The Veteran

I first noticed him as I was boarding the plane in Paris.  His hat caught my attention.

World War II Veteran

It was a white cap, with bold yellow letters proclaiming his service during the Great War.

I watched as we went through the boarding process, and struggled to make sense of the math. “This Guy’s gotta be at least 90, but he looks like he’s in his early 70’s. He was the most spry 90+ year-old I’ve ever seen in my life. I was intrigued.

“I’ve GOT to involve this guy in my One Retirement Question Project“, I thought.

As it turns out, he DID get involved, and you’ll love his recorded answer to the One Question later in this post.  First, you need to hear his story.  Trust me, you won’t regret reading about this true American Patriot.  I’ll share his recorded answer to “The Question” shortly, but first you need to know a bit about this man, and how we came to know each other.

Don Mathews, Patriot

I passed his seat as I worked my way down the aisle. I paused, and told him “Thanks for your service”. Several others joined me in congratulating him, and he lit up light a schoolboy.  He mentioned that he was turning 92 years old this summer, and we congratulated him again.

I thought about The Veteran during the first 7 hours of the flight.

As we made our way across the North Atlantic, I kept my eye on him.  At one point, he spent 10 minutes, knees on the seat, facing backward, talking to someone in the row behind him. His personality was contagious from 5 Rows away. He had a certain “sparkle”, and I knew I had to talk to this guy.

But…”I’m on an airplane, and there are ~60 folks in our section of the plane. They’d all see me if I walked up and struck up a conversation.  Is this too awkward?”

Should I, or Shouldn’t I?  I Should.

I Did.

Don “Getting His Eagles Pinned On” – 1968

The Introduction

I walked up the 5 Rows, kneeled down in the aisle beside his seat, and asked: “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”  “Of course not”, he responded with a grin, “I’m not going anywhere”.

I liked him immediately.

We ended up talking for more than 20 minutes, and he gave me the highlights of his career.

After we made our introductions, my new friend Don Mathews started telling stories.

A Civil War Legacy

Don’s Grandfather, John L. Mathews, served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  He served as a Lieutenant of a Georgia regiment and was shot 3 times during the war. He survived.

After the war, he served in the Georgia State legislature and became a well-known figure in Georgia.   He was an educated man and stressed the importance of education and “proper English”,  traits which have been respected by his family as a lasting legacy.

He had a Union bullet in his body from 1865 until his death years after the war.  Even though I’m a “Yankee From Michigan”, Don and I became friends.

Don sent me a huge packet of his War memories after we met!

Don’s War Stories

After telling me about his Grandfather, Don livened up as he started telling stories about his 33 years in the service, covering World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  I sat in the aisle, mesmerized, as he told of his time in the military.

Enola Gay, B-29 Superfortress Bomber, returning from Hiroshima. Aug 6, 1945

In The Air With Enola Gay:  Aug 6, 1945

Don took to heart the lessons from his grandfather and was rigorous with his education. He’s very well spoken, and with a quick wit and obvious intelligence.

After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Air Corp at age 17. He went to tailgunner school, and was trained as a tailgunner on the B29 (the same as the Enola Gay).

On August 6, 1945 history was made as the Enola Gay dropped the infamous bomb on Hiroshima.  On the same date, Don was flying for 4 hours in a B29, finishing up his tailgunner schooling.  He has the flight records to prove it, and he mailed them to me (along with a treasure trove of other documents and photos) after he returned home:

Don’s Flight Records: Aug 6, 1945

After Hiroshima, there was little need for tailgunners, so at the conclusion of his training, he re-enlisted as a squadron clerk.

At the urging of his First Sergeant (Melvin T. Lewis, “who, no doubt, had the most influence on my life”), he attended officer candidate school and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1946.

At 20 years old, he had already achieved the highest enlisted rank in the Army.

In 1950, he attended pilot school, with the hopes of becoming a bomber pilot. “I washed out of pilot school, so I decided to become a navigator and began working as a navigator on the B26 bomber.”

1988 Grim Reaper Reunion, and 1952 in Korea

Dropping Bombs Over N Korea

As a navigator on the B26 bomber, Don flew many low altitude missions over North Korea. He recalls watching the “tracer rounds” coming up from the anti-aircraft guns and passing between the engines and the side of his plane. “Both the pilot and I kinda leaned into the middle of the plane on that run”, he said with a grin.

The B-26 (eight 50-caliber guns in the nose)

Don flew with the 13 Bomber Squadron, more commonly known as “The Grim Reapers”.  He’s had friends die in combat, and he’s seen many a flight not return home.

