With a little hesitation I woke Parker only one hour into his nap praying that the event we were heading to was going to go smoothly though he usually gets a three hour nap each day. I cheated and let him bring his snuggly, something we never do, because he was in such a stupor at having been so rudely taken from his warm bed.
I knocked on the bigs’ doors and told them that I had a surprise for them but that I wouldn’t tell them about it until we were in the car. I had them grab coats but forgot my own. I didn’t worry much about it because I figured the place we were heading was going to be indoors. It was not.
I found the location with no wrong turns, which was an achievement in and of itself as I didn’t have the GPS with me. With the combination of my iPhone’s map feature and the directions I had read on the event’s website I was successful even without my GPS, and I thought of my friend, Heather, who lived here for five years and never had one at all. I consider her quite the hero for that!
As we drove I told the boys bits and pieces about a man known as the “Candy Bomber” and that we were going to see him in person. (I will share some of his story with you in a later paragraph.) He was speaking at the Berlin Airlift Memorial at the Rhein-Main Air Base. When we pulled up I realized we were going to be outside for the duration of the speech and I was thankful for Parker’s bundle-me in his stroller.
The guest of honor rode up in a Willy’s Jeep and when they came to a stop he stood and waved at the excited crowd.
The lady waving was one of the first people to help him create candy parachutes after hours. They would work all day at their real jobs and then spend hours making candy bombs.
He told a neat story about how he met children at the Berlin airport. They were standing behind a barbed wire fence and when he gave them gum, they were very appreciative. He only had two sticks of gum on him the first time he went and he half expected a riot among the thirty children who had not had candy or sugar in months. Instead he saw gratitude in their eyes. He split the gum into as many pieces as he could but not all the children got a piece. Those left out asked for the gum wrappers. He obliged and they tore the wrappers in tiny pieces and just smelled them. Grateful for gum wrappers to smell. It tore his heart and blessed it at the same time. He longed to do more for them so he told them to watch for him. He would come with a treat next time. I’m sure there are details and other visits left out of my brief synopsis, but he told them they would know it was him flying the plane when they saw the wings wiggle. That became a trademark of sorts and he received thank you letters addressed to “Uncle Wiggle Wings.”
Before long people in the US and Germany got involved and he started receiving handkerchiefs and candy specifically for his personal candy mission. At the memorial a few of the German speakers shared about how they feel Gail Halvorsen is personally responsible for the great relationship Germany now has with America. I was honored to be an American while hearing about this hero. I was so glad I had woken Parker from his nap and made the trip to hear the 91 year old candy bomber speak.
A fun little side-story: As we went up to have the boys shake his hand and snap a picture, another guest handed Gail Halvorsen two small candy bars as a gift. He smiled and then handed Hayden one of them and another little boy the other. Hayden received candy from the candy bomber!!
Parker was great the entire time and rarely made a peep. The only time we really heard from him was when a plane would land. They were VERY close as we were right along the runway of the Frankfurt Airport.
I had packed a few things in my purse to tide him over. Woody and his snuggly were two of them. I couldn’t help but snap a picture when I saw him giving Woody snuggles! He’d take his snuggly and rub it gently on Woody’s face the way he rubs the snuggly on his own face, and then he would hug them both.
Back to the reason we were there. Gail Halvorsen had made two points that I thought were very important. He said that service-above-self caused him to go above and beyond his stated mission. He thinks that the world will be a better place when people begin to serve others before they serve themselves. He also said that the gratitude in the children spurred him on to give more. If people can live grateful lives and serve others, they will be genuinely satisfied at the end of their lives.
Powerful message and one that I reiterated on our journey home.
For a few additional resources about Gail Halvorsen and the Berlin Airlift, check out the following links:
A couple of random facts I remembered from the guest speakers: The first flight of the Berlin Airlift was from Wiesbaden, where we live! Though there were nine basis that supported the air lift, one third of all the goods dropped were from the Rhein-Main Air Base where we attended the memorial.
If anyone wonders why we homeschool, THIS IS IT! On a whim we drove a few miles and, during the school day, had a history lesson from a real hero who had changed history.