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340th FTG, 39th FTS honor remaining 57th BW WWII vets

  • Published
  • By Jet Fabara
  • 340th Flying Training Group Public Affairs

Air Force Heritage is often kept alive and well through the sharing of experiences handed down from one generation to another.

Team members from the 340th Flying Training Group and 39th Flying Training Squadron, along with the Commemorative Air Force and B-25 History Project, recently had the opportunity to honor their heritage by recognizing four of the remaining World War II veterans from the 57th Bomb Wing Association during their final reunion in Kansas City, Missouri, held Sep. 28 to Oct. 2, 2023.

“It was an honor to have heard their stories and the tremendous sacrifices they endured to protect this great nation,” said Chief Master Sgt. Warisar Villarreal, 340th FTG senior enlisted leader. “They are true heroes.”

The four WWII veterans honored were Dick Reed, with the 340th Bombardment Group, 486th Bombardment Squadron; Bob Stangier, with the 380th Bombardment Group, 381st Bombardment Squadron; Charles Wagamon, with the 340th BG, 486th BS; and Paul Young, with the 321st Bombardment Group, 445th Bombardment Squadron.

“Events like this allows us to connect the new 340th [members] with the old 340th [members] and tell them thank you for what they went through,” said Col. Kyle Goldstein, 340th FTG commander. “Most of the veterans’ kids are [also] here, and the passion they have for telling their parent’s story is really refreshing.”

Part of the reunion’s activities also involved getting an up-close and personal tour of the historic B-25J Mitchell, known as “Miss Mitchell,” which was flown in by Maj. Matt Quy, 39th FTS instructor pilot who is also a member of the CAF.

“This weekend we're commemorating the 57th Bomb Wing and their final reunion. We only have a couple of veterans that are still with us, but a lot of their kids are out here to honor their legacy and we were brought in to represent the rest of the B-25s in their group,” Quy said. “This is probably one of the most fun events for us to do because we get to actually meet with veterans and their families, [since] our mission with the Commemorative Air Force is to honor veterans and remember their legacy.”

The day’s events concluded with a presentation from the B-25 History Project, but not before 340th FTG command team could present each veteran with a certificate of appreciation along with the 340th FTG’s newest “Avengers” patch and shirt, which was flown over Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, to honor their service. The “Avengers” patch was created and adopted as the unit’s morale patch to honor the legacy and identity of the 340th BG.

“What the men did of that generation was absolutely extraordinary,” said Dan Setzer, 57th BWA historian. “We were taking individuals who were farm boys, small-town shopkeepers, school kids, and training them to be pilots, [in] what was, at the time, one of the most sophisticated aircraft in operation, and most of these guys had never even been in an airplane before. This is extraordinary.”