- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - As he stared out the window of the WWII-era Douglas C-47 Skytrain on Monday, Melvin Breeden’s face was stoic, but his eyes were rich with memories.

Breeden, now in his 90s, had flown planes not much different than that C-47 in WWII. He had transported paratroopers and supplies, but once the war was over, he never got back in a war plane.

Until Monday, when his family picked him up at his nursing home and took him to John Bell Williams Airport, where he climbed aboard the Sky King, which was assigned to the 53rd Troop Carrier Squadron in WWII and dropped troops over Sicily, Italy, France, Holland and Germany. That particular plane is the best-documented plane from that era, as the pilot who flew it kept meticulous notes on every paratrooper carried and every mission carried out during its glory days.

“I enjoyed it,” Breeden said, when asked about his throwback flight on Monday. “I’d do it again.”

Breeden’s cousin Dan Curry tells the story of how Breeden got into the Army Air Corps as a young man. The cutoff weight was 125. Breeden came in at 123.

“They told him, ‘You need two more pounds,’ and they sent him home,” Curry said. “Later he came back to try again, but before he got there, he bought him a big bag of bananas. He ate the whole bag of bananas and filled up with water at the water fountain and he came back weighing exactly 125.”

Breeden, who got out as a captain and retired from the reserves as a lieutenant colonel, laughs when he remembers being that slight youngster.

“The reason I got in was because I was afraid I was going to be drafted and I said I’d rather be up there than down here,” he said.

On the same flight with Breeden on Monday was another young man looking for a career in the military, 16-year-old Cole Falgot, who is in JROTC and hopes for a career in the Air Force or the Marines.

Falgot said the combination of going up with Breeden, who is a relative of his, and riding on the historic plane made for an experience that was hard to describe.

“It was great, you can tell he had a lot of fun and I did too, so hopefully we can do it again,” he said. “It gives me an experience like no other knowing that these planes come from an era in life when things were hard but everyone came together and got through.”

Breeden, Curry, and Falgot were all on hand at J.B. Williams on Monday for the Free Flights for Veterans event put on by Clinton Body Shop owner, local pilot, and candidate for State Insurance Commissioner John Mosley. Mosley tries to have a flying event for veterans every Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day.

Mosley brought his other historic planes — an Air Force Beech C-45, a Navy North American T-6, and a Navion with a Marine Corps paint scheme. Scott Glover, of Texas, brought the C-47.

“We want to show the veterans we appreciate what they’ve done for our country, their service they’ve provided,” Mosley said. “It means a lot to us to do this for them and their family members, because some of these guys actually flew in these airplanes, but their families didn’t, and it gives the families a chance to experience what their loved ones experienced when they were in the military.”

It was a way of bringing back the memories, too, Mosley said. Each time they hold a similar event, there are veterans of all eras who go up in the planes, and often come down with a different look, and sometimes a tear, in their eyes.

“I just hope everyone will shake a veteran’s hand and tell them thanks for their service, because without these guys we wouldn’t be able to be out here doing this,” Mosley said.

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com

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