Flying high: Local veterans soar in Fernley
Vietnam War veteran U.S. Army Pvt. Lee Wurz, along with six other senior veterans and residents from Fernley Estates Senior Living and Memory Care, enjoyed a trip back in time, courtesy of Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation.
Each resident took a dream flight at Fernley’s Tiger Field in a fully restored 1943 Boeing-Stearman biplane, the same aircraft used to train aviators during World War II.
AADF is a nonprofit organization that honors military veterans and seniors living in long-term care communities with 20-minute flights 1,000 feet above friends and family.
Since 2011, volunteer pilots have given more than 3,000 free dream flights nationwide.
The weather cooperated as each senior took turns strapping on a canvas helmet, climbing aboard the plane, and giving a thumbs-up, a signal for the pilot they were ready for take-off.
“It’s all about the experience,” explained Darryl Fisher, founder of AADF and CEO of Mission Senior Living, Fernley Estates’ parent organization. “When we show up in a Stearman and spend time listening to their stories, it’s special. This is our way of thanking the military veterans for their service.”
Wurz served in the U.S. Army’s “Wolfhound” unit. Shot twice, he received a Purple Heart. His love for old planes dates to his father, a World War II pilot, who used to take Wurz for plane rides.
Other flyers included U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Chuck Garton, who served in the Vietnam War and retired from the military after 40 years of service, Lee Banner, a E-5 Sergeant in the Marine Corps who served in the Vietnam War; and Loraine Silva, a basic airman in the U.S. Air Force, who served as an x-ray technician stateside. Joy Murray, an aviation enthusiast who was married to a U.S. Army major and Al Calvin, a former pilot whose eyes light up when he talks about planes, also received dream flights.
“The experience was wonderful,” said Silva, who spent a lot of time in and out of planes while she served in the Air Force.
Silva said when she was injured, they transported her to the hospital in a plane similar to a Stearman.
“I never thought I’d fly in one again in my lifetime,” she said.
Family, friends, and staff were on hand to celebrate. The Nevada Veterans Coalition presented the colors before the start of the first flight.