Its not to often that I come across a WWII veteran and get the chance to hear ones story, but this past weekend I was given such an opportunity. For the first time I had visited the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale N.Y. to see the aircraft that was to take part in the 2012 Jones Beach Air Show for Memorial Day Weekend. I thought to myself why did it take so long for me to take advantage of attending this event, an event that would put me back on a flight line around historical and modern aircraft that always captured my attention.
The event at the American Airpower Museum was done so well, being so close to old Warbirds like the P-51 Mustang and B-17 Bomber made this 31 yr old feel like a kid again watching them take to the sky. But to be honest, the greatest moment for me was when I walked into a room in the museum (not knowing anyone was in there) to find Erwin Salnick telling his story of being a B-17 pilot during WWII. I walked in the room only to find a couple sitting there with their jaws hanging out of their mouths listening to Erwin finish telling his story. Once he was done, he told me to hang around so I can hear the story from start to finish and I had told him “I had no plans on leaving until I heard the whole story”.
It is very rare these days to hear our WWII veteran stories firsthand, and luckily while waiting for Erwin to begin his story, a WWII veteran by the name of Jack McMullen came walking into the room. Erwin tells me Jack has some great stories as well, serving during WWII as a pilot. Fortunately I had my camera in hand that could take video as well as pictures, so I took advantage of the moment and recorded Jack sharing his story. After hearing a little background about his service and how he was able to return to base after taking enemy fire in the skies over Germany, I was quick to thank him for his service and ask for a picture.
After Jack spoke, Erwin was ready to share his story, and boy was it a story as well. It was truly an honor to be given the chance to hear their stories as they are not only a piece of history, but survivors of a war that saw over 250,000 Americans lose their lives. If it wasn’t for their service and sacrifices, our lives would be very different in this country and around the world. These are “WWII Veterans We Can Never Forget” and these are two WWII Veterans I will never forget hearing their stories.
To all past veterans, Thank You for your service and Happy Memorial Day. -Steve