Out of bed early (well, early-ish) so that I could make it to the area of the National Mall for the start of the Flyover. It started to look as if things were going to go awry. That's when The Missus Herself (who knows full well my predilection for events such as these) gave me the high sign and said, "You go ahead, we'll catch up later."
Equipped with The Nuke's Metro pass, I headed to the nearest Metro stop. It was a bit of a hike but not too bad, 'twas a beautiful day for a stroll.
Things started to look a little dicey, like I might miss the opening formation, as the Blue Line was a bit crowded and seemed to be going slow. Probably just to annoy me. (After all, it is all about me. Innit? What! It's not? Hhmm, that explains a lot!)
Bailed at the Smithsonian stop and scrambled up out of the caverns in time to see four high-winged monoplanes tooling along in a diamond formation. At least one of them was wearing some very natty invasion stripes.
It was sublime.
I took up a position on this bridge across the street from the farmer's market, where I could see the approaching formations in time to get some good photos.
I don't think I did, that opening shot is with the cell phone camera, which isn't bad, but I could not see a GD thing through the view screen. Too much sun. So I broke out the older digital cam (ten years old if it's a day, a gift from The Nuke when she was a newly-minted ensign). She's slow and not as spry as she used to be, the camera not The Nuke, but she did okay. At least I could see through the viewfinder.
While waiting for the next batch of flying machines, I struck up conversations with three people. One guy, to my right, middle aged, no military experience, not much knowledge of historical aircraft but had a desire to see the day's activities. A very nice black lady on my left and then another guy, perhaps a tad older than I, sitting on the other side of the black lady.
Oh my goodness, he's a Vietnam vet, Air Force and once upon a time performed maintenance on a wide variety of aircraft. To include mine own first love, the Mighty F-4 Phantom!
From his stories I gathered he worked transient alert. Back in the day they had guys who could fix anything. One of his favorite stories was being sent out to work a broken Gooney Bird, a C-47 of a very secret nature. At first they wouldn't let him through to fix the bird, Air Force Security types are a stubborn lot, eventually a spooky looking sort of fellow showed up and escorted him to the bird.
"Just don't look at anything!"
That must have been interesting.
At any rate, as the flights of warbirds came and (sadly) went, the old mechanic and I provided running commentary as to what the aircraft were and how they had been used, back in the Great World War Two.
He wasn't up to date on his Naval aircraft (beyond that lovely PBY) so I filled in our little company on what the Navy birds were.
All in all, there were Birddogs and T-6s and PT-17s (I think), some biplanes that looked Naval in configuration (I need to look those up, I just remembered they were involved), P-40s and P-51s and a P-38 (oh my!). C-47s and B-24s and B-17s and oh my gosh, an absolute treasure of a bird, a recently restored B-29 named "Fi-Fi." (Which could have been Lex's callsign I reckon had he not stood SDO one night on the bird farm. There's a story there and Lex told it well. Misplaced insignia applied in a mirror earning the question, "What are you, dyslexic?" But I see I digress.)
There was a Wildcat, a Helldiver, a Hellcat (I think), and an Avenger plus two big bent wing birds known as Corsairs who grumbled through the DC sky most magnificently.
The throbbing roar of military piston engines brought me back to a time long ago when the world was threatened by evil men with no souls. When men (and women) stood against those bastards, many paying with their very lives. Back when honor meant something to many people and when most of the free did their duty. And did it well.
Now I'm not one of those who think that Americans these days can't cut it. Tell that to the bastards in the Hindu Kush and the scum masquerading as human beings in the deserts of the world.
Many of them are in the ground due to American men and women stepping up and saying, "I got this!"
The final formation was a four ship consisting of a P-51, a P-40, a TBF Avenger and a magnificent Corsair. They executed a precise and very poignant Missing Man Formation. Just before the formation reached my position, the Corsair, trailing white smoke, pulled up and to the right, leaving a hole in the formation. Which, to me, symbolizes the hole left in the heart of all true Americans when we lose one of our own, fighting the good fight.
That was it then, the crowds began to disperse (there were a lot of people there) and it was time to pull pitch and RTB.
The lady to my left and the gentleman to my right thanked me and the old mechanic for our running commentary, I thanked them for sharing this wonderful moment in time. We all felt very American sitting on 12th Street between Independence and Jefferson.
Before we left, Little Bit needed to make a pit stop (obviously I had rendezvoused with the main body of the tribe by then) so we popped into a nearby art gallery.
While there, I spotted a fellow wearing a Tuskegee Airmen T-Shirt and I called out, "Great T-Shirt Sir!" He saw my Air Force hat and we began to
His name was Tony, he's a flight engineer in the Reserves. Twenty-nine years in and he's looking forward to retirement. Sort of.
I introduced the rest of the tribe, Little Bit gave him a high five (as is her wont) and we headed out.
Later at Chateau Le Nuke et Le Sea Lawyer, I asked my granddaughter if she knew why I called that man "friend" when I'd just met him. She asked "Why?"
"Well because sweetie, that man and I wore the same uniform. Really, he's more than a friend, he's family."
"Oh that's right Grandpa, all your other friends are dead."
Well, that left me a bit nonplussed. But she's got a point. I do have a lot of dead friends.
Brothers and sisters who wore (and still wear) the same uniform, who swore the same oath.
I miss them.
Don't tell me there's no hope for America.
That's just not true.
I saw it out there on the National Mall.
The old values are everywhere. You just need to know where to look.