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  • Writer's pictureScott Downing

Davis Monthan AFB: Faded Glory and the Wind Beneath our Wings

-I've always been intrigued by the history that can be found wasting away in our deserts. From abandoned mines and decaying ghost towns that were once a mecca of dreams and prosperity, to the stark and windswept trails of pioneers who traversed lands out west in hopes of a new beginning.

-After infinite adventures in the skies and touching down in many lands, these monolithic relics have found their final resting spot in the arid Sonoran Desert Once alive with glowing lights and electronic sounds of the latest technology with the pungent scents of high octane thick in the air, these planes burned oil and man-hours in the protection of our freedoms. One can only imagine the stories, both told and untold, routine and "top-secret" that these mechanical marvels could tell. Gone but not forgotten are the brave souls who jumped into these serial numbered fuselages and made history in the wind.

-These cockpits were often "home" to bleary-eyed men who piloted through every kind of weather and successfully put these wheels on the ground in the most challenging situations that could be thrown at them, situations that no amount of training could truly replicate. There were load-masters and jump-masters who ensured that supplies, men, and machine were secured and safely relocated to far corners of the world, many of which we will never have familiarity with, but they do. Engineers, scientists, fabricators, riveters, and administrators created and delivered these flying machines. Dedicated mechanics twisted wrenches, patched air leaks and hoses, repaired broken windows, and exhausted every effort to exploit even the smallest of creature comforts for the flight crew and give them the confidence of a safe landing to their next destination. Many men suffered injury or death in these machines, while others evaded injury and death because of them. There were firefights, bombardments, evacuations, rescues, in-air emergencies, mechanical failures, tragedies and triumphs. The life experiences attributed to each tail number include missions of humanitarian relief, geo-diplomacy, strategic military strikes, as well as those that supported research in aeronautics, space, geography and weather. So many volumes of eyewitness accounts, character building courage, and uncommon valor- some of which still remain Top Secret or "plausibly deniable"- are interwoven within these airframes of steel and aluminum serving as a tribute to the brave men and women of bygone eras who can no longer tell these stories. To our veterans, each and every person in past generations who lived with integrity, dignity, and valued those of us who followed... thank you, all of you, who helped make this world a better place. Your service, your sacrifice, your patriotism, your selflessness, are the legacy in those stories, within us, and alive in the spirited winds and sands of the desert.

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