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We will never forget

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We Shall Never Forget
September 11th, 2001

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CMSgt. John Gebhardt, Iraq. Submitted by Russ Kendall, 7514th CSG, 66 TRW, 20th AGS, 20th EMS and 20th TFW/MA. A Star in Iraq
Got a tough, but heartwarming story and a picture of John Gebhardt in Iraq. Anyway, his wife Mindy related that this little girl's entire family was executed. They intended to execute her also and shot her in the head but they failed to kill her. She was cared for by John's hospital and healing up, but has been crying and moaning. The nurses said John is the only one she seems to calm down with, so John has spent the last four nights holding her while they both sleep in that chair. The girl is coming along with her healing. John comes home in early October. He is a real Star of the war and is representative of what America is trying to do.

Submitted by Russ Kendall, 7514th CSG, 66 TRW, 20th AGS, 20th EMS and 20th TFW/MA, CMSgt, USAF (Ret.)

From a former airline pilot about the movie "UAL Flight 93" and his own, personal experience on September 11th, 2001.

Guys,

Susie and I just got back from seeing "UAL Flight 93", it was absolutely gripping, and as a former airline pilot who was flying a trip that morning on a Boeing 767 from Cincinnati to Orlando it was almost too horrific to watch...it was very disturbing! For you pilot types, the attention to detail, the cockpit, the preflight, the crew, pilots and flight attendants boarding the aircraft and making small talk was or so real and routine...just another day in the office! Likewise the views from central flow control, NY and Boston ARTCC and the NORAD command center were very realistic.  Should anyone have any doubts about our response, or lack of that morning you need to view this movie.  Watching all the various controllers and their supervisors trying to get their arms around the problem and to come to grips and connect the dots is so very real. The movie appears to almost happen in real time and you can really sense the problem that the commanders had in thinking outsid e the box and realizing that we were really at war. Fighters are scrambled, late, and in the wrong direction, as threats are suppose to come from over the water to the east not from over land to the west; the planes are not armed, can they ram, and who has the authority to give that command... the command is given but not relayed to the pilots.  The lack of communications, or rather the disbelief and lack of coordination is stunning but easy to understand.  Even the pilots of UAL Flt 93 are given a data link message that the Towers have been hit and to beware of cockpit intruders...they brush it off in disbelief... as I'm sure any pilot would have prior to that date.  The time line given at the end of the movie and the confusion over what planes were involved, and which flights were being hijacked is very revealing... we just couldn't get it together quickly enough. As pilots and crew members we had never been trained to deal with suicidal hijackers who were prepared to die, it was simply inconceivable at the time. A key point, though not belabored, was when the supervisor of the FAA Central Flow Control ordered that all aircraft in US airspace land immediately, (there were over 4200 in the air), that no planes from overseas would be allowed into the country and would be turned back, and that there were to be no over flights... he realized that we were at war but didn't know with whom... it was a very bold and brave move and he was thinking way outside the box... I believe that it was also his first day on the job as the boss!

All Americans should see this movie as it may help them get a grip on the terrorist threat that we are up against vs. the radical Muslim world. I don't know if we belong in Iraq or how we should deal with Iran or North Korea or the Sudan, but I know that there is a real threat to our way of life from the radical Islamic fundamentalists.  I continually hear that this is not a true reflection of the Koran or true Islamic beliefs. Well that may be true, and it might not be, but there would appear to be plenty of Muslims in the world that have an entirely different and radical interpretation of the Koran which we cannot ignore.

What was probably as disturbing as watching an airline crew, that could have been me or any of my friends, seeing their world and their life taken away, was the hijackers preparing to die, washing themselves and praying to their god as if they were doing his will. They looked like ordinary young men, and to think that they could sit next to all these people on that plane that they were going to kill, who had nothing against them or done nothing to them, was beyond words. I guess if nothing else it gives you insight into the minds of suicide bombers, which to our Western way of thought is beyond comprehension.  This movie will make you angry, very angry.

