Warbirds at Lackland Air Force Base

This piece is about magnificient war-fighting planes aka…WAR BIRDS…and the men and women who put themselves in the pilot’s seats and crews to unleash their wrath on our Nation’s enemies from past wars and conflicts.  


When we were parked at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas this past February, we caught up with our RV besties, Tim and Emily from OwnLessDoMore for a couple weeks.  While there, Emily and I took a power walk over to the War Birds Park so she could show me some ‘awesome airplanes’.  She appreciated how much we enjoyed military history so she thought this was just perfect for us to experience.  After they “Timily” (Tim & Emily) set out on the road again, we frequented the park on our walks to score some photos.   


The park’s concrete walkway circled around the ceremonial parade field.  On the outer parameter of the parade field is an amazing collection of ‘War Birds’ of past wars and conflicts.  Nicely manicured landscaping allows visitors an up-close-and-personal look at these incredible aircraft that credits our Air Force’s fighting success.  You can touch the planes and feel their once, vibrant spirit.
Nice to look at, cool to touch but please don’t climb.
This is an ‘outdoor museum’
Chief Master SGT William Petrie


Assembled between various War Birds were ‘…an enlisted story’ plaquards of notable Enlisted Airmen of the Air Force.  Since Lackland AFB is home to the Air Force’s Basic Military Training facility, it’s fitting to have these as inspiration and historical notables of the service’s enlisted heroes to teach our newest generations. We were privileged to attend an Air Force BMT Graduation and wrote a previous blog about our experience; Off We Go into the Wild Blue Wonder. This is just one of the many ‘an enlisted story’ plaques.



One of my favorites was the SR-71 Blackbird!  Like all of the aircraft exhibits, it was cool that we could actually touch and look completely around the Blackbird’s fuselage.  This is one of those, ‘you gotta see it to believe it’. The SR-71 first flew in December 1964; we were only about two years old back then.  It was retired by NASA in 1999.  For over 30 years, this spy plane flew over Mach 3 speeds and was the fastest plane which could outfly any missle.  This bird ranged 3682 miles without fueling.  To put that into perspective, its 2572 miles from New York City to San Francisco.  

The Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird”
The information below is from http://www.sr-71.org/  
Click the link for more information on the Blackbird.
SR-71 Specifications
Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Length: 107′ 5″
Length of Nose Probe: 4′ 11″
Wing Span: 55′ 7″
Wing Area: 1,795 ft. sq.
Wing Aspect Ratio: 1.939
Wing Root Chord: 60.533
Wing Dihedral Angle: 0 degrees
Wing Chord: 0.00
Wing Sweep: 52.629 degrees
Inboard Elevon Area: 39.00 ft. sq.
Outboard Elevon Area: 52.50 ft. sq.
Total Vertical Rudder Area: 150.76 ft. sq.
Moveable Rudder Area: 70.24 ft. sq.
Rudder Root Chord: 14.803 ft.
Rudder Tip Chord: 7.833 ft.
Height: 18′ 6″
Empty Weight: 59,000 lbs.
Maximum Weight: 170,000 lbs.
Fuselage Diameter: 5.33 ft.
Service Ceiling: 85,000’+
Maximum Speed: Mach 3.3+ (Limit CIT of 427 degrees C)
Cruising Speed: Mach 3.2
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whittney J-58 (JT11D-20A) with 34,000 lbs. of thrust.
Range: 3,200 nautical miles (without refueling)
Some photos of some other aircraft…
Each of the aircraft were provided with a plaquard describing their historic use:
One of the most notable and heartstring-pulling exhibits is the Medal of Honor Memorial that lists all the Air Force Medal of Honor Recipients:
Let’s not forget highlighting the nostalgic ‘Nose Art’.  Military Aircraft Nose Art began for practical reasons of identifying friendly units. What started as simple creativity evolved to express the individuality often constrained by the uniformity of the military, to evoke memories of home and peacetime life, and as a kind of psychological protection against the stresses of war and the probability of death.  It was a morale keeper for the Troops.

