Pilots from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base met with members from the Veterans of Underage Military Service during a lunch in Tucson, Ariz., Aug. 13.
VUMS is an organization consisting of individuals who served in any branch of the United States Armed Services before they were of legal age to do so.
Maj. Christopher Palmer, 357th Fighter Squadron A-10 pilot, and Capt. Patrick Burke, 55th Rescue Squadron HH-60G pilot, represented D-M to give insight on their units’ missions to the VUMS in attendance.
“I hope I was successful in sharing with them a snapshot of what the 357th FS does on a daily basis to produce combat ready A-10 pilots,” Palmer said. “As well as share with them some of my experiences in Afghanistan. That way, they can understand the mission downrange and be proud of those who are currently serving overseas much like the VUMS did in the past wars.”
The veterans exchanged stories with one another like a group of old friends who haven’t seen each other in ages.
Among them was Walter F. Ram, former prisoner of war during World War II. Ram’s aircraft was shot down by Nazi fighter planes during a bomb mission in June 1943, beginning his 19 months as a POW.
Ram entered into the U.S. Army by changing the date on his baptismal certificate, making it appear that he was old enough to serve. The more difficult task was convincing his mother to allow his enlistment.
“My mother didn’t want me to go,” Ram said. “Finally, I talked to her and promised her I’d go back to high school when I came back. When I returned, I went back to high school, went to college and got my degree.”
The lunch concluded with the exchange of phone numbers and handshakes between the veterans and D-M pilots.
Palmer was grateful for the opportunity to meet with the group of veterans.
“My goal for the visit was to pay respect to those gentlemen who so bravely enlisted at such a young age and during a turbulent time in our country’s history,” Palmer said. “These gentlemen are responsible for the freedoms we enjoy today and I hope our presence honored their service.”