Lawton, Okla._A former Fort Sill commander finally got to follow in his father's footsteps after decades of waiting.
Retired Major General Toney Stricklin's father was a B-17 bomber pilot in World War II – and Stricklin got a chance to ride in one himself -- as part of the Wings of Freedom Nationwide Tour at the Lawton-Fort Sill Airport. He even donned his father's pilot hat as he loaded the plane.
Flying was actually his dream -- but that dream was shattered after years of anticipation -- all because Stricklin couldn't pass a color vision test. So, it didn't come true right then, but his dream *did* come true Thursday -- just a bit different then was originally planned.
He'd never seen the aircraft in person, but he'd heard the stories countless times -- from his dad -- his very own World War II hero.
Stricklin said, "This really sort of epitomizes our relationship."
For Stricklin, seeing the plane for the first time was very emotional.
"I saw its tail and I thought there's the plane my dad talked so much about for so many years."
Talks that he and his brother and his now 90 year old mother, Emma Lou, loved to hear. And that's why she wouldn't have missed Thursday's event, for anything in the world.
"I loved every minute, every minute. I did," Emma Lou said.
Before the plane took off Emma Lou gave her son his father's hat and wings, both of which made an already unbelievable experience even better.
And as the plane took off with her son inside, she watched, holding a picture of and remembering *her* beloved World War II pilot.
Emma said, "I am so proud of my husband and my son."
30 minutes later, the plane landed and Stricklin was all smiles as he climbed out.
"Woohooa! That was great! Absolutely fantastic it exceeded all expectations," he exclaimed!
The only problem, he said it didn't last long enough. He wanted more time to connect with his dad.
"I got a good perspective of what he did that had been with me all of my life... Yea... Outstanding."
A perspective he told his wife was more of an understanding of his father's bravery and commitment to our country.
And while his father didn't get to ride with him in person Thursday, Stricklin says he knows he was there in spirit.
"I talked to my dad up there... He's, he's fine."
Stricklin says if it wasn't for his wife Jennifer, this wouldn't have happened. So he wanted to tell her thank you, from the bottom of his heart, for making his dream a reality.
If you want the same opportunity, the Wings of Freedom Tour will remain here at the Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport through Friday.
For more information, log on to www.collingsfoundation.org.
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