Friday, December 12, 2008

COMMENTARY >> The Final Five

By Lt. Col. Aaron Maynard
62nd Airlift Squadron Commander

In last week’s edition, you may recall the story of the 62nd Airlift Squadron and its long and distinguished history. Every year during the first week in December, members of the squadron, past and present, come together to celebrate the squadron’s heritage. Last week was no different; over 200 members of the “Yacht Club” gathered for the 37th consecutive time to attend the annual Yacht Club reunion. The week’s capstone event was the Yacht Club Reunion/Squadron Holiday Party, which was held Saturday night, where we paid tribute to the past, celebrated the present and welcomed the future. The celebration was very much like it had been for the last 37 years, with one very notable exception.
Fourteen years ago, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, original members of the 62nd Troop Carrier Squadron traveled to Sainte Mere Eglise, France. During their visit, they came across a wine bottle that was decorated with scenes from the D-Day invasion. The World War II veterans brought the bottle back to the squadron and prominently displayed it among the squadron’s historic memorabilia.
The bottle, along with six wine glasses and the story behind it, has been on display in a beautiful wooden box for more than a decade. The key to that box has passed from commander to commander for fourteen years and has been kept in a secret location known only by its keeper. As described in the case, when during the annual Yacht Club Reunion, only five original members of the squadron are present, the sitting commander will open the bottle and raise a toast to the last crew of the original squadron…the Final Five!
In June of 1944 when 18 of the squadron’s planes flew during D-Day there were 78 commissioned officers and 241 enlisted men in the Squadron. Many shipped out before the war’s end and many more were added to the rolls before it was all over.
To be down to the last five men able to attend the reunion was a remarkable event to witness. The significance of the occasion was not lost on those gathered as the five men came forward to uncork the bottle. Those in attendance rose to watch the ceremony and flashes from the many cameras provided a dazzling light as the cork was popped and the glasses filled. A toast was offered, “To the Yacht Club - to her past and future voyages” then one of the original squadron members stepped forward and offered a toast to all those who had served in the 62nd during World War II – “ remember the ones that we were overseas with who are not able to be here tonight or who we left over there.”
So, on December 6, 2008 – 66 years and one day after the squadron was activated – the bottle was opened and toasts were made in honor of the squadron’s past. It was a great honor to share this moment with these five truly courageous men. Although the airplanes have changed over the years, the mission has remained the same. We only hope to follow their example and remember their courage as we fly our own missions toward the sound of the guns.


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