He’s working with Washington to attempt to locate his friend Gene Gould, who has been MIA since being shot down over North Korea on a flight piloted by Bob Newton on March 31, 1952. If you know anyone with some pull, do Don a favor and send a note on his behalf. It’s the least we can do for Don, given all that he’s done for this country.

Working In The Pentagon

In 1955, Don was assigned to the Pentagon and navigated many flights with dignitaries around the world.  He earned his Masters Degree in International Affairs from George Washington University in 1967 and served on the staff of the U.S. Air Force.  In the 60’s, Don served as navigator on many transport flights into Vietnam.

On Sept 1, 1977, Don retired as a Colonel with the U.S. Air Force, having logged over 4,500 flight hours, many during wartime.

Wyoming Cow Wrangler

40 Years Of Retirement

After a 33 year career in the military, Don hasn’t slowed down since his retirement in 1977. He went to work at Kroger (across the street from his retirement home in Florida) from 1979 – 1985, then worked for Kimberly-Clark for over nine years. Remember that when you hear his recording below…

Don still plays golf 3 times a week, and obviously (since I met him on a flight from Paris) continues to travel internationally.  He’s always been energetic and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. A horse lover since childhood, he’s spent a lot of time riding horses in the Western USA.

A Veteran Receives His Honor

In 2011, Don was invited to the Pentagon by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force to witness his cousin, Judith Fedder, getting pinned with her third star.

In 2014, he was an honored guest on a World War II Honor Flight from Florida and toured the various war memorials in Washington, D.C.

Touring The Korean War Memorial – 2014

The One Retirement Question

As you may recall from my original post in this One Retirement Question Project, I’ve been asking folks who have had successful retirements to answer one question:

“What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is 30 days away from retirement?”

I can think of no one I am more honored to have answer that question than the Patriot and my new friend, Don Mathews.  He participates today as Victim #5, and you can hear his response aboard a plane from Paris below:

I like Don.  Like the true military hero that he is, he’s brief, concise, and to the point:

Plan to stay active, physically and mentally, at all times. Don Mathews - WWII Veteran Click To Tweet

Don clearly lived his advice, from wrangling horses into his 70’s, to working for the first 14 years of his retirement, to continuing to play golf 3X a week at Age 91.  We could all learn from Don’s wisdom, and I intend to apply his advice in my own retirement.


It’s not often that you get a chance to talk to a real American Patriot. The Greatest Generation deserve our respect, and my intent with this post is to do exactly that for my new friend, Don Mathews.  Take the time to reach out to people, and stop to listen when they respond.  Folks who have lived well into their 80’s and 90’s have a lot to teach younger generations, and we have a lot to learn from them.

If you’re lucky, some of those interactions may lead to friendships.  It’s happened with Don and me, and we’ve shared numerous emails since our encounter on that plane.  I’ve come to know a bit about a World War II veteran, and I’m honored to have made his acquaintance.  Today, through the wonders of the internet, you’ve all been able to experience just a bit of what makes Don so special.

And to think, it all started with a hat.



  1. So awesome Fritz, thanks for posting this. As time marches on the number of WW2 vets still with us is getting very thin. I think history starts getting further detached from the psyche of people, especially the young, when those who experienced certain events are no longer alive. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen after all of the WW2 vets are gone since it was probably the most impactful and important thing that happened to mankind in the past 100 years.

    The guy is, quite simply, a badass. I love how after all that distinguished service he worked for Kroger for a while!! Guys like him just do what it takes and put their egos aside. Great reading to start my day!

    1. Day before I went to work for Kroger my wife received a call to tell me to wear old clothes. Never asked how much I was to be paid working at that distribution center, but found out when my first check came that it was very little. In the military, sitting on a small stool for 12 to 14 hours in a low and slow 4 engine transport over water, or sitting behind a desk, I suffered with sciatica nerve problems. I am very thankful to Kroger for hiring me as I have not experienced that problem since I began work there in early 1979. I was promoted very quickly to management position and was sent to other Kroger distribution centers to set up drug rooms. I appreciate your fine comments.

      1. Awesome! And guess what, I’m experiencing some sciatica now myself. Mine isn’t too serious yet but it does hurt from time to time. I know it’s from too much sitting down, so I’ve tried to set my computer up in a stand up desk format at home.

