On Thursday, retired Maj. Dave Williams, a former World War II fighter pilot, celebrated his 95th birthday at Perrin Air Force Base Historical Museum.
If you are like me, you may not have even known that North Texas Regional Airport was once an active military installation. It occurred to me, as I was given an opportunity to hear their stories and shake their hands, how important it is to preserve the memories of that great generation before it is too late.
I was struck by how casually they spoke of their flight formations over Japan or time spent in Europe, as though these were everyday experiences. When Williams retired from the Air Force, he went on to college and became an industrial arts and history teacher for Sherman Independent School District.
I began to wonder just how many of his students had no idea that their teacher had once flown F-84 Thunderjets. And beyond that, how many people we encounter every day who have incredible stories we know nothing about.
These wonderful people, many of them heroes, welcomed me to the celebration with open arms. They told me stories of how they had lived at Perrin on base for years and their families had grown up in the small community.
After the singing and the birthday cake, they proffered food at me and encouraged me to take a walk around the museum. The Perrin Historical Society was created in 1995 and has since built the entire museum through donations.
One fact that I found particularly interesting was that astronauts once prepared for outer space at Perrin Air Force Base. They explained the reason Perrin was such an ideal location was due in part to its proximity to Lake Texoma — the lake’s size was appealing for training.
Many of the veterans and family members in attendance are either volunteers or frequent visitors to the museum. They lovingly care for the artifacts there and eagerly share this local history so many of us aren’t even aware exists.
I intend to bring my family back to the museum in order to share the history with them and help preserve their stories even if only in a small way.
Happy birthday Sunday to Peggy Goldston of Dorchester; Kendra Harwell and Danny Cazzelle, both of Denison; and Madeline Hopkins of Colbert, Oklahoma.
Happy birthday Monday to Passion Brooks of Sherman; Shirley Foust of Denison; and Marilyn Limpede of Pottsboro.