Les P., 94, from Brookdale Freedom Plaza in Peoria, Arizona, voluntarily joined the Marine Corps to become a fighter pilot after building B-25s in a factory during the start of WWII. After joining in 1942, Les worked on an aircraft carrier at Cherry Point, North Carolina. When the war ended, he continued to participate in the military by joining the reserves. Soon after, Les was drafted back into active duty for the Korean War. He was originally based on an aircraft carrier near San Diego, but was quickly sent overseas. While in Korea, he was part of an all-weather fighter crew. He ended his service as a Captain and was awarded the Air Medial and Distinguished Line Cross. Overall, Les served 6 years active duty and 11 years in the reserves. Les wished he could take a cockpit tour of an F-16 fighter jet.
Despite growing up in a small town, Les has always had big dreams. As a child, Les saw the German-built aircraft called “Graf Zeppelin” fly overhead while working on his farm. Ever since, Les knew he wanted to fly. Les made his dream come true by enlisting in the Marines and becoming a fighter pilot, and his love for flying has only increased as he ages. Brookdale Freedom Plaza is located near Luke Air Force Base, and every time Les hears and sees the planes from the base, his eyes light up and his face becomes full of excitement. Les dreams of flying in a fighter jet because it is a top-of-the-line plane.
Wish of a Lifetime, Brookdale Senior Living and Luke Air Force Base were excited to make Les’ wish a reality on March 30, 2017. Upon arrival at the base, Les was be greeted by the F-16 squadron who told Les about the history of the fighter jet. After the introduction, Les received a one-of-a-kind tour the cockpit of the F-16. Les enjoyed talking to the squadron and pilots about the new technology they use that was not available when he was a pilot. At the base, there were WWII-era fighter jets that Les posed in front of for pictures because the base had never met anyone who had actually flown those kinds of planes while in service. Les said he felt like royalty the entire day and is very grateful for the graciousness of the Luke Air Force Base. He ended the experience with the advice to always “go with your heart. I wanted to fly ever since I saw the Graf Zepplin as a little boy on a farm. And I did it!”
Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Alex Cook, U.S. Air Force