Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Sharie Thomas–Westling can trace her family's history during war time back to her great–grandfathers in the Civil War.
But perhaps the vintage green flight suit she's wearing, complete with crusher cap, flashlight and US Army–regulated watch, said the most about why she was at the Commemorative Air Force Hangar, in Duluth, Monday.
It belonged to her father, Robert, who was a B–29 Bombardier as part of the 504 Bomb Group in the 20th Air Force—the very group credited for dropping the last bombs of WWII, just days after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"They didn't quite get the word that [Emporer] Hirohito had surrendered," laughed Thomas-Westling.
After decades of being buried with old letters and memorabilia, the flight suit was found in a family attic, in Birchwood, WI.
"My dad gave it directly to me," added Thomas-Westling, "because I was the one who had so much interest—I'm... the genealogy freak."
According to those behind the scenes of this event, it's that dedication to the education of the next generation that keeps these events going.
"When I come out to these shows, and I see the veterans come out and I see the tears in their eyes when they see the airplanes they risked their lives on, that makes it all worth while," said B-29 Squadron PX Officer Rocky Smith, as he awaited the landing of the Superfortress at the CAF Hangar.
For Thomas–Westling, there will be no shortage of tears when, come Tuesday, she will have the once–in–a–lifetime chance to honor her dad's memory.
"Tomorrow I'm getting to ride in my dad's seat, which is really spiritual for me to be able to do that—to feel what he felt, to smell it, to see it," said an emotional Thomas-Westling. "He talked about how terrified they were. They were young boys, just as our military is today."
...and with a small case of her father's ashes in her pocket, she's destined to take his honor, and memory, to the skies one more time.
The AirPower History Tour kicked off at 2 PM Monday, with an open house at the Commemorative Air Force Hanger.
The event will run through Wednesday.
- Posted to the web by Billy Wagness