Today is a day to remember what sacrifice and courage means to a nation. Seventy-seven years ago our nation was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor and we plunged into a war we were not fully prepared to fight.

The spirit of “service above self’ carried the day and as thousands of our citizens male and female, from all walks of life joined the armed services to serve. Many gave the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today.

This week also marked the passing of George H.W. Bush, our 41st President. He was one of many who joined in the fight of WW II. “41” was a naval pilot flying the Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber. A large aircraft with a crew of three, it was one of our significant weapons launched from aircraft carriers in the Pacific battling against the mighty Japanese Navy.

An Avenger torpedo run against a ship is a very dangerous mission. The aircraft must get low and straight in to the path of the target ship. Every gun on the ship is now firing at their approach as they line up to drop the torpedo. To be accurate and insure a hit that is not evaded, it must be done close to the target and within anti-aircraft gun range. Although an aircraft coming in straight is a smaller target, it is still extremely dangerous. Many aircraft and crews were lost. During the Battle of Midway, all the torpedo bomber aircraft sent to attack the Japanese aircraft carriers were lost to anti-aircraft fire and fighter aircraft.

From the History Channel: “On September 2, 1944, future President George Herbert Walker Bush is serving as a torpedo bomber pilot in the Pacific theater of World War II when his squadron is attacked by Japanese anti-aircraft guns. Bush was forced to bail out of the plane over the ocean.

According to the Navy’s records, Bush’s squadron was conducting a bombing mission on a Japanese installation on the island of Chi Chi Jima in the Pacific when they encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire. The engine on Bush’s plane was set ablaze, yet Bush managed to release his bombs and head back toward the aircraft carrier San Jacinto before bailing out over the water. Three other crew members perished in the attack. After floating on a raft for four hours, a submarine crew fished a safe but exhausted Bush out of the water. His bravery in action earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross. The previous June, Bush had experienced a similar close call with death when he was forced to make a crash landing on water after a bombing run; a U.S. destroyer crew rescued him from the sea.

After his harrowing experience near Chi Chi Jima, Bush returned to the San Jacinto and continued to pilot torpedo bombers in several successful missions. Over the course of 1944, while his squadron suffered a 300 percent casualty rate among its pilots, an undaunted Bush won three Air Medals as well as a Presidential Unit Citation. In total, Bush flew 58 combat missions during the war. In December 1944, Bush was reassigned to Norfolk Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was tasked with training new pilots. He received an honorable discharge from the Navy in September 1945 after the Japanese surrender.”

Was George H.W. Bush special? Not really compared to the hundreds of other service men and women serving and carrying out their duty. He was determined, brave, and had a purpose to serve. That is the standard of the “Greatest Generation”, serving when called on for the greater good. There have been many heroes serving in conflicts after WW II to the present day, all serving our country, and they too deserve honor and recognition.

What concerns me personally is what my grandchildren and current young students see in our current state of national leadership. Somewhere service above self has been lost in our leaders and we find ourselves defending our “tribe” regardless of what is best for our country, regardless of who holds power. I have faith that the current state of affairs will self-correct and we can enjoy the next Greatest Generation. “41” set and held a standard through his service to our country which can be used as a model for others to follow. I hope our leaders in Washington takes notice and realize they have a duty of service above self. God speed G.H.W. Bush, may your final landing be a smooth and safe touch down.

EAA Chapter 1240 holds a monthly meeting every second Thursday of the month at 6:00 PM with a potluck dinner followed by an aviation related presentation. Our monthly pancake breakfast supporting youth aviation programs is tomorrow Saturday, December 8th. Both are held at the EAA Chapter 1240 Aviation Development Center at the Sebring Regional Airport through gate 24. The public is welcome.

For more information about our Youth Aviation Education Programs and how you might become involved or support the effort. contact John Rousch at sebringeaa1240@gmail.com , call or text 863-273-0522. EAA Chapter 1240 is a 501c3 non-profit corporation. John Rousch is a pilot and Aerospace Technology Instructor with the School Board of Highlands County. He is also President of EAA Chapter 1240 in Sebring, Florida.

Fly-in/Drive-in Pancake Breakfast

The Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1240 will hosting a pancake breakfast on Saturday, December 8th, 8 to 10:30 AM at the EAA 1240 Aviation Development Center located on the flight line at Sebring Regional Airport. The Saturday morning breakfast will include bacon, link sausage, sausage patties, regular pancakes, blueberry pancakes, hash brown potatoes, and both plain and scrambled eggs with peppers and onions.

The proceeds support youth aviation education activities and the STEM curriculum. (Science Technology, Engineering and Math)

Also, Chapter 1240 will be conducting Young Eagle flights where youth ages 8 to 17 can take a free orientation flight with an experienced EAA pilot. Each Young Eagle will receive a certificate documenting their flight, a logbook, their name entered in the world’s largest logbook at EAA headquarters in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and have access to the FAA Ground School training on-line for free. They also become EAA youth members until age 19. Youth need to have their parent or legal guardian present at the time of the flight. Please call ahead and indicate how many Young Eagles would like to take flight so we can have enough EAA pilots and planes available. E-mail; jhr@stratomail.net, call or text 863-273-0522.

In addition to the Young Eagle flights, EAA Chapter 1240 youth members will be working on building an AirCam. Come out and see what a dedicated group of young people can do.

The EAA Aviation Development Center is at the south end of the flight line, just follow the signs. “We are at the end of the road, but at the beginning of adventure”.

Our local EAA Chapter 1240 supports local youth with flight training scholarship and hands-on activities that develop skills they can use for a lifetime. For more information contact John Rousch EAA 1240 Young Eagles Coordinator, 863-273-0522, jhr@stratomail.net.

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