"Del" Baker, Jr.
Special To The Dispatch
CITY – I was beyond thrilled and both honored and humbled to be selected as
this year’s 2010 Ocean City’s Hometown Hero and to represent this great city
during the Air Show this past weekend.
With this "temporary title" came the privilege of flying with the
United States Air Force Thunderbirds. As I told my wife and kids, "this is
an opportunity that is beyond imagination … and even beyond making it onto
anyone’s ‘bucket list’."
My day with the United States Air Force "Best of the Best" began last
Friday morning at 11 a.m. Once I was welcomed at Wallops Island, I was swept
away to the hanger where I met T Sgt. Russ Martin, USAF Thunderbirds. As the
Chief of Media Relations, Martin briefed me on the events of the day.
I then met with the Flight Surgeon Captain Thomas Bowden. It was then that I
received my flight equipment training and was fitted for my flight suit. After
a brief physical, I was given clearance to fly.
Captain Kristin "Mother" Hubbard was the next Thunderbird I had the
honor to meet. Captain Hubbard would be my pilot for the day. Hubbard is an
Advanced Pilot and has logged over 1,000 hours of flight time in the F-16.
We took off at 2:05 p.m. from Wallops. My flight was incredible. We were in the
air 45 minutes, flying maneuvers over Ocean City, the Eastern Shore of
Virginia, and the Cheasapeake Bay. It is impossible to put into words my
feelings and emotions during those 45 minutes.
Once we landed and exited the F-16, the entire squadron of Thunderbirds
convened around myself and Hubbard. I was presented with a signed and framed
photograph of the 2010 Thunderbird Fleet flying over Wrigley Field, a
certificate, and a pin that is only given to those who accomplish "pulling
9 G’s" in a military aircraft.
As my day came to an end, I felt as if I had made new friends for life. This
group of young men and women who serve in the United States Air Force are
indeed a special group of people. They are to be commended. Not only did they
show me the utmost respect and courtesy, but they showed me perhaps the
absolute best time of my 49 years on this earth.
My sincere thanks to the Town of Ocean City, Chief Chuck Barton, OCFD, John
"Sully" Sullivan, the Hometown Hero Selection Committee, and, of
course, the US Air Force Thunderbirds for this opportunity.
To next year’s recipient of the "Hometown Hero" title,
congratulations in advance. You, too, will have an experience that will never
be forgotten. God Bless.
(The writer is an Ocean City Fire Department firefighter/paramedic.)