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March 2014 Heroes of the Month: Jim Sizemore & Howard Andre of the USAF – and the Warrior Flight Team and Warrior Aviation

This month’s heroes were belatedly discovered when a friend sent me the video below about their burial last September at Arlington.

The tragedy of war indeed has a long reach. Both of these warriors were lost flying their Douglas A/B-26 over the Plain of Jars in Laos on July 8. 1969. In 2012, their remains were discovered by a dedicated DPMO team and last year were positively identified.

Jim Sizemore was born in San Diego. Howard Andre in Memphis, Tennessee. They first met at Georgia Tech before enlisting in the USAF. They were laid to rest the way they flew: side by side.

When it was time to bury these men and honor their sacrifice  our government declined to provide the customary fly-over because of budgetary “Sequestration” despite the decades of anguish to their families and the extraordinary circumstances of their burial together at Arlington.

Therein lies the second part of this story and our second group of heroes: Warrior Flight Team, along with their affiliate, Warrior Aviation, answered the call. They committed to perform the flyover at their own expense, using their own vintage warbirds, including an A/B-26 similar to the one flown by Sizemore and Howard. The honor flight itself was a challenge to orchestrate because of the waivers and clearances that had to be obtained from the FAA, Department of Homeland Security, and the Secret Service in order  to fly over the Capital and nearby Arlington.

Please watch the video below and give thanks. We are indeed the land of the free because we are the home of the brave.

Two footnotes:  Michael W. Michelsen Jr. posted a note on the Washington Post memorial that his dad was scheduled to fly with Jim Sizemore that fateful day but was scrubbed due to illness and Howard Andre took his place. He wrote, “My father never got over the fact that he lived and someone else didn’t. May God bless these special heroes. Welcome home.” There are so many similar stories of fate and circumstance in any war, and Michael’s note reminds us that even those who survived in combat had to cope forever with painful guilt over the loss of their buddies.

My personal testimonial is that while serving on Capital Hill in 1970 and 1971 as an intern for Congressman Bob Wilson (R-SD), then Ranking Minority Member of the House Armed Services Committee, one of my assignments was to drive MIA/POW families to the State Department and the Pentagon to seek information about their loved ones. I will never forget the anguish these parents and young military wives lived through. Most of the wives had little babies and were at most a few years older than I was at the time.

God bless the parents, wives and children of Jim Sizemore and Howard Andre , Jr., who are every bit as much deserving of our gratitude and respect. They, too, made the ultimate sacrifice.

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