        But the real solution is less computer time, more “other time” 🙂

  2. Just awesome. I don’t comment often but read every week. My husband was in the Army and deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom in ’03. I really enjoyed reading about Don. Thank you for walking down the plane aisle!!

    1. Many thanks for your comment. And thank your husband for his service to our great country.

  3. Thank you for reaching out to this hero and sharing his amazing story with us. We can all take something from his story to better our own lives in the future and as a minimum should be thankful for their service and the freedoms we continue to enjoy because of that service. God Bless America!

    1. Reading your comments brings to mind the job I had with the 3rd Bomb Wing in Korea. In addition to flying night intruder missions over North Korea in the Douglas B-26, I dispatched all Missing in Action messages for the three bomb squadrons, a very unpleasant job. One of those dispatched included a fellow crew member, Gene Gould, and another was Jim VanFleet, son of Army General VanFleet, Commander of Army Forces in Korea.

  4. Awesome story Fritz, make sure to thank him for his service for all of us when you chat with him next!

    92 and golfing 3 times a week and traveling, everyone should be taking his stay active advice to heart

    1. I am very fortunate that Fritz approached me and wanted to talk. Also fortunate to have selected Suntree Country Club here in Florida to live after retirement from the Air Force in California in 1977. Served 33 years, 1944-1977. Also stay busy with the trees in my yard – 3 avocado (2 bearing), 2 orange, 2 grapefruit, and one lemon.

  5. Really loved this story! I totally respect men like Don, men from the greatest generation. We would all do well to honor more of these men since there aren’t many left. Thanks Fritz!

    1. Sure good to take note of your very kind words about those of my generation that have served in the military. They are going fast.

  6. This is such a wonderful story about a great patriot! Thanks for taking the time to talk to this hero and sharing with us. I’m looking forward to reading your own great advice post-retirement. I finally settled on my date – 8/1/18 – just s little behind you. There is so much to do between now and when I leave the office but I am looking forward to having the time to put the retirement advice to good use, starting with getting more active. Thanks again for a great story!

  7. Thanks Fritz for taking the time to interview one of our Veterans. Working at the Veterans Administration Hospital for most of my career it has always been a pleasure meeting WW2 Vets. There are so few left now and soon that era of history will be just that…history.

    As for retirement advice, sounds great. I will remember to stay active at all times! Roger!

    Where were you flying anyway?

    1. I’ll answer for Fritz; we were flying from Paris to Atlanta. As stated in another reply, I was at a funeral today of a WWII veteran and there is an obituary for a retired 2-star Air Force general in our local paper today. The general was on my Honor Flight in June 2014. The email address for our Space Coast Honor Flight:

  8. Thanks for sharing Don’s story. Don, if you’re reading this, thank you for your service.
    I think his advice is spot on too. If you don’t use it, you lose it. You have to keep active and use your brain. Hopefully, I’ll be in good shape like Don when I’m 92. Traveling seems much more difficult when you’re older. You have to be in good shape.

    1. Yes, I am very fortunate and must give much credit to the Kroger Company for hiring me to work in a warehouse/distribution center which put me to lifting and strengthening my back. Have made sure I stay physically active.

  9. Love this article about Don! Thanks for having the courage to walk down the aisle to talk to him. My dad golfed 4 days a week until the day he died unexpectedly in his 80’s. Love his advice!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, if I’m unable to play golf because of weather I go to the fitness center.

  10. Wonderful to learn about Don and I want to thank him for his service and telling his story. Great that you made that walk up the isle Fritz!

    1. Your comments bring to mind of the large number of Missing In Action crew members that I had to report for the 3rd Bomb Wing. Hopefully, our President will work out some arrangement for the U.S. to enter North Korea to look for those reported MIA.

  11. Excellent interview and again, if Don is reading this – thank you for your service! His advice certainly would put him clearly in the “Younger Next Year” group with us too, Fritz! I could see that “sparkle” that you talked about in the pictures! Well done!

    1. Yes Ms. Vicki I have read your comments and do appreciate them. Your words are flattering.

  12. Fritz, I’m amazed both at Don and at you. “Take the time to reach out to people, and stop to listen when they respond.” You are on a flight and you go over and introduce yourself, and spark a relationship close enough to have these photos and his flight records. I’m so glad you did. I can learn a lesson from both you and Don.

    The man is a true inspiration. I’m so glad you are the one that met him, because you are able to share his story with so many. I have an uncle that just turned 90, also one of the veterans with many stories. They are a dying breed. My uncle has similar advice. He thinks you have to be active every day. He is still fit, and uses waders an a moving stream to fish for salmon. These guys that fought the wars — you can’t keep up with them. Still!