On the opposite side of the ceremonial parade grounds visitors viewing area (bleachers) is the Air Force Military Training Instructors (MTI’s) Building:

More War Birds:

Dan reading an ‘…an enlisted story’ pertaining to this Warbird


At the opposite end of the parade field and on the War Bird Park is a newer memorial (2009) dedicated to our Nation’s Military Working K-9’s.  While we have visited many military memorials nationwide, including several in Washington D.C., this one truly moved us emotionally.  Perhaps it’s our love for animals but mostly it’s because of our appreciation of these ‘war dogs’ that were stationed with our son’s Cavalry units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since we connected on a personal level, seeing this memorial put lumps in our throat, tears in our eyes and exceptional love in our hearts for our military working dogs.  

The Military Dog Handler’s helmet 
was filled with coin donations from visitors
The back of the memorial wall
is a beautifully etched mural of military working dogs 

from all five branches of the military




These are just a few of the many photos I took when there were very few visitors. The collection is much more extensive with other War Birds that you’ll just have to come see for yourself.  If you’re a military historian or military history enthusiast, we highly recommend visiting this fabulous display of military aircraft.  What an amazing place to not only take in the history of our Air Force but also to enjoy a good walking workout.


If you can, include a Friday so you can witness another 700+ men and women marching into their new rolls as United States Air Force Airmen.  You can read about our experience ‘Off We Went into the Wild Blue Wonder’.





Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder…

Since hitting the road two and a half years ago with our 5th wheel RV, we’ve
visited and/or stayed at several campgrounds on military facilities aka known as ‘FamCamps’.  Our percentage of staying at FamCamps vs. other parks/resorts is about 65%.  They are an approach to help reduce the cost of vacations, weekend excursions, PCS moves, TDY and leave travel by offering military families and retirees the use of military facilities.  Though ‘FamCamp’ is technically an Air Force term, we (Liberty Crew) apply it to all military campgrounds.  We are extremely grateful that we have this privilege as it allows us a base security, enables continued military comraderie, usage of other facilities (ie. commissary, PX/BX, medical facilities, etc.).  



When we are parked at them, we have been opportuned to see some beautiful memorials, an  invitation to a military ball, and attended a ceremony or two.  Recently, we added attending an Air Force Basic Military Training Graduation at Lackland AFB in San Antonio,
Texas.  Even though we are retired military, we’ve not forgotten where we came from.  We still feel compelled to continue our duties of patriotism, honor and extending
appreciation to our new(est) generations who now stand on that wall of freedom who protect our
Nation. 

Since Liberty was moored at Lackland AFB FamCamp,
we learned when the Air Force ‘boot camp’ graduations were and promised ourselves to attend one before leaving San Antonio.  The graduation ceremony was within walking distance from the FamCamp so that made it even better.  
The event was/is held outdoors at the War Birds
Park and Parade Grounds which in itself, has an amazing display of Air Force “War Bird” aircraft that helped our Country defense 
(future blog post…stay tuned!).

If you’ve never attended a military event, we encourage you to go; whether it’s a graduation, deployment ceremony
or homecoming…GO!  In our opinion, there is no greater display of patriotism than
honoring those who give their selfless
service to our great Country.  Afterall, if it weren’t for them, our Country wouldn’t be.  

At such events, you’ll be seated amongst other military Servicemembers, military spouses, children, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers and
extended families of our Heroes.  We give
as much respect to them as we do to our military men and women because, through our own experiences, their dedication, devotion to duty and success is much owed by the support from back home.  

