This year November 11 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice which ended WW I. Formerly known as Armistice Day and now Veterans Day it is the day our nation pauses to give thanks and show appreciation to all of the fine men and women who have served our country in the military.
The day is celebrated in various ways: some schools invite a veteran to their class to share their experiences, merchants and restaurants offer veterans deals on merchandise and complimentary meals in thanks for their service.
A friend of mine Al Brothers was recently honored by being awarded a quilt by Freedom Star United out of Hudsonville, Michigan. I often run into Al at the Waynedale Masonic freewill breakfast on the first Saturday of the month and he kindly agreed to share his military background with the Waynedale News readers:
“I received my Air Force Commission in 1964 through AFROTC at Boston University. After commissioning I went directly to pilot training earning my pilot’s wings in 1965. My first aircraft assignment was as a co-pilot flying B-52s stateside and I later upgraded to pilot/aircraft commander and flew one ARCLIGHT in Southeast Asia. I volunteered to return to SE Asia and was assigned as a pilot flying the B-57G out of Ubon, Thailand into Laos. My last flying assignment was flying the FB-111a. I spent 22 years in the Air Force flying aircraft, as a Space Systems Engineer and Branch Chief at the Foreign Technology Division, and as a Commander of an AFROTC detachment. I retired as a Lt. Colonel.
Pilot training was a memorable experience with half my class German pilot candidates. One of my closest friends was my former roommate, Dieter Tietz, who retired from the German Air Force and now lives in the US. At our Pilot Training graduation my parents and Dieter Tietz’s father came. Both of our fathers fought in World War II but both shook hands when we introduced them to each other. That was a great experience: two former foes now bound by the friendship of their sons.
Flying the B-52 in the Vietnam War was a true experience. I had a young crew with the oldest crew member being our gunner. The longest combat flights were 12 hour flights from Guam to Vietnam and return. We refueled the B-52 aircraft once flying three bombers against three KC-135 tankers, and then proceeding as a 27ship wave in country. The in country combat time was about 90 minutes. I was honored to be a wave lead, leading 27 aircraft into combat and return.
Flying the B-57G was a tremendous opportunity. It was a modified test aircraft flying in combat going after supply trucks and supply dumps in Laos at night. I earned a Distinguished Flying Cross engaging a convoy and destroying nine trucks while under heavy enemy AAA fire.
Returning from Thailand after flying the B-57s home to the US, I got a dream assignment to the new FB-111A. These aircraft were about three years old and were being formed into new squadrons in SAC at both Pease AFB NH and Plattsburgh AFB NY. These were supersonic aircraft whose mission was just being defined. A test version of this aircraft, the TFX, had made an emergency landing at my Pilot training base Williams AFB AZ in 1965. Dieter and I had gone to the flight line to see it and get a few pictures. I commented to Dieter that I wanted to fly the aircraft. Six years later I received my assignment to fly the aircraft at Pease AFB close to my home in Boston. During my second tour in the FB-111a at Pease AFB, my family had a house near the end of the runway. This was the first time my kids could see their dad taxing the aircraft not too far from the house and then take off on a training mission and return. Now that he is retired Al is a member of the American Legion Post 409 in Leo, Indiana.”
Al’s wife, Sandi, owned A Quilt of Many Colors in Leo for many years where she provided fabrics for several quilt guilds who made quilts for veterans.
Last April Sandy and Al attended the big quilt show in Paducah, Kentucky. Al wore his Vietnam Veteran cap and when he and Sandy visited the quilt vendors Al was approached and asked if he was a Vietnam Veteran and if he had received a quilt for his service. Al related to them he was in the Vietnam Theater twice but had not received a quilt. Al consented to accept a quilt and Deb Granger of Freedom Star United presented him with one as she thanked him for his service stating Veterans were an inspiration to all for their selfless service and personal sacrifice to our country. Al was flabbergasted and honored at this totally unexpected experience. He was truly at a loss for words for he never thought in his wildest dreams that he would receive such an honor. Al’s quilt is a Friendship Star adapted pattern made of 100% cotton patriotic fabrics. Al is thankful and appreciative to the dedicated quilters who infuse each quilt with so much creativity; for Al receiving this special quilt was truly a humbling experience.