ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Thanks to an organization that’s focused on giving veterans a ride of a lifetime, a local World War II veteran is finally living out a dream.
Belleville native Bob Schultz, 99, has waited more than 75 years to fly in a plane like this.
The World War II hero enlisted in the Marines in 1942, just a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. During his military service, he served on the ship that sank after the attack and then was brought back to life.
“When he was in the war he served on the USS California, they had planes that they would catapult off the ship and he saw planes but he never got to ride in one, so now he’s excited to actually fly in one,” said his wife, Shirley Schultz.
The husband, father and grandfather got his chance to fly through the organization Dream Flights.
“It’s just a really neat opportunity to give back, to pay back that debt that they gave us. Because without those folks and their service and sacrifice we wouldn’t be here today, living in a country as free as we do,” said Dream Flight pilot Clint Cawley.
Dream Flights started 10 years ago and has given more than five thousand flights to war heroes. Their latest effort aims to give World War II veterans an adventure of a lifetime in a fully restored 1942 Boeing Stearman.
“It’s a really neat experience. It’s giving them something that they are sometimes familiar with, some of them are pilots and trained in these airplanes, some of them saw them on bases,” said Cawley.
For about 20 minutes, Schultz got to take to the blue sky around St. Louis’ downtown airport.
Behind Bob's smile and laughter is the memory of all the battles he fought in the South Pacific including watching more than 200 of his brothers in uniform parish when kamikazes hit the USS California in 1945. He dedicated this flight to them.
"It’s a great honor for me to have, in the name of a lot of other guys who never had the chance to do it. I’m very honored to have this experience,” said Bob.
Right after the war Bob got to circumnavigate the globe by moving the USS California from the West Coast all the way to the East coast.
The ship was too wide for the Suez Canal and too deep for the Panama Canal, so it had to go all the way around the cape of South Africa.