The Families:

The Friday I went, I walked over with my DSLR camera and sat on the top bleacher seat between two families; “Luis’s Family” (from Southern California) and “Austin’s
Family” (from Wyoming).  It was a coincidence that both of these new Airmen were flag bearers for two state flags which made it easy for me to look for Luis and Austin.  As I sat with the families, I WANTED to
learn a little about them prior to the ceremony beginning.  I shared with them that I was in their same shoes 14 years ago when our own son graduated from his Army Basic Combat Training at
Fort Knox and I appreciated how special this was as a mother and as a military Veteran.  Luis’s mother told me that Luis was her 4th
child to enlist…WOW!  FOUR children who are serving our Country at the same time in the same service! 

Alex in the center of the photo
poised and proud of her Airman
I also chatted with Austin’s mother and his young bride,
Alex.  As I watched Alex took me back to my
young military wife days of excitement and pride.  I promised them that I would take lots of
photos of the ceremony so they could  enjoy it instead of snapping
photos.  Theyve given me permission to 
share some of them.  

We were amongst 700+ other families of many different backgrounds who came to see their Airman muster on the field, “Pass in Review” marching the
field and Airmen’s Enlisted Heroes Walk to reaffirm their Oath of Enlistment.

The Ceremony:

Posting the Colors
Marching in the National Ensigns and State Flags
Alex and Luis are in there somewhere

The Band led the parade

One of the companies passing in review

One of the MANY companies passing in review

Look for Alex with the Wyoming flag and Luis with the Arizona flag!
The March:

The field was huge; larger than a football field that’s parametered by a paved sidewalk with the War Birds historical aircraft positioned around the parade field.  

Where the first set of bleachers were located, their ‘march’ begins on the Enlisted Heroes Memorial; a symbolic 32’ x 32’ walk that is comprised of 1024 inlaid tan bricks.  To date, approximately 175 of those bricks are etched with the Heroes names at the beginning of the bomb run with their rank, decoration and war participated.  These heroes earned the Medal of Honor, Air Force Cross or Silver Star.  You could feel their story as you read each Hero’s name.

Every graduate marches over these bricks to remind them of the journey they are about to embark on as new Airman of the United States Air Force and to reflect on the significance of their enlisted heritage; realizing there are heroes amongst them as well as heroes past. 



After the ceremony:
Its celebration time!  
Mass exodus of families from the bleachers.
The new Airmen must stand in formation to wait for their
families to come for them.

It was an incredible honor to meet Luis and Austin.  Both were very young; I’m guessing right out
of high school or early college.  As
expected, both were quite handsome in their Air Force blues, extremely
professional with their military bearing was exemplary.  

Luis in the middle with his family
As I took Luis’s photo with
his family; he was quite apprehensive of hugging and kissing his mom because of military protocol  of ‘No PDA’
(public display of affection) however, I affirmed it was
okay to hug and kiss his mom; especially for pictures.  He looked a bit relieved.  After leaving his
family, he loosened up a bit and I even got a hug from Luis and a thank you for photographing this important event.


Luis’s proud Mom and Dad
I noticed he let out a little grin as his Mom kissed his cheek.

I caught up with Austin’s family before everyone dispersed.  Austin and his wife, Alex, grabbed a few moments a short distance from their family to pose for a photo
or two of them together.  They were so
grateful.  I hurriedly snapped their
photos and hugged them as I left; not wanting to take anymore of their precious reunion
moments away from them…I ‘understand’ having been a military wife for over 30
years myself of those priceless private moments.  

A bittersweet reunion


Alex with her Airman, Austin

A congratulatory kiss from Austin’s wife and his Mom
Austin’s family

These are just a few of the many photos I took that wonderful day.  It was an honor to share these moments with two amazing families who have embarked on their own journey; one of…duty, committment, honor and service. 


If you’re in the San Antonio area, include a Friday in your visit so you can witness another 700+ men and women march into their new rolls as United States Air Force Airmen and perhaps you’ll meet some our Nation’s next great generation.


If you are reading this Austin and Luis, blessed thoughts to you both in your futures as Airmen.  Dan and I wish you success and pray for your safety in all you and journeys you embark on.  Semper Paratus!


