Tags: punta gorda | air | show

Punta Gorda Air Show Draws Over 100K for Veterans-Themed Event

Monday, 31 Mar 2014 09:09 AM

By Nick Sanchez

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About 60,000 people showed up each day at the 34th Annual Florida International Airshow in Punta Gorda this past weekend, following last year's disappointing cancellation. 

Fighter jets and vintage planes dating back to 1918 were on display to the delight of many, NBC reported.

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For many, however, the real stars of the show were the veterans who were in attendance for this year's theme, "A Salute to Veterans." Veterans in attendance included Ret. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Cole, 99, and Ret. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Borling, 73.

In World War II, the 26-year-old Cole flew more than 500 hours inside a B-25 bomber. Though he wasn't flying for the show, Cole did speak to those in attendance. Sitting near a near-replica of his old plane he said, "It was a modern airplane at the time. We thought it was pretty hot stuff," The Herald-Tribune reported.

Cole said he ran roughly half of his 100 missions "over the hump," which means flying over the Himalayas to resupply Chinese U.S. forces.

"For a young guy really into aviation, flying the B-25 was a dream. It was a great plane to fly. State of the art," he said. 

The Marco Island Sun Times reported that he also participated in a 1942 raid with Gen. Doolittle that he says was "the first raid over Tokyo."

Similarly, Ret. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Borling flew in the Vietnam war, where he survived for seven years as a prisoner of war in what was commonly referred to as the "Hanoi Hilton." He was imprisoned after his F-4 was shot down in June 1966, resulting in a broken back and hip.

"It wasn’t so much a matter of survival," the former POW said. "It was more a matter of honor. We wanted people to be proud of us."

He added that he and the other prisoners would tap on the walls to communicate with each other. He said he "taught French through the walls and I learned Spanish through the walls."

Both men said they were honored to share their stories at the air show that is run by an all-volunteer crew and has raised nearly $4 million for local charities.

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