    1. Yes, I’m very gratified that Fritz took the time for us to have a conversation and for him to learn some of my background. He and I hit it off very well!

  13. Thanks for writing this article, Fritz! As his step-daughter, I can say he’s always been good about sharing his stories about his experiences. At almost 92 years of age, he’s still one of the most active people I know. As a retired teacher, I always appreciate primary source material, and the more oral and other history you can gather, the better.

    1. My dear daughter, it is so very kind of you to take the time to write those kind words about me and my willingness to talk about my Air Force background, my training in the B-29, the night combat missions over North Korea, generally at a very low altitude, and flying the transports in Vietnam. Mr. Fritz Gilbert was very gentlemanly in his approach to meeting me.

  14. My dad passed away four years ago and he was also a member of the greatest generation, serving on an aircraft carrier during WWII. He rarely talked about the Kamikaze attacks on his ship or the submarines he guided fire onto as a radar operator and kept most of his service memories to himself. But he said the Navy made him grow up from a spoiled kid to a man and he also recommended the navy as the best service to choose because “we had ice cream every day”. He’d be alive today if he hadn’t had Parkinson’s, an inevitably terminal disease because he took your friends advice about staying mentally and physically active up unto the very end. Thanks for bringing back so many great memories!

    1. My brother, a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy, was sunk on a destroyer on July 29, 1945 by the Kamikazes. I’m convinced that had we not dropped the two atomic bombs that the Kamikazes would have destroyed a large number of ships if it had been necessary for the U.S. to invade Japan.

  15. Words from the wise, indeed.

    By age 20, Don accomplished more than most of us do by age 50. Don, thank you for your service. And thanks for sharing, Fritz. I wish I was a fly on the wall of that airplane watching you kneel down to talk with Don and record his answer.

    1. Mrs. Groovy, yes Fritz was in a kneeling position for a long period of time and fortunately there was some bulkhead space that made it a bit more comfortable for him. The two of us talked freely and openly on the subjects he wanted discussed.

  16. To all, thanks for your great comments on this post. I’m tied up this week at a conference, so unable to reply to the great comments on this amazing man.

    Don, a special note of thanks to you for: 1) Your Service, 2) your willingness to talk with this MI Yankee on that memorable flight from Paris, and 3) your engagement with the reader comments. You’re a special man, and I’m truly honored to call you a friend.

  17. Great article, Fritz, on my stepfather, Don, known to his grandchildren as “Grandpa Don.” Your article clearly represents Don’s service to our country as well as his numerous accomplishments & successful life. He instilled his strong work ethic in me when he came into my life close to 50 years ago. Additionally he has set a great example to our entire family of a hardworking responsible adult.

    1. My dear daughter, Patti, I married a wonderful lady, your Mother, who had done a great job raising you three children. I appreciate your kind words and believe you can gain much information about retirement from others by reading of their experiences on Fritz’s web site. Keep in mind that I went to work for the Kroger Company in early 1979 for $4 per hour, given responsible jobs; designing and managing drug distribution rooms; accounting for, and tax stamping every pack of cigarettes invoiced to the distribution center, (monthly reports to Florida and Georgia where I had a million dollar credit bond); getting money for the Company for damaged goods; wrote Company procedures for handling damaged/out of date controlled drugs; and these efforts were recognized by promotion and increase in pay. As you know, I retired again in 1985 with a free major medical plan and a monthly check, plus no more Sciatica problem. I am very fond of my three step children and their families.

      1. Good point that you started at $4/hr but worked your way into better pay & position. We should all remember that when job hunting after “official” retirement!

        I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say we are all very fond of you too! We love you!

  18. You are correct. Went to a funeral this afternoon for a friend who was a student of mine in navigator school and he and I were both assigned to the 13th (Grim Reaper) Bomb Squadron the end of 1951.

  19. Fritz, great post. Without a doubt, Don is a member of the greatest generation who suffered so much and achieved so much. We are enjoying the fruit of their sacrifice. They preserved through depression and wars and selflessly gave to the next generation. Thank You Don and the greatest generation!

    1. Growing up in the country, most all picked strawberries before school, after school, and on Saturdays. On Sundays after Sunday school and church, we would scare the robins out of the strawberry fields. Later, we began going to school in the summer in order to pick strawberries in the winter and we call this “Strawberry School”. In high school I shined shoes in a barber shop until graduation at age 16, and left the job to my younger brother. I enlisted in the Army Air Corp. at age 17 and was trained as a B-29 tail gunner.