Blogger’s Note:  When I post ‘Airman’ or ‘Airmen’, I did not purposely disqualify or exclude women.  As a woman Veteran myself, changing labels or titles for the sake of gender, in my opinion, does nothing but create division and lessens cohesiveness.  

Motorcycle Ride to Bishop Castle – Colorado

Back in 2016, while we were parked at the Air Force Academy, Dan was called out for a family emergency in Pennsylvania. Our campground neighbors made certain I didn’t have to be alone the whole time.  It was then that I met another motorcycle riding couple, Vicki and Rex in the sight behind ours.

During a morning coffee conversation, Vicki asked if I knew of any good roads or day-rides (they had a trike).  I had told them about a cool trip to Bishop Castle, a hand-built medieval castle in Wetmore, Colorado that our son took us to see years prior. I told her the route to get there was outstanding, especially riding motorcycles.

Austin heard me talking about it and googled it on his phone as I described it.   We all then made plans to ride out the following day with Austin riding on the back of her trike as her navigator.

Getting there…

The next morning, we coffee-d up, ate breakfast and rode out. The ride out was gorgeous as was the day!  Surprisingly, not much traffic for being a weekend.  Getting there was simple.

We rode out the gate of the Air Force Academy south on I-25 to CO 115 to Florence, onto CO 67, turning right on Hwy 96 in Wetmore.  We saw signs directing us to the castle; turning left onto CO 165.  It was about a 90 minute ride out to Bishop Castle.

 

Once we got there, the site was a little busy but nothing to be worried about when it came to capturing some good photos.

Admission was free, although donations were greatly appreciated.  There was also a gift shop that helped finance Mr. Bishop’s ongoing build.  It’s open most of the time.

About Bishop Castle…

There is nothing architecturally ‘perfect’ about the castle. Its completely constructed by the hands of Mr. Bishop.  I’m willing to bet there were no official blueprints.  If you’re into the whole Harry Potter thing, this is the place for you!  The stonework, iron work and blacksmithing was done all onsite; there is even a room where all of his tools and shop are on the ground level.


Every year since 1969, Bishop has single-handedly gathered and set over 1000 tons of rock to create this stone and iron fortress in the middle of nowhere. Bishop called it “a monument to hardworking people” and “America’s biggest, one-man, physical project. I always wanted a castle. Every man wants a castle,” Bishop said.

It hasn’t been easy for his masterpiece build. For most of those 40 years Bishop was engaged in a running battle with Washington bureaucrats over the rocks that he used, which came from the San Isabel National Forest that surrounds the castle property. Bishop felt that they were his for the taking, the government wanted to charge him per truckload.
Another bone of contention that stuck in Bishop’s craw belonged to the Colorado state Chamber of Commerce, which refused to list Bishop Castle as an attraction in its official tourism guides.”
These individual panes below were handcrafted as memorials and wedding memories for friends and family
This cool dragon’s head breathes fire from the fireplace; blowing smoke from his mouth outside.

 

This was looking up from the main entertainment room. The ceiling was glass with fancy scroll metal work.
Visitors could climb all the way to the top, winding through interior stone stairs and hand-forged iron and steel grid exterior walkways around the top.  I had climbed it before years prior, so I stayed below in the main room to wait for them and take photos. Vicki made it about a third of the way up however, came down after feeling a little uneasy about going all the way up. On the other hand, Austin was investigating every inch and climbing everything that could.
Austin, Vicki and I posing for a picture for a great memory of newfound friends!
After Austin climbed every inch of stone and metal, we had to get back back to the Academy as he had a curfew. As beautiful as our ride was getting there, it was even better coming home as we were able to ride with the beautiful Colorado sunset to our backs.
So, if you’re in the Colorado Springs or Pueblo, Colorado area, definitely put this on your list of places to visit in Colorado regardless of your ride…or drive!
To read about the story behind Bishop’s Castle, click on the link.

Other places we visited while in Colorado…

A Ride Up To Cripple Creek, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado