My Dad passed away two days after Thanksgiving in 1990.
Most of his family had been with him on Thanksgiving day. It was a beautiful November that year. The weather was unseasonably warm and instead of worrying about drought we were grateful that the children could spend time releasing their energy outside.
Our smallish house was full of love and family; when Dad began failing on Friday we were able to say our goodbyes personally. Then on Saturday evening while we sang hymns, Dad peacefully went home.
A few years later my writer Mom published Remembering Billy E. Garrett. The cover featured a drawing of a B-17 by his grandson Aaron Morris. She had a book signing at the local book store. We all received a copy at Christmas that year.
For Mom life without her husband moved forward. Fortunately she had many interests and projects that kept her busy.
Then one day she received a phone call. A man asked her if she was the widow of Billy E. Garrett. She said she was. He identified himself as Lt. Col. Bill Sheaves Ret., one of Dad’s crew members on the Tar Fly, the B-17 he flew on in World War II.
Lt. Col. Sheaves explained that there was a model of the Tar Fly in a museum at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Lt. Col. Sheaves invited us to join him for lunch and then he would give us a tour of the museum. He also mentioned a video that he wanted to share with us.
We were thrilled to meet with Lt. Col. Sheaves. He shared stories and information about the missions of the Tar Fly and the story of the last flight of the Tar Fly. The museum was fascinating.
There were displays that depicted a typical day in a prisoner of war camp. I learned things that day my Dad had never mentioned. My sense of Dad’s heroism grew.
Finally, we were invited into a video viewing room. There we were treated to the best part of an already exceptional day. We watched a video called The Last Flight of the Tar Fly. It told the story of that day in September 9, 1943 when German fighter planes shot down the Tar Fly. It indeed showed the actual videos of that aerial warfare and then the video of the crew of the Tar Fly being marched through a French street.
When we were finished watching the video a question occurred to me. Did they make these videos for every family of POW’s? When I asked my question I was told that no; that was not the case. In fact, this video was unique.
We left with DVD copies of The Last Flight of the Tar Fly for each member of the family and a heightened sense of the sacrifice that men and women make for our country.
The story of the Tar Fly is the story of many who have served. May it be a tribute to everyone who has given their all or has been willing to. God bless you.
Here is the link to The Last Flight of the Tar Fly.