By Mary Fox
For 17 years, on Dec. 7, whatever day of the week it may be, Paul Carmichael’s airport hanger on the top of Bryant Hill becomes a World War II military USO outpost where Paul hosts an evening of Remembrance, the theme of which is based on the day, Dec. 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, beginning America’s participation in WWII.
While teaching a class of high school students Paul asked what Dec. 7 meant to them. Their lack of knowledge of the events of Dec. 7 or even where those events took place prompted him to get together with friends who had served in WWII or had parents who had served in it.
“More vets come each year. Vets that felt nobody would understand, had never talked about their experiences and never cared to, come and, in the atmosphere of 1942 USO with period music they begin to talk about their experiences,“ said Carmichael.
Paul’s motivation for hosting this evening of remembrance is truly patriotic. All are here to honor family and friends, living and dead, who have served our country at home and abroad, in WWII through Afghanistan and conflicts around the world.
“We haven’t done a great job passing our history on to the following generation. We should never forget the hard times we have been through as a country,” said Carmichael. “It is good to remember the sacrifices our service men and women have made for our country.”
Service men and women from those on active duty, to the retired and those serving in the reserves gather in the hanger, sharing their stories proudly wearing the uniform of their respective service. Many others wear the uniform of their honored parents.
Bill Northrup said, “Dad always said the three or four years he was overseas in the military he was a changed person when he came back. He got a perspective that made him humble much more than he could ever have been. It was awful, and it was good, it was the best of times and it was the worst times.”
When thanked for his service, Rudy LaBelle says, “don’t thank me, thank those who didn’t come back.”
There is no special program for the evening. The Pledge to the Flag is followed by President Roosevelt’s speech declaring war on Japan, “A day of infamy” is played with stories of wartime experiences and patriotic songs.
The usual fare for the evening is the military’s favorite SOS, chipped beef and gravy over biscuits ladled out like in a mess hall.
While Paul never served in the military, he proudly wears the uniform his father, Arthur Carmichael wore in WWII when he served as beach master in Northern France.
In April 2006 Paul and John Northrup went to St. Louis to purchase a 1940 WACO cockpit bi plane. It was used as a trainer for tens of thousands of pilots prior to the US entering WWII.
Paul put in over 500 hours of labor over 6 years to rebuild the airplane. “Although the plane was structurally good it needed to be rebuilt. Every piece was taken apart and carefully inspected, refabricated and put back together,” he said.
Paul painted it red and calls it “Rosie” after “WWII’s Rosie the Riveter”.
Paul will be retiring next month from his current position of Director of Career and Technical Education for Cattaraugus Allegheny BOCES in Olean. You can bet his plans for retirement will involve airplanes.
Have you thanked a service man or woman today?