My experience on 9/11. We were just ready to close the door for our Delta 767 flight from CVG to MCO when the gate agent came on board and asked if we had heard anything about a small plane hitting the World Trade Center, we had not, so she said goodbye and closed the door.  Shortly thereafter we were airborne climbing out on a beautifully clear crisp fall morning heading to Florida with not a cloud in the sky or a care in the world. I heard a bizjet ask for a reroute since he could not get to New York and I thought that was strange.  Then another bizjet said "well I guess we won't be going there either" and asked for a clearance to an alternate.. At that point I asked center what was going on.  There was a pause and then the controller came back in a very excited voice and said "they have hit both of the Trade Center Towers, they have hit the Pentagon, they have hit the Capitol and the White House"... well you can imagine it got really lively on the frequency. I turned to my Co-Pilot and said  "I don't know what has happened, but I do know that things will never be the same", and I think I got that right! Within seconds the controller had composed himself and said all flights on this frequency standby, and it was dead quiet. He then said all flights are to land immediately and went down the list of the planes under his control..."American 235 turn right heading 230 you're landing at Pittsburgh, Continental 456 turn left heading 180 for Cincinnati, Delta 235 (that's me) turn right to 250 and descend to 8000, you're landing at Knoxville, airport your 2 o'clock 40 miles....etc"

It was the best, fastest and most efficient handling I have ever had from ATC... they had everyone on the ground all over the country in minimum time.  After all the initial confusion, their professionalism, and that of all the flight crews was exemplary!  We spent two days in Knoxville and then ferried an empty 757 back to Atlanta and I believe were one o f the first flights to land back at our main hub. Our arrival at ATL was one of the most moving experiences of my flying career.  The airspace was totally empty, there was no talk on the radio, and we were the only plane in the sky over ATL, the busiest airport in the U.S., but we did have, unknown to us until informed by the controller, an F-16 right on our tail, but we never saw him. When we taxied in the normally frantic ramp area was dead quiet, all the ground equipment, tugs, baggage carts, tugs, fuelers etc. were lined up in military precision and the ground crew were standing at attention and saluted... wow, I'll never forget that.  They needed a sign that things were getting back to normal... that we were moving and flying again.

Reflections. As you may know I was on a United Flight several weeks ago from Chicago to Sacramento that had a passenger who tried to open the front cabin door, allegedly claimed to have a bomb, and took a swing at the flight attendant. Well, yours truly was sound asleep in the last row of coach and missed all the action, but suffice it to say that before he got very far he was rapidly subdued by the first class section and we diverted to Denver. Unlike Flight 93 he couldn't have gotten into the cockpit as the cockpit door is now armored and no passenger is going to sit still and let anyone interfere with the flight. I always felt that with the improved cockpit door that I would be totally safe, and that all my passengers in the cabin would act as Sky Marshals... I was and they did... they remembered 9/11, lets hope that we never forget!

I would also like to mention that all the crew members on my United flight as well as all the ground rescue folks in Denver and the United station personnel did an absolutely marvelous job in handling this incident. It made me proud to have once been a part of this profession.

John

We will never forget.

Worth the wait; click the following link: http://www.gcsdistributing.com

Link submitted by John G. Hocker, Jr., 3918 Motor Vehicle Sqd, Sep 1951 - Sep 1954.

Submitted by Brian Bradley, 20th CRS MEWS, Building 299, 1988 - 1993.

Subject: FW: A Request From Baghdad
All -- Christy Ferer is a 9/11 widow who recently was a member of a group of celebrities (including Robert DeNiro and Kid Rock, among others) that took an Armed Forces Entertainment Office and USO-sponsored trip to Iraq to show support for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines still over there.

Following is an e-note she sent her escorts about the experience; in her cover note, she said she intends to submit it to the NY Times for publication. It is really powerful, and very moving, and will make you proud that you have chosen to serve your country, and proud to be an American. Enjoy...and thanks as always for all you do for America's Air Force!
Brig Gen Ron Rand
----------

When I told friends about my pilgrimage to Iraq to thank the US troop's reaction was under whelming at best. Some were blunt. "Why are YOU going there?" They could not understand why it was important for me, a 9/11 widow, to express my support for the men and women stationed today in the gulf.

But the reason seemed clear to me. 200,000 troops have been sent halfway around the world to stabilize the kind of culture that breeds terrorists like those who I believe began World War III on September 11, 2001. Reaction was so politely negative that I began to doubt my role on the first USO / Tribeca Institute tour into newly occupied Iraq where, on average, a soldier a day is killed.

Besides, with Robert De Niro, Kid Rock, Rebecca and Johns Stamos, Wayne Newton, Gary Senise Lee Ann Wolmac who needed me?

