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Our thanks to everyone who turned out for Memorial Day observances, especially Sgt. Maj. Dean Reicks, featured speaker at McCook’s event.
Reicks’ words Monday drove home the message that the day honors living, breathing — mostly young — people who gave up their hopes, dreams and future for our freedom.
Riecks, a former McCook High School teacher, recalled student Randy Matheny’s quick smile, and quick answer in 2005 when Riecks asked Matheny to consider filling a Nebraska National Guard spot for deployment.
Riecks recalled Matheny’s shaking hands as he attempted to insert an IV as part of his Combat Livesaver qualifications, then overcoming that fear to perform the task flawlessly, on the first attempt.
“He did his job, he performed under pressure,” an evaluator said later. “I have no doubt he’ll perform in combat.”
Spec. Randy J. Matheny, the 20-year-old son of Jan Collins and Gary Matheny of McCook, died on Feb. 4, 2007, when an improvised explosive device detonated next to the armored security vehicle in which he served as a gunner. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.
A flyover by Griff Malleck’s World War II Navy trainer, with smoke, added impact to Monday’s ceremony.
Observant aviation fans were treated to a surprise visit by a number of World War II combat planes that stopped for fuel at McCook Ben Nelson Regional Airport, one of them, a British Spitfire, experiencing engine troubles and awaiting repairs.
Owned by the Texas Flying Legends Museum, the plans included a Mustang, Navy TBM, P-40, Grumman F4F and F4U Corsair (actually a Goodyear FG-1D for purists) as well as the Spitfire.
The sound of those vintage engines flying over McCook must have brought back memories for folks who remember the boom and bustle of our Army Air Base days.
Warbirds and other unusual aircraft are not an unusual sight in local skies, our airport a convenient stopping spot on long-distance flights, a spot where they can refuel without fuss and get on their way to airshows or events like the annual Experimental Aircraft Association convention in Oshkosh, Wis.
It’s fun to see and touch warbirds like those appearing in McCook over the weekend, the tank in Barnett Park, vintage firearms and the like, but we do well to remember they were simply tools used by brave military personnel to do a difficult, dangerous, often thankless job.
They should remind us for the other 364 days of the year to be thankful for those who performed under pressure and did their job, even when it cost them their future.