  20. Fritz – what an awesome story. Thank you for getting up out of your seat and initiating the conversation with Don, and then sharing it with us!

    And Don – thank you for your service, your words of wisdom, and just being an inspiration!

    1. Must say that I feel so very fortunate to have had so many wonderful people come into my life. Taking advice from a good friend many years ago I learned from other people. Raised in a community of wonderful church going people and had teachers in high school that taught us how to compete in this world.

  21. Mr. Mathews- I enjoyed the article almost as much as I enjoyed being able to talk to you today after the memorial service. I think I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and truly enjoyed the wisdom and stories you shared.
    You made me feel proud to be a Floridian, and lucky to be an American.

    1. Andrew, you are an impressive young gentleman, raising 5 children, selecting the companies you work for with the purpose of being comfortable at retirement, and you listened to my good friend, Charlie Hinton, on how to achieve your goals. Yes, we did chat at Charlie’s memorial service, and as you know, Charlie was my student in navigator school in the 50s; we were both assigned to the 13th Grim Reaper Squadron in Korea, and I edited the first version of his book writing about his 50 missions over North Korea. I have found the writings of the people on this blog very interesting about how to prepare for retirement and then how to enjoy retirement.

  22. Thank you, Don, for your service. Warrior, scholar, freedom-loving patriot–the stuff of true heroes. And thank you, Fritz. Not only are you a first-rate retirement expert, you’re a first-rate citizen journalist. What a great way to start my Wednesday, sharing a few moments with two great Americans.

    1. Mr. Groovy, I really appreciate those kind words. I like what Fritz is doing and it appears to me he is working hard for the benefit of a lot of us, preparing some for retirement, and reading the words of others who are experiencing retirement.

  23. Don,

    I retired after 20 years in our Navy, completely retired after working 17 more years as a Logistician Engineer for shipbuilders. Thank you VERY much for your service, my Father in law also served in WW II. He retired as a farmer at age 85. Still kicking at 97, he just quit driving 3 years ago. Because he wanted to. He has me to drive hom around now. 😀
    Staying active in retirement is great advice. My advice is to give back. Our pensions allow my wife and I the freedom to RV around the country building affordable homes for families we don’t know. Habitat for humanity is a great cause that we are passionate about. There are many to choose from. Srrving others does things in our hearts nothing else can. Try it folks, you will see!
    Thanks again Don. You are my hero. Ok, got to rin. Tears are clouding my vision. Steve

    1. Steve, you sound like a “softie” the same as I am when it comes to helping/serving and thinking of the wonderful people that have come into my life, getting me teary eyed. You are to be admired for doing so much throughout the country to make people more comfortable. Sure you think as your father and I do, “keep those shoulders back and walk tall.”

  24. Well, I am new to this blog, and I’m grateful to have read this one! Found it through my good friend, Kirk Eaton. He also served in the Air Force. I believe more folks need to take the time to listen to this great generation. These stories need told and remembered. I am so thankful to Don, and Kirk, and all who have served our country! It is something I do not take for granted. Must be time to stop typing, since I’m having a difficult time seeing through the tears of thankfulness!

    1. Ms. Taylor, throughout my 33 years in the Air Corps and Air Force we all were assigned jobs that we carried out and would not question “why or who with.” As a crew member we were assigned to fly with some flyers who were not as skilled as others, but, here again, we flew the mission. On the ground we generally had other jobs and when it would not hinder our ability to fly, we did relax at the Clubs. I never heard of PTSD during my 10 months and 43 missions at Kunsan; we did the job then relaxed. I found the same after retiring from the Air Force, particularly working cows at the dude ranches in Wyoming and Idaho. Met some absolutely wonderful people that we would joke with till it came time to saddle the horses, generally at 4AM; from that time till the job was done it was all absolutely serious business. We still correspond daily.

  25. Incredible men – Fritz and Don. Honored to call Fritz my brother, humbled to have met Don through Fritz’s words. God bless you both for being His servants.

    1. Ms. Berry, your fine brother, Fritz, is doing a good, and I consider, necessary, job, in trying to prepare a large number of people for retirement and what to expect after retirement. This followed by words of others who are experiencing retirement. Yes, I am fortunate to know that fine gentleman, Fritz Gilbert.

