A Publication of Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport


December 2017


Veteran's Day Issue Eisenhower Honor

All veterans deserve our thanks. Kansas Honor Flight is a program that flies war veterans to Washington D.C., to visit war memorials, at no cost to the veteran. More than 1,500 Kansas veterans have made the trip since 2012. At Eisenhower Airport, it's always an honor and a privilege to welcome them home.

Click below to donate to help send a deserving veteran to Washington, D.C.

Kansas Honor Flight Welcomes Heros at Eisenhower Airport
WWII Iwo Jima Veteran Edwin Aley
War Heros Honored for Service Visiting Monuments
Three Time Hero Veteran Honored at Eisenhower Airport

Three-Time Hero

Edwin Aley served DURING WWII, Korea and Vietnam

Edwin Aley War Hero Makes Honor Flight at ICT

Aley drawing in an "in person" aid for use in TV briefings

Edwin Aley was a career military man, serving two years in the U.S. Marine Corps and then another 18 in the United States Air Force as a meteorologist. He'd tell you that it was an unremarkable stint. He saw no combat, only weather. When he retired from the military, he spent another 20 years teaching middle school math.

But here's the thing: Aley served from 1946 to 1948 and then again from 1951 to 1969. That put him in uniform during the World War II era, and the wars in Korea and Vietnam. There are few veterans alive today who can say that, as Aley discovered on his recent Honor Flight.

"I really felt that I did not deserve an Honor Flight until I got on it and I found out that there were people there that had been in less than a year," Aley said. "I thought, 'Oh, my goodness, I guess I do deserve it after all.' Everywhere we went people would come up and shake our hand and thank us for our service."

Aley joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1946, after combat operations in World War II had ended but occupying forces remained overseas. He returned unscathed to Topeka and attended Washburn University on the GI Bill. He enrolled in ROTC and earned a 2nd Lieutenant commission in the United States Air Force and by June 1951 was on active duty again.

They shipped him to weather school, and he would go on to log 1,100 hours in the air as a weather reconnaissance officer, most of it in the nose of a B-29 over the South Pacific. He'd watch the whitecaps to report on wind speed and direction, note the types and amounts of clouds, and drop weather instruments into the eyes of typhoons.

Back on land he served as a meteorologist and then a climatologist, his Air Force service spanning the wars in Korea and Vietnam. He retired a major in 1969.

Weather Officer War Hero Edwin Aley in Flight

B-29 reconnaissance aircraft flying into a storm

War Hero Served Navy and Air Force War Hero Served Navy and Air Force

Aley served in the wars in Korea & Vietnam, as well as serving during the World War II era

Edwin Aley Lieutenant Honored for Service

Edwin Aley as lieutenant

Military Personnel Gathered to Honor Edwin Aley and Vets

Aley with Navy officers at the World War II Memorial

Aley's rare service record made him a standout among the other veterans on his tour. He was called on to lay the wreath at the World War II Memorial and later singled out at the airport for his service and led the procession through the terminal. "Do you have any idea what was there? It was like a parade that was a quarter of a mile long," he said of the crowd, including military personnel that had gathered to give the returning veterans a hero's welcome. "They were all clapping and the soldiers were standing at attention and saluting."

Aley served during three wars and said it was the first and only time he had experienced such an honor.

"It felt really good," he said. gold star

They were all clapping and the soldiers were standing at attention and saluting. It felt really good.

Vietnam Veteral Russell Babcock Welcomed Home

A Hero's Return

Vietnam veteran Russell Babcock gets belated welcome home

Park City resident Russell Babcock's military career unfolded across three mostly peaceful decades, from 1961 to 1998. But then there was Vietnam, where he was wounded several times in battle, earning a chest full of medals including three Purple Hearts, in just a few violent months.

Babcock joined the Army ("the first one I talked to") just out of high school in 1961. "It took me one day to get in," he said.

He was a country boy from the high plains of Colorado and the Army seemed a natural fit for a young man who was handy with a rifle

He was infantry, a machine gunner, yet the Army didn't seem to know how good of a shot he was for several years. He was relegated to mostly desk duty and sign painting and such in San Antonio, Texas.

"When I walked in and they found out I was an artist, they had me do all the sign jobs," he said. "They didn't know I was any good at infantry until I got out in the field."

The Army and the enemy found out in a hurry in 1967 when he was sent to Vietnam. He arrived in September. In October, in the Ho Bo Woods, all hell broke loose.

