November 11 Wasn't Just Last Day Of Event
For many who spent part
of last week in Palm Springs involved in all the activities
surrounding AOPA's 2006 Conference, one day was similar in many
ways to the next; after all, the center of the world was in Palm
Springs for ANN staffers, and it takes significant effort to keep
abreast of things going on outside of the Palm Springs Conference
With that in mind, though, Saturday, November 11, 2006, was
Veteran's Day. If you did not attend the closing banquet, which
recognized the day and those who fought for their country so that
we all have the freedom that we enjoy today... many might not have
been aware of the fact.
But being among well over 10,000 AOPA participants, exhibitors,
and speakers, Veteran's Day did take on a special significance for
those who served. ANN Correspondent Annette Kurman went around the
conference Saturday to ask them to recall their experience,
feelings, and hopes for the future.
While many three-day conference participants were surprised when
reminded that it was Veteran's day ("Oh yeah, it is Veteran's Day,
isn't it?), most every veteran she spoke to not only knew what day
it was, but could also tell her what he would be doing –-
parade, luncheon, etc. –- if he weren't at the AOPA
For WWII Lt. Lowell Kongable (shown below at left), who flew
Grumman F-6Fs for the Navy from 1943 to 1946, his most memorable
moments were of Pearl Harbor Day. He was at Iowa State
University studying electrical engineering on December 7, 1941. The
next day, he recalled, many students quit school to immediately
enlist. Kongable, who was looking to become a Navy pilot, stayed at
school to complete the two years of college it required.
His other memories included when the bomb was dropped on
Hiroshima ("I was home on leave") and V-J Day, when everyone in
Kingsville, TX was deliriously happy, shouting, tooting horns, and
riding around town, as gas rationing had immediately been
Says Kongable of the US today, "We have a pretty good country as
it is; it's the best place there is."
Lowell's younger brother Sergeant Sheldon Kongable (above,
right) was an Army engineer from 1951–1953, including during
the German occupation of 1952 and 1953.
Sheldon flies the American flag everyday at home in Winfield, IA
and was really very pleased that a number of his neighbors have
emulated this act of patriotism. He also holds a fly-in on his farm
every Memorial Day.
The challenges that he see for the country include ethical
decision making and bringing people into the public sector who are
honest and have good ideas. "We need to support our troops in the
service," Sheldon said, "and anyone wearing a uniform should be
respected for their service to our country," he said.
"I've been all over the world, and there's no place I'd rather
live than where I am," he pronounced.
For Army Sergeant Lee Olson, of Rancho Murrieta, CA, what most
impressed him during the time he was in the military from 1966 to
1972 was when Elvis Presley did his duty for his country. Both
Presley and Olson spent time at Fort Hood in Texas.
Olson, who currently flies a 1979 Piper Dakota, has a vivid
memory of the capture of the USS Pueblo in 1960. His hopes for the
country? For the United States to stay "free and strong."
First Lt. John Helms, of St. Louis, MO is an Iraq veteran who
flew Blackhawk helicopters, and spent time both in Germany and
Northern Iraq following the first Gulf War monitoring the "no fly"
Helms hopes for a positive resolution to the Iraq war and that
America "remains strong."
Captain Edward "Wildman" Waldmann, MD, of Scottsdale, AZ served
with the Navy from 1945 to 1982 as a flight surgeon, an internist
really, who practiced his profession primarily at Camp
Waldmann (shown above) remains active in Navy, Marine (he
was a medical officer with the Marine Corps) and Blue Angel
"My hope,' he said, "is that things quiet down around the
world." He also has the desire for young people to respect for the
military and those that serve and have served.
Dr. Waldmann continues his love of flying... as does his fiance,
also a pilot.
Another veteran opined hopes for strengthening of the middle
class, and the US not being the world's policeman. Another, who
enlisted in the Air Force and was in the military form
1945–1948, is a 50-year member of the (lawyer-type) Bar and a
41-year member of AOPA. His most memorable memory, he laughed, was
the day he was discharged. The veteran said added remains grateful
to the military for the GI Bill, which earned him an AB (Bachelor
of Arts), LLB (undergraduate Bachelor of Laws), and JD (Doctor of
Law). He continues flying a Twin Comanche and Aerostar.
So even under the "big top" of the Palm Springs Convention
Center, and with all of the aviation activities going on
simultaneously... many veterans still took time to remember those
with whom they served and who didn't come home, those others they
served with, and those serving today.