Did they really want to hear about my husband, Neil Levin, who went to work as director of New York Port Authority on Sept. 11th and never came home? How would they relate to the two other widows traveling with me? Ginny Bauer, a New Jersey homemaker and the mother of three who lost her husband, David and former marine Jon Vigiano who lost his only sons, Jon, a firefighter and Joe, a policeman.

As we were choppered over deserts that looked like bleached bread crumbs I wondered if I'd feel like a street hawker, passing out Port Authority pins and baseball caps as I said "thank you" to the troops. Would a hug from me mean anything at all in the presence of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and a Victoria Secrets model?

We arrived at the first "meet and greet" made me weep. (why?) Arrmed with m16s and saddlebags of water in 120 degree heat the soldiers swarmed over the stars for photo and autographs.

When it was announced that a trio of 9/11 family members was also in the tent it was as if a psychic cork on emotional dam was popped.

Soldiers from every corner of New York, Long Island and Queens rushed toward us to express their condolences. Some wanted to touch us, as if they needed a physical connection to our sorrow and for some living proof for why they were there. One mother of two from Montana told me she signed up because of 9/11. Dozens of others told us the same thing. One young soldier showed me his metal bracelet engraved with the name of a victim he never knew and that awful date none of us will ever forget.

In fact at every encounter with the troops there would be a surge of reservists -- firefighters and cops including many who had worked the rubble of Ground Zero, came to exchange a hometown hug. Their glassy eyes still do not allow anyone to penetrate too far inside to the place where their trauma is lodged; the trauma of a devastation far greater than anyone who hadn't been there could even imagine. It's there in me, too. I had forced my way downtown on that awful morning, convinced that I could find Neil beneath the rubble.

What I was not prepared for was to have soldiers show us the World Trade Center memorabilia they'd carried with them into the streets of Baghdad. Others had clearly been holding in stories of personal 9/11 tragedies which had made them enlist.

USO handlers moved us from one corner to the next so everyone could meet us. One fire brigade plucked the 9/11 group from the crowd, transporting us to their fire house to call on those who had to stand guard during the Baghdad concert. It was all about touching us and feeling the reason they were in this hell. Back at Saddam Hussein airport Kid Rock turned a "meet and greet " into an impromptu concert in a steamy airport hangar before 5000 troops.

Capt. Vargas from the Bronx tapped me on the back . He enlisted in the Army up after some of his wife's best friends were lost at the World Trade Center. When he glimpsed the piece of recovered metal from the Towers that I had been showing to a group of soldiers he grasped for it as if it were the Holy Grail. Then he handed it to Kid Rock who passed the precious metal through the 5000 troops in the audience. They lunged at the opportunity to touch the steel that symbolized what so many of them felt was the purpose of their mission-which puts them at risk every day in the 116 degree heat and not knowing if a sniper was going to strike at anytime.

Looking into that sea of khaki gave me chills even in that blistering heat. To me, those troops were there to avenge the murder of my husband and 3 thousand others. When I got to the microphone I told them we had not made this journey for condolences but to thank them and to tell them that the families of 9/11 think of them every day. They lifts our hearts. The crowd interrupted me with chants of " USA, USA, USA." Many wept.

What happened next left no doubt that the troops drew inspiration from our tragedies. When I was first asked to speak to thousands of troops in Quatar, after Iraq, I wondered if it would feel like a "grief for sale"spectacle.

But this time I was quaking because I was to present the recovered WTC recovered steel to General Tommy Franks. I quivered as I handed him the icy gray block of steel. His great craggy eyes welled up with tears. The sea of khaki fell silent. Then the proud four-star general was unable to hold back the tears which streamed down his face on center stage before 4,000 troops. As this mighty man turned from the spotlight to regain his composure I comforted him with a hug.

Now, when do I return?

It could have been any night of the week, as I sat in one of those loud and casual steak houses that are cropping up all over the country. You know the type- a bucket of peanuts on the table, shells littering the floor, and a bunch of perky college kids racing around with longneck beers and sizzling platters.

Taking a sip of my iced tea, I studied the crowd over the rim of my glass. I let my gaze linger on a few of the tables next to me, where several uniformed military members were enjoying their meals.

Smiling sadly, I glanced across my booth to the empty seat where my husband usually sat. Had it had only been a few weeks since we had sat at this very table talking about his upcoming deployment to the Middle East? He made me promise to come back to this restaurant once a month, sit in our booth, and treat myself to a nice dinner.

