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Mon, Nov 13, 2006

Veterans Attending AOPA Expo Take Time To Recall 'Their' Day

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 Center.

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 conference.

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 lifted.

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" zone.

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 Pendleton.

Waldmann (shown above) remains active in Navy, Marine (he was a medical officer with the Marine Corps) and Blue Angel events.

"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.

FMI: www.va.gov, www.army.mil, www.af.mil, www.navy.mil, www.marines.mil

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