Military veterans take flight in restored biplane

Military veterans take flight in restored biplane
Becky Gill, front, and Col. Bob Brodie take off in a restored 1940 biplane.

One of the first female firefighters on a destroyer tender and a former high school coach were honored recently as passengers of the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation (AADF), a volunteer-based nonprofit dedicated to honoring seniors and United States military veterans living in long-term care communities around the country.

Rebecca “Becky” Gill and John Weeks from Arbor Terrace at San Jose flew the “wild blue yonder” Friday, April 13, at First Coast Flight Center at Herlong Recreational Airport as part of the foundation’s free Dream Flights in an open cockpit biplane, a restored 1940 Stearman, that was originally used to train pilots in World War II.

Aimee Karaitis, engagement director for Arbor Terrace San Jose, said this is the second time the facility has participated in AADF.

Becky Gill receives an autographed ballcap from Col. Bob Brodie.

Becky Gill receives an autographed ballcap from Col. Bob Brodie.

Gill, who served as a damage controlman on a destroyer tender from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, is a former Navy firefighter who served in the Gulf War. She moved to Jacksonville from Virginia in 2006, along with her wife, Shelley, and their six-year-old son. Gill, 54, has been an Arbor Terrace resident since January 2018.

“When I was asked if I wanted to fly, I said no? Me? Then I decided okay. The flight was great!” said Gill.

After he landed from the 20-minute flight, Weeks said he was excited to “look down and see all the little people, houses and cars! It was perfect! I saw I-95 and train tracks from a different view point. It was awesome up there!”

Weeks, 78, coached football and baseball at Fletcher Middle School for 25 years and taught general science and biology at Southside Junior High and Terry Parker High schools. He and his wife of 60 years, Dorothy, have lived at Arbor Terrace since July 2017. They grew up as neighbors in in Elloree, S. Carolina, and played sports at the same school.

The volunteer pilot, Colonel Bob Brodie, an active duty Marine who is in his second year with AADF, presented each passenger with an autographed cap thanking them for their service to the military and to the community. Brodie noted that there have been approximately 3,000 flights since the first Dream Flight in 2011.

Lunch was catered by Silver Rehab Services and Concierge Home Care.

By Phyllis Bell-Davis
Resident Community News

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