He told me that he would treasure the thought of me there eating a steak and thinking about him until he came home. I fingered the little flag pin I wear on my jacket and wondered where at that moment he was. Was he safe and warm? Was his cold any better? Were any of my letters getting to him?

As I pondered all of these things, shrill feminine voices from the next booth broke into my thoughts.

"I don't know what Bush is thinking invading Iraq. Didn't he learn anything from his father's mistakes? He is an idiot anyway, I can't believe he is even in office. You know he stole the election."

I cut into my steak and tried not to listen as they began an endless tirade of running down our president. I thought about the last night I was with my husband as he prepared to deploy. He had just returned from getting his smallpox and anthrax shots and the image of him standing in our kitchen packing his gas mask still gave me chills.

Once again their voices invaded my thoughts.

"It is all about oil, you know. Our military will go in and rape and pillage and steal all the oil they can in the name of freedom. I wonder how many innocent lives our soldiers will take without a thought? It is just pure greed."

My chest tightened and I stared at my wedding ring. I could picture how handsome my husband was in his mess dress the day he slipped it on my finger. I wondered what he was wearing at that moment. He probably had on his desert uniform, affectionately dubbed coffee stains, over the top of which he wore a heavy flack vest.

"We should just leave Iraq alone. I don't think they are hiding any weapons. I think it is all a ploy to increase the president's popularity and pad the budget of our military at the expense of social security and education. We are just asking for another 9-11 and I can't say when it happens again that we didn't deserve it."

Their words brought to mind the war protesters I had watched gathering outside our base. Did no one appreciate the sacrifice of brave men and women who leave their homes and family to ensure our freedom? I glimpsed at the tables around me and saw the faces of some of those courageous men, looking sad as they listened to the ladies talk.

"Well, I for one, think it is a travesty to invade Iraq and I am certainly sick of our tax dollars going to train the professional baby killers we call a military."

Professional baby killers? As I thought about what a wonderful father my husband is and wondered how long it would be before he was able to see his children again, indignation rose up within me. Normally reserved, pride in my husband gave me a boldness I had never known.

Tonight, one voice would cry out on behalf of the military. One shy woman would stand and let her pride in our troops be known. I made my way to their table, placed my palms flat on it and lowered myself to be eye level with them.

Smiling I said, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation. I am sitting over here trying to enjoy my dinner alone. Do you know why I am alone? Because my husband, whom I love dearly, is halfway across the world defending your right to say rotten things about him. You have the right to your opinion, and what you think is none of my business, but what you say in my hearing is, and I will not sit by and listen to you run down my country, my president, my husband, and all these other fine men and women in here who put their lives on the line to give you the freedom to complain. Freedom is expensive, ladies, don't let your actions cheapen it."

I must have been louder than I meant to be, because about that time the manager came over and asked if everything was alright.

"Yes, thank you." I replied and then turned back to the ladies, "Enjoy the rest of your meal."

To my surprise, as I sat down to finish my steak, a round of applause broke out in the restaurant. Not long after the ladies picked up their check and scurried away, the manager brought me a huge helping of apple cobbler and ice cream, compliments of the table to my left. He told me that the ladies had tried to pay for my dinner, but someone had beaten them to it. When I asked who, he said the couple had already left, but that the man had mentioned he was a WWII vet and wanted to take care of the wife of one of our boys.

I turned to thank the soldiers for the cobbler, but they wouldn't hear a word of it, retorting, "Thank you, you said what we wanted to say but weren't allowed."

As I drove home that night, for the first time in while, I didn't feel quite so alone. My heart was filled with the warmth of all the patrons who had stopped by my table to tell me they too were proud of my husband and that he would be in their prayers. I knew their flags would fly a little higher the next day. Perhaps they would look for tangible ways to show their pride in our country and our troops, and maybe, just maybe, the two ladies sitting at that table next to me would pause for a minute to appreciate all the freedom this great country offers and what it costs to maintain. As for me, I had learned that one voice can make a difference. Maybe the next time protesters gather outside the gates of the base where I live, I will proudly stand across the street with a sign of my own. A sign that says "Thank you!"

Lori Kimble is a 31-year-old teacher and proud military wife. She is a California native currently living in Alabama.

