.
|WASP Stationed at Greenville AAB, MS|
However, the history and impact of the WASP is best measured, not in books or modules, but by the successes that ripple through the lives of those they have touched, from military to commercial pilots, from math teachers and scientists to politicians, from mothers and fathers to Astronaut Eileen Collins who proudly calls the WASP 'my heroes'.
Today, there are less than 500 surviving WASP around the US and, although it has been almost 60 years since many of these women flew, their eyes sparkle and their spirits soar when they talk about flying. A few still fly.
The honor, courage, integrity and sacrifice of the WASP, their positive commitment, patriotism and their belief that they can do anything, is universally contagious. Like a flaming torch, they pass on their secret to the next generation:
'Anything is possible!' If you dream it and you believe it, you can do it. Do your homework, dream your dreams, be true to yourself and someday, with hard work and persistence, you too can fly wingtip to wingtip with any pilot, in any plane, anywhere!
American military women pilots now fly wingtip to wingtip with their brothers over the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq. American women now fly in all branches of the United Stares military, including the Coast Guard. These young pilots now know what the WASP have always known - 'anything is possible'. They also know that flying is not so much about the past as it is the future. It is about moving toward the next horizon, taking the next step, flying higher, farther, faster; and passing it on to the next generation.
The pioneering WASP are an important part of the last 100 years of aviation history. With thanks to them, and those women who flew before them, it is pilots, not lady pilots; pioneers, not lady pioneers - all flying wingtip to wingtip.
Original article appeared in "ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF POWERED FLIGHT 1903 - 2003" Published by the Winchester Group w/ Foreword by H.R.H The Duke of Edinburgh
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wings Across America is an inspirational cutting-edge digital history project to capture, digitize and preserve the history of the first women in history to fly America's military aircraft—the WASP of World War II, and to use that history as the centerpiece of a 'virtual museum' that can educate, motivate and inspire generations to come.
I call this an INSPIRATIONAL digital history project because the story of the WASP is an inspirational one. These pioneering young women pilots paid their own way to serve their country, took up collections to bury many of their 38 fallen comrades and, when their services were no longer needed, paid their own way back home. They are my heroes. Their lives are about so much more than flying. They were selfless patriots…and their lives of courage, honor, patriotism, integrity, service, sacrifice, commitment and faith continue to inspire me every day. It is my belief that the stories and the values the WASP exemplified are contagious and can lift up others and motivate them beyond the ordinary—to live their lives so that they will help to make a difference in our world.
One part of the project is a digital video archive. Tell us more about that.
Since 1998, Wings Across America has been capturing the inspirational stories of the WASP—one by one—on digital video tape. To date, 115 WASP have been interviewed (most in their own homes) in 19 states by Chief Interviewer, WASP Deanie Parrish and myself—as videographer. These interviews, as well as all facets of this project, have been done by the two of us, as volunteers, 'on a wing and a prayer'.
Our Digital Video Archive now holds over 300 hours of priceless footage. Of course, this information will not be completely usable until we raise the funding to complete the back end—which includes transcribing the interviews, creating the individual pages of information, metadata coding and publishing.
Are there other components to the project?
The most important additional component is our companion website: "WASP ON THE WEB," which contains over 2,000 pages of resources, videos, audio, photos and records. I actually created this site, which won Yahoo 'Pick Of The Week'" and was reviewed in the New York Times, before I created Wings Across America. However, it is now an integral part of the Wings Across America project. Today, national educational sites, including PBS, Britannica and NASA, have all linked to the site as a valuable educational resource.
What inspired you to begin this work?
Growing up as an Air Force 'brat', my dad was my hero. When he passed away in 1993, it was too late to capture his WWII story. So, I started asking mom questions about her service as a WASP.
As a producer with PBS, I thought I might produce a documentary on the WASP…and then, I fell in love with the Internet. You have to remember this was in the early "DIAL UP" days—but I really saw a great potential in sharing information in a much bigger and more exciting way than just one documentary. So, I created a few web pages of mom's old WASP scrapbook.
What happened next was a miracle…because my little site was chosen as "YAHOO PICK OF THE WEEK." Instantly, my e-mails exploded with questions from all over the world, wanting to know more about the WASP! It was the answer to my prayers—and an affirmation of the direction I was about to travel...and have now been traveling for almost 9 years.
What has been most challenging and/or most satisfying about the work you're doing?
I've always been passionate about entertaining —about lifting people up-- and that’s what I continue to try to do online in new and unexpected ways. Capturing the imagination of someone who never heard of the WASP in a way that might make a difference in their lives is a challenge that I just love.
As an example, I was able to learn just enough Flash to create the "WASP PAPER DOLL" page—where you can drag elements of the WASP uniforms (parachute, wings, helmet, zoot suit, leather flying gear, dress uniform) onto the WASP dressed in her 1940's underwear. Paper Dolls is our most popular page.
Other accomplishments that have been both challenging and satisfying:
· Nominating the WASP of Texas and seeing them inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame in 2004.
· Founding and creating the National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater, Texas—(where over 1,000 WASP went thru training).
