If you want someone to hear your message, you have to get that person within earshot.
At shows like AirVenture, placing an attractive airplane in your display area often does the trick. It helps if you can get your hands on a vintage airplane, because there is something about those older models that make aviators swarm like bees to honey.
Such was the case in the vintage aircraft display area this summer, where James Slocum and Valerie Thal-Slocum from Moscow, Tenn., parked their Beech E-18S-9700. Next to the vintage bird was a display to promote “The Last Flight Home,” a documentary about the Bent Prop Project.
The organization travels to the western Pacific, to what currently is known as The Republic of Palau, to find crash sites from World War II. The mission is recovery of the remains of servicemen who are still listed as Missing in Action.
“They work with the local government to secure the sites, then a forensic team goes in to recover the remains and take them back to Hawaii for identification,” James Slocum explained. “When they are identified, their families are notified.”
The organization has been around for 13 years and, so far, 15 wreck sites — some in the jungle, others underwater — have been located and eight sets of remains recovered.
The documentary on the group, “The Last Flight Home,” is available on DVD. During AirVenture it was shown several times to packed audiences.
Pat Scannon, a World War II historian and locator of wrecks, created the organization. So far, four self-funded expeditions to the Palau area have been undertaken. Among the discoveries was the location of a Japanese ship sunk by George H. W. Bush.
The Slocums got interested in the project when a friend who was involved in the expeditions showed them some of the video footage.
“It sounded like a grand adventure, going down to Palau,” said Valerie. “I was part of the film crew on my first expedition and realized what Pat Scannon was really doing, and it was great to be able to show that gratitude to the airmen who lost their lives and to the families that lost their loved ones.”
The most moving part of the project, she says, it when the remains of a serviceman are identified and the organization is able to bring closure for the families.
“There was an airman recovered from a TBM Avenger,” she recalls. “We found out that he had two living sisters in St. Louis, so we did a double flag ceremony. We took these two flags to them. They had one room in the house completely dedicated to him. There was every letter he had ever written home, every picture of him. We gave them the flags and they just hugged the flags up close to their hearts. As we walked out, this 87-year-old lady grabbed my shoulder and said, ‘Honey, after 60 years you have finally showed me what closure means.’ It is those kinds of experiences that make the whole thing worth while.”