Fantasy of Flight slates Veterans Day weekend salute

POLK CITY, Florida — American military heroes will not only get special recognition during the two-day “Veterans Day Salute: A Celebration of Service” coming up Nov. 10-11 at Fantasy of Flight, but some who have fascinating personal stories will share those tales during a weekend of living history.

As an extension of the Central Florida aviation-themed attraction’s 2012 Legends & Legacies Symposium Series, the “Veterans Day Salute” will feature sights and sounds from World War II and Vietnam: five veterans who served in those wars sharing their stories, along with a close-up look at five military aircraft from those conflicts in flight. This program is an encore presentation in the series that features veterans who interact with guests in open-forum/question-and-answer sessions, followed by meet-and-greet/autograph-signing sessions.

Fantasy of Flight is offering free admission both days to all veterans with valid military ID, while the special Veterans Day Salute festivities are included with regular admission for the general public and for annual pass holders.

Among those who will tell their personal stories of triumph at the Veterans Day Salute program is Rudy Froeschle, who became a prisoner of war in September 1943 after his B-17 was shot down over, ironically, his father’s hometown of Stuttgart, Germany. He tried to fool his German captors into believing he actually was one of them, but the deception failed, and he was eventually imprisoned at Stalag Luft III near Frankfurt. Froeschle’s fascinating story includes a 10-day march after a camp evacuation in January 1945, during which he suffered severe frostbite, before his eventual liberation that April.

After Froeschle’s morning presentation on Saturday, Nov. 10, the afternoon belongs to D-Day warriors Sgt. Virgil Myers and Sgt. Teddy Fisk. Myers had 210 days of continual front line infantry combat time as a sergeant responsible for the Mortar Section while Fisk, a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps/Air Force ground service unit, helped build fighter bases just behind the advancing infantry divisions.

On the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 11, Vietnam veterans Lt. Col. Morris Schallenberger and retired Air Force veteran Rick Julian will continue the two-day symposium. Schallenberger, with the 245th Surveillance Airplane Company, will relate tales of his night missions in 1967 and 1968 piloting OV-1B (Mohawk) aircraft along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the demilitarized zone (DMZ), missions that were directed to spot enemy convoys and alert U.S. air and ground troops. Julian, meanwhile, was a military dog trainer who retired after a 25-year career that included an assignment at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay Air Base, where he was kennel master for the largest military dog section in the world.

Also scheduled to appear during the weekend is Donaldean “Donna” Hooker, an original Rosie the Riveter who will present live riveting demonstrations. Military aircraft that will be on display and in flight for guests to admire as part of the weekend include the North American P-51C and P-51D, North American AT-6, Grumman Wildcat and Grumman Duck. The “Veterans Day Salute: A Celebration of Service” takes place during regular Fantasy of Flight hours Nov. 10 and 11, which are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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