Well the Bonfire made it's way into Alabama, but just barely! Located on the boarder of Mississippi and Alabama folks could see our Purple Hearts darting back and forth, up and down between these two fine states. As guests of the AeroShell Aerobatic Team members, our Purple Heart Veterans got to experience the thrill of traveling roughly 300mph doing barrel rolls, cork screws, bursts and loops! This is a treat known to only a select few in this world and usually only one ride at that! Well not this crew! Each Veteran had several rides in various aircraft. With all the buzz in the air, area pilots that play in this arena began to "Fly In" to see what all the fun was about! Now we understand the true meaning of a "Fly In" Airshow!
The weather on a beautiful April afternoon could not have been more perfect which provided the safest possible environment to give our Purple Hearts this experience. The AeroShell Team are professionals that perform in airshows across the country throughout the year. They are in the International Council of Air Shows Hall of Fame for being the longest running civilian air show in North America for over 20 years. Needless to say, we felt that we couldn't have provided this type of opportunity in a more secure fashion than with this group of professionals.
The Warrior Bonfire Program is careful to only offer this type of opportunity to Veterans that have had a long period of time and healing post their injury. They are mentally and emotionally of sound mind and are not adrenaline seeking junkies. These are warriors that have found the place in their healing, that looking forward to the greatness life has to offer has become their therapy.
Every chance they can get to be around those most like themselves, to divide the pain and share the joy, gives them days to look forward to and not focus on the regrets or unfortunate events of the past which they cannot control. Soaring high above the Earth's surface and sometimes very low, the thrill and the chills, are enormously powerful, and provides a very conscious practice of letting go of things you cannot control. Everyday, Veterans with injuries have to choose to let go of the things they cannot control and focus on what they can control.
Back safely on the ground, this weekend also provided a pristine setting to relax, go fishing and get in a few rounds of clay shooting. The fluid schedule allowed time for the group to simply sit on the porch swing, share their stories, help each other through the struggles they share, and take in the Alabama sunrises and sunsets. Nature and conversations are among the most effective therapeutic practices being used today. As usual the power of the Bonfire on the final night provided closure and healing through the process of honoring those fellow service members these men have lost. Stepping out of yourself, thinking of others and giving to others helps to find peace and joy.
This is a trip that we hope to provide again and we are enormously grateful to the AeroShell Aerobactic Team, Mark Henley, Alan Henley, Jimmy Fordham, Steve Gustafson, Bryan Regan, Gene McNeely and their support team for a top flight weekend. We literally could not have done this without you! "It was a blast being with the guys this past weekend. I think they really enjoyed the experience. Hope we will be able to do it again in the future," stated Fordham. These weekends end up being just as therapeutic for the hosts as well as the Veterans.
To see more of the fun, check out our photos!