Babcock was deported to HoBo woods in Vietnam
Babcock awarded purple heart from Vietnam War

Babcock receiving a Purple Heart

Military Hero Babcock awarded Bronze Star of Valor and Purple Heart Medals

Bronze Star of Valor & Purple Heart medals

Vietnam Veterans Story of Search and Destroy

U.S. Army soldiers on a search and destroy mission

Wichita Eisenhower Airport Salutes Service Sacrifice

Babcock returning from his Honor Flight

"October was a good month or a bad month, depending on how you want to look at it," he said. "On the 9th, I earned the Bronze Star of Valor, on the 10th I got my first Purple Heart, and on the 15th I got the Silver Star. On the 25th, I got my second Purple Heart. I went to the hospital, but I wasn't hurt too bad. Just to cool my heels for a little bit."

In November, he re-enlisted. In May of the next year, he was shot in the chest. Still, he did not go home. Two weeks in the hospital and by June he was back to the war. He didn't have to go into battle anymore, having been wounded three times, but he stayed on to train incoming soldiers on the M60 machine gun. He extended his tour in Vietnam by six months.

We didn't get recognition in our era.

He didn't return to the States until February of 1969. He didn't feel a hero's welcome until the summer of 2017 when he stepped off the returning Honor Flight at Wichita Eisenhower Airport. There, he was met by hundreds of thankful civilians and proud military personnel, saluting his service and sacrifice.

"Yeah, that was real good," he said. "We didn't get recognition in our era." white star

Being in Vietnam - Veteran Tom Fryers Story

Being There

Tom Fryer, Vietnam War veteran, takes it in

Tom Fryer, a retired United States Air Force pilot who flew missions over Vietnam, dodging enemy surface-to-air missiles that looked like deadly "flying telephone poles," has seen a thing or two. That includes Washington, D.C.

He was a guardian on an Honor Flight a few years back, escorting a 90-year-old World War II veteran, and saw the memorial sites. He took solemn notice of the "rows and rows of white crosses" at Arlington National Cemetery and was further stirred by the sight of reverent veterans there in wheelchairs in "rows five and six deep."

Retired United States Air Force Pilot Vietnam
Tom Fryer Shaking Hands with President Kennedy

Fryer shakes hands with President John F. Kennedy

Star Badge Logo

F-4C Phantom being fueled in air over Southeast Asia

He's met a few politicians. He'd shaken the hand of John F. Kennedy in 1963 after the president gave the commencement speech to his graduating Air Force Academy class. He'd even seen a traveling version of the Vietnam War Memorial at Fort Riley near his home in Manhattan, KS, several years ago and spotted a few names of USAF Academy classmates. So, yes, Fryer has seen a thing or two in Washington, D.C. But feeling honored to be there was a first.

"Words may be inadequate to describe it," he said following his Honor Flight. "You are reflecting back on your band of brothers. No matter how long you served, there was a sense of pride when you heard 'The Star-Spangled Banner' and especially when you heard 'Taps.' And we heard it a lot. That really gets to you."

Fryer flew the F-4C Phantom during the war — he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal — and notes that he was lucky. Several pilots he trained or flew with were not — two were prisoners of war for many years and another 18 were killed in action. He spent hours at the memorial, he said, and found all their names. At Arlington, he was part of the detail that laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Fryer Located Friends and Pilots Served in the Memorials

Missiles being prepared to load onto an F-4C Phantom

Band of Brothers in Vietnam War - Planes dropping bombs

Air Force aircraft drop bombs over Vietnam

No matter how long you served, there was a sense of pride when you heard 'The Star-Spangled Banner' and especially when you heard 'Taps.' And we heard it a lot. That really gets to you.

"It's one thing to read about it or to see it on TV," he said. "It's another thing actually being there. All of this would not have been possible if it were not for all the volunteers from Kansas Honor Flight and their leaders Mike and Connie VanCampen."

He shared the experience with his son, who accompanied him on the trip. And he was so moved by the welcome home he received at Eisenhower Airport, he came back a week later with his wife when another Honor Flight returned. This time, to welcome home other heroes.

"It meant so much to me," he said. "I wanted her to experience the atmosphere, the passion, the excitement of what it was really like to be there." Blue Star

War Hero Salutes United States Air Force Memorial

Fryer saluting at the United States Air Force Memorial

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Editor Valerie Wise, Wichita Airport Authority
Creative Agency Greteman Group
Creative Director Sonia Greteman
Art Director Meghan Smith
Contributing Writer Barry Owens
Photography Kansas Honor Flights, National Archives, U.S. Air Force,
Peter McDonald, Edwin Aley, Manh Hai,
Russell Babcock, U.S. Army, Tom Fryer

Eisenhower Honor is a special edition of Eisenhower Air and is published by the Wichita Airport Authority. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please direct them to Valerie Wise at vwise@wichita.gov. We also encourage you to share articles through social media and email. Help us spread the word about the good things happening at our airport.

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