Dom Errichiello gets emotional when he thinks about what he saw during World War II.
Now 91 years old, Erriciello was in the third assault wave landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day. He hid under a pile of his dead comrades’ bodies to stay alive.
He was at the Battle of the Bulge, too. He was captured by the Germans along with eight other soldiers. They decided to escape by running in different directions. Erriciello and one other man were the only survivors.
“I’ll never forget that,” he said. “I don’t remember all my kids’ birthdays, or my grandkids’, but I remember those days. It was gruesome.”
However, Errichiello never flew an airplane until recently when several veterans from the Windsor Park retirement community in Carol Stream got the opportunity to fly in the front seat of a two-person, 1941 Stearman biplane.
The event was arranged by Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, a group from Nevada that has taken veterans on nearly 2,000 “dream flights” in planes that were used to train pilots in WWII.
Volunteer David Freeze said, “One of our favorite sayings is, ‘We’re only paid in satisfaction, but we’re overpaid.’ We provide an opportunity for one more round of dreams, and it costs nothing. When this plane shows up, not a dime changes hands and these flights would be very expensive otherwise.”
Some veterans are nervous when they first see the plane with its open cockpit. But their mood changes during the flight.
“They’re suddenly 20 years younger. They have more energy. They can’t wait to get off the plane and tell other people about it.”
84-year-old Ray Smith said he was excited to take his flight, but he seemed nervous as he was buckled into his seat. Volunteer pilot Tim Newton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who flew combat missions in Iraq and Bosnia, was his pilot, Daily Herald reported.
When they landed after their 15-minute flight, Smith was all smiles.