Honor Flight for Naples WWII tail gunnerPosted: Oct 29, 2014 5:40 PM EDTUpdated: Oct 29, 2014 6:50 PM EDT
By Clifton French
WASHINGTON, D.C. -
We continue to profile the greatest generation. We were exclusively invited to travel with 50 WWII veterans to the nation's capital for the final Collier County Honor Flight of the year.
One of those veterans was 89-year-old Gerry Cabot of Naples.
It was 45 minutes before the other veterans arrived at Southwest Florida International Airport and Cabot was already there, ready to go, with a smile ear-to-ear.
"I didn't tell you the rest of that story." He reminded me when I got off topic. "We were lead crew Cliff. We were the first one over the target." Cabot continued.
70 years after the end of the war, being first is still his MO.
"Flew out of England; bombed Nazi Germany 27 times," Cabot said to a volunteer. "Exciting days for a 19-year-old."
Cabot was a tail gunner in a B-24 bomber. He's lucky he survived. He has pictures showing how close his crew came to going down. They show a massive hole in one wing where an artillery shell went clean through.
"It should have exploded on impact and it would have all been over." Cabot said.
The entire day was made for people like him. Strangers applauding at every corner from Fort Myers to DC. Cabot continued to take it in with a smile.
"That is beautiful." He explained as he set his eyes on the WWII Memorial.
His favorite part of the trip? The attention.
"How does it feel to be a celebrity?" One veteran yelled at him from his wheelchair.
"I love it! I love it! I'm getting spoiled." Cabot replied.
The spoiling continued throughout the day and all the way back to southwest Florida where nearly 500 people lined up to cheer for the veterans as they came home.
"We never thought of ourselves as heroes, we just went to war." Cabot said. "People come up and say thank you for your service. Since 1945, very few people said that until recently. There's something going on. This is an example!"
After the war, Cabot used the GI Bill to earn a bachelor's degree in business management. He worked for a natural gas company in New Jersey until 1980 before retiring to Naples.