· Designing and installing the exhibits in that museum
· Planning and directing the first Memorial WASP Fly In, 2005—29 WASP put their handprints in cement.
Are any other Baylor alumnae involved?
Absolutely! A generous gift from Baylor alumni, Dale & Barby Williams, was responsible for our being able to get our project off the ground in 1998.
One of the first interviews was with WASP Ruth Helm, BA '39, the only WASP to have graduated from Baylor. With Dr. Reynolds help, Baylor Chamber of Commerce invited her to be the honored guest in the 1999 homecoming parade, which included the Wings Across America flyover in honor of the WASP. Leading that flyover, in a WWII AT-6, was another Baylor Alumni and Viet Nam Vet, Steve Dean.
I'm also proud to say that Baylor staff, faculty and students have been involved as well—from our Honorary Board Chair, Chancellor Herb Reynolds to Dr. Richard Scott in Development, Dr. Michael Korpi and Dr. Corey Carbonara in the Film and Digital Media Department and Dr. Nancy Upton in the Business School. We were even adopted by the Kappa Kappa Gammas, who sang and recorded the "Marching Songs of the WASP" in 1999.
In 2003, Baylor student Claire Kultgen nominated Wings Across America to be the Joint National Project--2004 by the AFROTC's Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings Detachments. This national recognition caught the attention of the Pentagon and the Air Force, giving Wings Across America an opportunity to share the little known WASP history with service men and women all over the world.
There are also seven Baylor Alumni listed on our website, who have volunteered as videographers.
Last, but not least, Associate Director Deanie Parrish, a 1976 Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Houston, was awarded an 'BAYLOR ALUMNI BY CHOICE' diploma in 2002.
WASP were in the Air Force. Did the other branches of the military also have women serving?
Actually, WASP were part of the ARMY AIR FORCE (this was before the Air Force became a separate service). As such, they raised their right hands and took the same oath, went thru the same training, followed the same rules, and received the same official orders from the same military commanders as the Army Air Force male pilots. However, General Hap Arnold did not have time to wait on Congress to militarize them in 1942, as he was desperate for pilots, so they were not considered military until 1977, when Congress finally granted them the veteran status they had earned. Seven years later, their medals came in the mail.
Tell us more about the exhibit currently at the Mayborn Museum.
"FLYGIRLS of WWII" is a wonderful opportunity to share a little of what we have been doing with our Baylor family and the community, in a tangible way. From President Lincoln's quote: " Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure" to Astronaut Eileen Collins: "The WASP were and still are my role models, " I hope we have created an inspirational exhibit—full of WASP history—full of American history—and an exhibit that honors these pioneering women pilots and plants a few seeds with our visitors.
I'd like to invite the President & First Lady to stop by the Mayborn to see our exhibit. I really think they would be blown away by the Mayborn—and by Flygirls. Then, request a Presidential Order that creates a National WASP WWII Memorial in Washington, DC. and awards EVERY WASP the Presidential Medal of Freedom. To me, it is just the right thing to do.
Immediate plans include fundraising—so that 'Wings Across America's Flygirls of WWII" can travel to museums across Texas and so that we can continue traveling to interview WASP who are still waiting to tell their stories.
Ultimately, completing the design for The Wings Across America Virtual Museum and making the Digital Archive public is my goal. We are praying that the "Flygirls of WWII" will shine a light on our efforts, as it showcases what the WASP history can do, because raising the funds for an online vision is tough. Nevertheless, there are so many more exciting things we can create using our content.
Are you sorry you asked?
The Air Force Museum, Smithsonian Air & Space and the Air Force Academy Library have all expressed interest in a “Wings Across America WASP Kiosk.” Sharing our content with these world-class institutions is a wonderfully creative way to ‘fling our green and gold afar,’ and is another very realistic goal.
Bottom line, I’ve been utterly inspired with the message of the WASP: You can do anything if it’s the right thing to do and you put your mind to it. I know, without a doubt, that with God’s help, its true.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Preface by President George W. Bush
Forward by Michael W. Wynne
Introduction by General T. Michael Moseley.
Jacqueline Cochran, 1954
"If ever there was any doubt in anyone's mind that women can become skillful pilots, the WASP have dispelled that doubt…You and more than 900 of your sisters have shown you can fly wingtip to wingtip with your brothers. …I salute you and all the WASP. We of the Army Air Force are proud of you. We will never forget our debt to you."
Monday, May 29, 2006
I stood in Hangar One at Avenger Field and watched the
With your permission, on this Memorial Day, I send no news, no fireworks and no 21 gun salute--only a prayer.
Gracious Heavenly Father,
Thank you for this day of remembering. Bless every soul who has gone before who sacrificed everything so that we might be free, and bless all of those who continue to serve.
Thank you most especially for the brave young women pilots who took to the skies over 60 years ago, flying for their country without question or expectation of reward. Thank you for watching over them as they flew during some of the darkest days our country has ever known. Thank you for their honorable service, their fearless determination and their unquestioning patriotism, which has inspired us all to dream dreams we could never have imagined.
Continue to watch over these wonderful women, and surround them with your love. May their laudable history and their exemplary lives continue to inspire
In Jesus name…