The Liberty Gazette
May 8, 2012Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: We heard some great stories over the weekend and they’re the kind too good not to share. The first is but another example of the generous nature we find often within the aviation community. You’ve probably heard of wounded warrior organizations and the good work done through them as so many veterans return home with serious injuries.
HALO for Freedom Warrior Foundation provides support for wounded warriors as they face challenges encountered during their rehabilitation, reintegration and healing process. They motivate, encourage, and afford opportunities these heroes might not otherwise have, lifting their spirits while reminding them that their sacrifices will never be forgotten. HALO (which stands for High Altitude – Low Open, a military parachuting term) hosted the Wounded Warrior Hog Hunt in Mineral Wells, Texas on April 12–14 this year. For this event a tandem parachute jump was arranged for a special warrior. They would be led in the jump by HALO president and double-amputee, Dana Bowman. At the last minute a change in plans threatened this very special program. Organizers asked Southwest Airlines Captain Alan Crawford to help so the event could go on as scheduled. Here’s what the good captain (and USAF veteran) told us:
Captain Crawford: I was invited to fly my Lancair Legacy, “Spirit of America”, painted in stars and stripes, in the opening ceremony. Two O1 Birddogs and five T-34s would fly formation flights. The parachute jump would start the event, then we’d fly various passes over the landing zone, then I’d fly the last pass at high speed to close the aerial program.
Dana is amazing. He opens the program skydiving into the landing zone with a large American flag attached to him and flowing. This particular day he was to open the show leading the jump, then immediately following him out the door a tandem jump had been arranged for Medal of Honor Recipient, Sgt. Leroy Petry, an Army Ranger. www.army.mil/medalofhonor/petry
Thursday night I learned the jump plane scheduled to take the three up Friday morning had cancelled. They asked if I knew anyone who could fill in. I thought of Bobby and AnnElise Bennett. I called Mighty Mouse (a/k/a Bobby Bennett – he has earned quite a reputation among pilots as one who can be called upon to “come to save the day”) and after explaining the situation I asked if they could make it to Mineral Wells with AnnElise’s Cessna 182, “X-Ray,” for a jump Friday morning. They said yes, and AnnElise flew in to Mineral Wells early Friday morning for the briefing and had the honor of taking these men up to 10,000 feet for the jump.
As usual, AnnElise and Mighty Mouse came through on short notice. Thursday night Bobby put the jump platform on X-Ray and had the plane configured for the jump. Friday morning AnnElise showed up and was able to pull off what I think was the jump of a lifetime for Sgt. Petry. I guess the most important thing is that whenever any of us have a chance to participate in a wounded warrior program, either donating our time or money, we should try and do it. What these young warriors have sacrificed for the freedom we have should not be forgotten. It was an honor to have met them.
Mike: Dana Bowman’s website is www.danabowman.com.