TYLER, Texas (KETK) – As East Texans plan to celebrate the Fourth of July, freedom and sacrifice is what comes to mind for many veterans.
To kick off this weekend, 7 vintage warbirds arrived in Tyler Thursday.
July 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed by Congress, and 243 years later, people haven’t forgotten the historic day.
“The Fourth of July is one of my favorite days, that’s when we became a nation and that’s when our founding fathers said we want to have the United States of America,” says Phil Clark.
Clark served in the Vietnam war for 2 years as a medic, helping all who were injured.
“We treated everybody. If a civilian came in, we treated that civilian,” explains Clark.
During his service, one night will forever stick with him.
“One night I had a lady walk in and with my broken Vietnamese and her broken English, I knew she was about ready to have a baby. So I put her on a gurney, called in one of the nurses. The nurse didn’t get there fast enough so I delivered a baby,” describes Clark.
Clark says he would never trade his experience overseas for anything, because it makes him who he is today, giving him an appreciation for those who served in any war.
“There are a lot of kids nowadays that really do not know the history particularly in World War II, and the type of planes that were flown and the people that flew the planes,” says Clark.
To get a better sense of what it was like, we signed up to ride inside, climbed in the Beech 18 Navy Transport, also known as the “Little Raider” and prepared for liftoff.
Within minutes, we were up in the air, sitting next to John Bixby behind the wheel.
“Started flying when I was 15 years old so I’ve been doing this for yea 35 years now, so it’s as natural as breathing with me,” says Bixby, who is part of the Commemorative Air Force.
During World War II, planes played an important role, with some battles fought in the air.
“The men and the women who built the airplanes, who maintained them, flew them during the war and fought for our freedom. Freedoms that we’re celebrating today,” explains Pilot Bixby.
Many warbirds were used to transport troops and supplies to different areas of the world, no matter the conditions.
“To get an appreciation of what our crews went through back during the war, flying these airplanes whether it was the steaming hot Pacific, or freezing cold in 30-something thousand feet over the air. Hopefully, they would get an appreciation of what our guys went through,” describes Pilot Bixby.
Serving this country, so you and I can continue to celebrate Independence Day.
If you missed the warbirds today, the event will continue for the entire weekend; 10-4 Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
You will be able to tour and watch the warbirds, and for a fee ride in one as well.
This all takes place at the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum in Tyler.