Where do I possibly start with a trip that held so much sentiment as this one did for me? At the beginning? Nah... Way to predictable.
|View from atop a hill over looking Umnak's two WW2, still functioning, airstrips.
I had held it together until this point. The second last stop of the trip- Umnak Island, Alaska; the most forward base at the onset of the campaign. The first one my grandfather and his squadron were stationed at. Fresh out of flight school- his first combat posting. He was only 24. This unknown mountainous territory totally new to him. To all of them. Even for a modern day pilot who has all the help of GPS, radio systems, satellite, you name it.. still find it hard to fly in Alaska. Imagine a group of green pilots making their way, several thousand miles through the clouds and fog, battling the unpredictable winds, loosing five along the way; nearly more, nearly yourself. Only to arrive at a barren, treeless, village-less land. What must they have been thinking? What Godforsaken place were they?
I had left the group momentarily, climbed alone to the top of this hill over looking both airstrips where my grandfather used to take off and land his P-40 back in summer of 1942. I sat there alone and soaked in the enormity of the moment. I needed to. The four year journey, countless hours, tons of tears, incredible memories and unforgettable people- I had done it. Mission compete. Now what? You see, Umnak was the last stop I needed to complete my journey to visit every base my grandfather was stationed on while in Alaska. And the funny thing is, by no way does this seem like an ending. It actually feels like the beginning of what is yet to come. This blog that started out as a tribute to my grandfather has captured my heart and has morphed into an educational and historical storyboard that brings awareness to those who sacrificed so much of their lives and homeland so we could live comfortably now. So what is next? To be truthful, I am not entirely sure. But I am sure willing to find out. And so it begins...again.
|My Papa, recieiving his wings as a Pilot Officer, October 24th, 1941, just four months after starting flight school.
And as I was atop of that hill, the only word that came to mind is blessings. Immeasurable blessing- and it is thanks to them. And so I write...