Sign up for our newsletter, full of tips, reviews and much more!
A low rumble across the grounds at Lakeland announced the departure of the B-17 Flying Fortress, “Texas Raiders,” and unlike many of their flights filled with paying supporters, the star of the show was a quiet nonagenarian.
Lakeland resident Bill Kelly spent World War II with the title of sergeant and worked as a B-29 Superfortress crew chief at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific theater.
“He had a great time, although he did get a little chilly at altitude. He didn’t say a thing about his discomfort until the flight was nearly over.”
The Gulf Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, caretakers of “Texas Raiders,” tours the country each year, offering flights to veterans to recognize their service to the country. CAF Colonel Nancy Kwiecien said they take about 100 veterans such as Kelly aloft yearly, but as the years continue, the number of veterans continue to dwindle. She acknowledged that sometimes it is getting difficult to find surviving veterans who are still able to participate. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, WWII veterans are passing away at a rate of 362 a day.
The “Texas Raiders” and her entourage will be in Lakeland for the remainder of the show before heading to St. Augustine, Florida April 17-19 and then on to WWII Heritage days in Peachtree City, GA April 20-22. The tour continues through summer and the last event on their schedule is Thunder Over Michigan, August 24-26, an event notable because there the
To book a flight or to contact a flight coordinator for a recognition flight for veterans, visit www.b17texasraiders.org and click “Your B-17 Flight” at the top of the page.