U.S. Fighting in Faluja - 4.8 meg
Tony Parsons ... Daily Mirror ... September 11, 2002
One year ago, the world witnessed a unique kind of broadcasting -- the mass murder of thousands, live on television. As a lesson in the pitiless cruelty of the human race, September 11 was up there with Pol Pot's Mountain of Skulls in Cambodia, or the skeletal bodies stacked like garbage in the Nazi concentration camps. An unspeakable act so cruel, so calculated and so utterly merciless that surely the world could agree on one thing -- nobody deserves this fate. Surely there could be consensus: The victims were truly innocent, the perpetrators truly evil. But to the world's eternal shame, 9/11 is increasingly seen as America's comeuppance.
Incredibly, anti-Americanism has increased over the last year. There has always been a simmering resentment to the USA in this country; too loud, too rich, too full of themselves, and so much happier than Europeans -- but it has become an epidemic. And it seems incredible to me. More than that, it turns my stomach. America is this country's greatest friend and our staunchest ally. We are bonded to the US by culture, language and blood. A little over half a century ago, around half a million Americans died for our freedoms, as well as their own. Have we forgotten so soon? And exactly a year ago, thousands of ordinary men, women and children -- not just Americans, but from dozens of countries -- were butchered by a small group of religious fanatics. Are we so quick to betray them? What touched the heart about those who died in the Twin Towers and on the planes, was that we recognized them.Young fathers and mothers, somebody's son and somebody's daughter, husbands, wives, and children, some unborn. And these people brought it on themselves? Their nation is to blame for their meticulously planned slaughter? These days you don't have to be some dust-encrusted nut job in Kabul or Karachi or Finsbury Park to see America as the Great Satan. The anti-American alliance is made up of self-loathing liberals who blame the Americans for every ill in the Third World, and conservatives suffering from power-envy, bitter that the world's only superpower can do what it likes without having to ask permission. The truth is that America has behaved with enormous restraint since September 11. Remember.. remember.. remember.. the gut-wrenching tapes of weeping men phoning their wives to say, "I love you," before they were burned alive. Remember those people leaping to their deaths from the top of burning skyscrapers. Remember the hundreds of firemen buried alive. Remember the smiling face of that beautiful little girl who was on one of the planes with her mum. Remember .... Remember ... And realize that America has never retaliated for 9/11 in anything like the way it could have. So a few al-Qaeda tourists got locked up without a trial in Camp X-ray? Pass the Kleenex ....So some Afghan wedding receptions were shot up after they merrily fired their semi-automatics in a sky full of American planes? A shame, but maybe next time they should stick to confetti. AMERICA could have turned a large chunk of the world into a parking lot. That it didn't is a sign of strength. American voices are already being raised against attacking Iraq -- that's what a democracy is for. How many in the Islamic world will have a minute's silence for the slaughtered innocents of 9/11? How many Islamic leaders will have the guts to say that the mass murder of 9/11 was an abomination? When the news of 9/11 broke on the West Bank, those freedom-loving Palestinians were dancing in the street. America watched all of that and didn't push the button. We should thank the stars that America is the most powerful nation in the world. I still find it incredible that 9/11 did not provoke all-out war. Not a "war on terrorism." A real war. The fundamentalist dudes are talking about "opening the gates of hell" if America attacks Iraq. Well, America could have opened the gates of hell like you wouldn't believe. The US is the most militarily powerful nation that ever strode the face of the earth.The campaign in Afghanistan may have been less than perfect and the planned war on Iraq may be misconceived. But don't blame America for not bringing peace and light to these wretched countries. How many democracies are there in the Middle East, or in the Muslim world? You can count them on the fingers of one hand -- assuming you haven't had any chopped off for minor shoplifting. I love America, yet America is hated. I guess that makes me Bush's poodle... But I would rather be a dog in New York City than a Prince in Riyadh. Above all, America is hated because it is what every country wants to be rich, free, strong, open, optimistic. Not ground down by the past, or religion, or some caste system. America is the best friend this country ever had and we should start remembering that. Or do you really think the USA is the root of all evil? Tell it to the loved ones of the men and women who leaped to their death from the burning towers. Tell it to the nursing mothers whose husbands died on one of the hijacked planes, or were ripped apart in a collapsing skyscraper. And tell it to the hundreds of young widows whose husbands worked for the New York Fire Department. To our shame, George Bush gets a worse press than Saddam Hussein. Once we were told that Saddam gassed the Kurds, tortured his own people and set up rape-camps in Kuwait. Now we are told he likes Quality Street. Save me the orange center, Oh Mighty One! Remember .... remember ... September 11. One of the greatest atrocities in human history was committed against America. No, do more than remember. Never forget.


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