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Two WWII Veterans Flown In Restored Biplane To Celebrate Their Service

During World War II, men and women were called to sacrifice their time and safety in service of our country. Whether serving in the air, on the sea, or on land, their contributions mattered in the fight against the Axis powers.

Powerful reminders of their service exist to this day, even as many have passed on. To honor those that are still with us, and to return a symbol of that spirit to the skies again, nonprofit group Dream Flights launched the ambitious Operation September Freedom.

The project, which the group calls “the largest barnstorming event in U.S. history,” has taken nearly 1,000 World War II veterans to the skies in restored Boeing-Stearman biplanes.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Raimond Spekking

An iconic military trainer aircraft, the Boeing-Stearman biplane is itself a symbol of the rapidly-changing technology that servicemen trusted their lives to as they leapt into action. Their dependability and reliability made them useful after the war was over, as well; they were used as crop dusters and in aerial acrobatics shows, becoming an iconic American aircraft.

In September, one of those aircraft took to the skies again. Flown by Mike Summers, the craft took both Salvador Leon, a 97-year-old Navy veteran, and Ellsworth Gray, a 99-year-old Navy man and aircraft carrier electrician, high into the skies above Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix, Arizona.

Photo: YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

Watching Leon on his flight were his son, Phillip, and wife of 70 years, Estella. Speaking to ABC 15 News, Phillip explained that his father was “so excited” for the flight, while Estella added that the nonagenarian is “very young at heart.”

Ellsworth’s son, Donald Gray, noted that his father had survived the battle of Bunker Hill, and the Kamikaze attacks that had kept him fighting for his life for over 9 hours.

Photo: YouTube/ABC15 Arizona

Both men were moved by their flights and signed the tail of the plane alongside servicemen who had flown before them. Speaking to the group that had made the flight possible, Leon stated: “I still consider it a privilege to have served our country.”

Watch footage of their flight below, via ABC 15:

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