Simply an amazing day

| November 1, 2015

Before I begin I want to thank Jonn Lilyea, for allowing me to write here. It was this access that allowed all of the things below to happen.

Yesterday was simply an amazing day. I do not think that one could have planned it any better from start to finish. It started at the 12th Training Wing at Randolph Airforce Base after being escorted by the 12th Wing’s Staff Officers. The Wing was called to attention as Uncle Tommy entered the building. There was short tour going through the history of the unit from the photos on the walls. There was a presentation on what training is conducted at the 12th Training Wing and answered any questions that we had.

12th Training Wing Uncle Tommy

12th Wing Staff Officer  Uncle Tommy

Then we took a short break by going outside to T-38 Talon trainer and talking more about the aircraft that were being used on the base. After that we back inside and started talking about the history of the two men, the event in February 1952 and the unusual series of events that allowed this reunion to happen. There was a lot of history there to say the least.

Uncle Tommy T-38

We left the 12th Training Wing to go to where the air show was being held. The crowds were not there because we were invited to the air show rehearsal the day before. What was there was a static display of a P-51C Mustang and a T-33 Shooting Star. We managed to take many photos of Uncle Tommy with both aircraft. At this time we met with a reporting team from KSAT12, a local news group. They were filming as we were taking photos with each aircraft. ( I credited this website and Jonn for his part, I have no idea if they will link or not.)

T-33 Uncle Tommy

P-51C Uncle Tommy

The Wing Commander 12th greeted us on the flight line.

Uncle Tommy with the Wing Commander

A few minutes later we watched the USAF Thunderbirds perform from the best seat in the house. There was some concern that the Thunderbirds were not going to be able to fly due to the weather. But the weather cleared up enough for the rehearsal to start and it was quite a show.

After the conclusion of the Thunderbirds, we went inside to where Uncle Tommy and Mr. Jerry Swartz were interviewed by KSAT12. After that was over, we left the base to go to my parents’ house to celebrate Uncle Tommy’s 92nd Birthday. Mr. Jerry Swartz had managed to locate photos of the Squadron members that were with Uncle Tommy. As Mr Swartz went over each photo, Uncle Tommy would recall their call signs and stories about the crazy things that they did back then. I am going to coordinate with Mr Swartz about adding those photos to Wiki Commons with their names to help out of anyone else is looking for family members that served with the 160th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. Mr Swartz also found the original Flight Safety magazine that contained that storyboard write up.

160th RTS photos Uncle Tommy

Before everyone left, Uncle Tommy was able to facetime with my son and hear my son sing happy birthday. The only down side to all of this is “what to do for his 93rd birthday.”

Mr. Jerry Swartz, Uncle Tommy and myself

P-51C Uncle Tommy with family

Update November 2nd 2015: The 12th Training Wing added more photos of the event on their facebook page.

Category: Air Force, Historical, Reunions, War Stories

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Awesome!! Awesome!! Awesome!!


Awesome sauce! And very big happy birthday to Uncle Tommy!

2/17 Air Cav

“The Wing was called to attention as Uncle Tommy entered the building.”

Outstanding. (How did your Uncle Tommy find the day? Everyone else clearly had a time of it. How about him?)

HMCS (FMF) ret.

Wonderful story!

BTW – Happy Birthday, Uncle Tommy!


Oustanding. Happy Birthday Uncle Tommy.

Silentium Est Aureum

That is fantastic! Happy Birthday Tommy.


Well done, 12th Training Wing! Happy B-day, Uncle Tommy!

… and thanks for your service, young man!



Congratulations on a great article. Happy Birthday and best wishes to Uncle Tommy!


Wonderful story from history Sir. Thank you for including us in your family’s treasured event. God bless your Uncle Tommy and Happy Birthday to him…a real hero!


Great Story….
What a awesome day.
these are the story’s I like to see on a Sunday.

Club Manager

Sierra Hotel!


Many thanks to Sporkmaster for bringing this to the hallowed halls of TAH, simply the best Milblog on the interweb.
And also a big thank you to Jonn for putting all of this together to a couple of very deserving men.
Well done Jonn, you are a credit to the entire crew and humanity as a whole.


Thank you, thank you, thank you! Both for doing all this and for sharing it with us all. Well done!


Happy B’day to Uncle Tommy and thanks to the TAH folks for bringin’ us stories like this. Keeps me coming back here.


Thanks for sharing that genuinely heartwarming event. It’s important to know people not only remember but will go out of their way to show respect and appreciation. And happy birthday to Uncle Tommy!


Uncle Tommy? Am I missing the story?

(BTW, of our therapy dog’s here at the Audie Murphy VA is named Tommy. ? The patients love him.)

Veritas Omnia Vincit

This counts as really effing cool Sporkmaster…great story, sounds like a great time. Those photos are fan-damn-tastic…glad it was a good time for all!!

Jerry Swartz


Great recap and what a wonderful service you performed for your great uncle facilitating this tribute and first-time “reunion” of our families. Your Texas and Oklahoma relatives were a hoot and made us seem like old friends. My particular thanks go to the Vice Commander of the 12th Flying Training Wing, Col Mike “Otter” Snell and his Safety Officer, Lt. Col. Scott “Touchdown” Di Gioia, who absolutely blew everybody away with their hosting. What a class act they were! As a crusty, old, retired Naval Aviator, I’ll have to confess that I will take back 50% of whatever I’ve said about the USAF in my past! The man of honor, your great uncle, was so humble and gracious, yet sharp as a tack. To be able to meet this hero with the Distinguished Flying Cross, seven Air Medals and well over 5000 hours of WWII/Korea/Vietnam single prop and tactical jet time was a humbling and rewarding experience. There’s not a better example of the kind of quiet military professional who protected freedom and made America great. I also need to compliment your great aunt Tawana, who remembered every squadron detail and added so much to our discussions. She must’ve been quite a CO’s wife! Lastly, as I departed your home, your great uncle grasped my hand with both of his, while looking up from his wheelchair, and said, “You’re my friend for life!” What an honor! Well done, Sporkmaster!

Best regards,

Jerry C. Swartz, CDR, USN (Ret)
Tampa, FL