South Florida

South Florida Veterans Fly in Vintage War Plane

Three veterans who served in the U.S. Army in the 40’s and 50’s had the opportunity of a lifetime to fly in a plane used to train military aviators in the 1940s.

Rev. Arthur Stejskal, Ralph Dirksen and Richard (Dick) Wells all served the U.S. Army. Stejskal and Wells served in World War II, while Dirksen served in the Korean War.

The plane, which was a 1942 Boeing Stearman, was the same plane used to train military aviators. Each participant had the opportunity to take a 15-20 minute long flight.

“It was fantastic,” said Wells, who was a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II. “I was in big planes with big bombers but this was altogether different. It was great.”

The event was put together by the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation. It’s an organization that honors seniors and U.S. military veterans with focus on individuals living in long-term care communities.

Doris Tjong was also had the opportunity to fly in the plane. She grew up in Germany during World War II and said her first experience with airplanes was seeing squadrons of planes flying overhead and in some cases, even seeing bombs being released.

“World War II is my childhood,” said Tjong. “It was scary. It’s not a very pleasant experience but it was the truth.”

“I appreciate the sweet spirit of the people here. They are just helpful in every way and just made everything as sweet as possible,” said Wells. “It makes you appreciate your country and the people in your country in a way that means a lot.”

Doris said that she was always fascinated by planes and that one day she would have become a pilot. But unfortunately, that dream never manifested. She says today’s event helped bring closure to that dream.

“Think a little girl, a little child, being fascinated by this machine in the sky that can fly. Even though it did something bad at the time, but how can that thing fly up in the air?” said Tjong. “Today, I have accepted that that dream didn’t become a reality but this is something that kind of puts closure to my dream. I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

The organization has conducted more than 3,000 dream flights in over 40 states. The next one is April 9th out of Jacksonville. 

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