  26. Interesting post.
    In April I was on a tour in North Korea – when I was there I learned more about the other perspective of that conflict. Fascinating how a different perspective can slant attitudes and stories. It was a pretty brutal war, yet all we seem to know about it in the West is that M*A*S*H was set there…

    1. Believe that when our SecState let the world know the US was not much concerned with the area the other side of Japan, the North Koreans began to prepare to take over South Korea. This came very close to being done if you look at the small area around Pusan that became the Pusan Perimeter that remained under UN control. Inchon landing changed the picture and some of our troops saw the Yalu; this was changed by the Chinese crossing the Yalu near Sinuiju and riding trains at night to near the Chosen Reservoir to cut off Army and Marine troops. Yes, it was an extremely brutal war and many were killed and injured as they tried to retreat South to board evacuation ships. This was 1950 and I did not arrive Kunsan Air Base till Thanksgiving 51.

      1. Yes, I had no idea how close the North Koreans came to taking over the whole peninsula until I was in the War Museum in Pyongyang and I saw their displays and photos. I checked up after I got home and that part of their narrative about the war was accurate.
        Interestingly, they claim that THEY were the ones who were initially invaded… Had to keep my mouth shut when that was said!
        They also look on the Korean War as one that they won. They were saying that they would have liberated the Korean Peninsula if the Americans and their “satellite states” hadn’t ganged up on them. They then listed them. Australia was third on the list.
        Awkward… 😛

        1. Frog Dancer, there were many UN countries that sent planes and troops to assist us. There were Turks and South Africans among others. Believe it would be interesting to read about the combat readiness of the US troops in Japan in 1950 when North Korea invaded the South. There were maids available to wash and iron clothes, shine shoes, and take care of quarters.

  27. Thank you for sharing Colonel Mathews military history with us. I had the honor of meeting him when he came for a recent office visit in which he gave me information to pass along to my husband, who is only weeks away from retiring with 21 years as an Infantryman. Col. Mathews made my day with his zest for life and eagerness to share his wisdom. “I’m Colonel Mathews… with one “T”. From that moment of introduction, his charisma had my full attention. I am thankful for service members like him who paved the way for me (prior USAF Medic) and my husband. Col. Mathews is a true American hero.

    1. Ms. Bryant, first, I was really thrilled with the efficiency and professionalism you and the other employees displayed at that location. As for retirement from the military most of us needed to seek employment. Sure he has learned over the years from some of his good leaders/bosses to not load them up with problems; resolve the problems and learn from the mistakes. When I was a 20 year old rather new second lieutenant my commander told me, “Lieutenant, you are too full of excuses.” I learned from those words and fortunate that I heard them at an early stage in my 33 year Army Air Corps/US Air Force career. I wish your husband much success in his retirement.

  28. I too had the Blessed Joy and enrichment of being rewarded by my approach to the Col wearing his WWI/Korean War service hat in a gate area several years ago. I was part of the working flight crew for he and his wife traveling home from the west coast to Orlando/Suntree Florida during his birthday week. His charisma, energy and wisdom is truly enriching and a Blessing to any who would engage and receive the benefit of the last of the greatest generation represented by him. My daddy was a WWII Marine who went on to become a Marine for Christ sharing GOD’s Gospel and gift to all he could share with. Dad had gone home to the LORD just prior to me having met the Col, however meeting the Col certainly helped fill the temporary ache of missing my dad so much. I so wished the Col had been able to meet my dad here but pray they will meet in Heaven.We continue to stay in touch and am so appreciative of the friendship with the Col. I was even honored and privileged to serve, at his request, as his guardian for his honor flight and his privileged guest for his 90th birthday as well as joined the home going service for his beautiful wife, Mary, when she passed. I encourage all to stay active, appreciative and engaged as well as take advantage of GOD’s greatest gifts including learning from and celebrating with special people like Col Don Mathews, with one “t”. Pray continued Blessings to him and all who meet him.

    Flight Attendant-Glenda McLaughlin

  29. Exceptional post! Being a Veteran myself and reading this on Veterans day, brought tears to my eyes! Thank you so much for re-posting it. I hope Don is doing well, he seems like an amazing man.

  30. What a great story! Really cool that you got to be there for Gen. Fedder’s third star. I served under her when she was a major, and we already knew she was going places. A damn good officer, something that clearly runs in the family.

    From a family that has sent men to the defense and service of this great nation for every generation since the revolutionary war to yours (which seems to share a similar sense of service!) cheers!

    1. Ian, awesome that you served under Gen. Fedder. Small world, indeed. If she was anything like Don, “damn good” is an appropriate description. He’s an amazing man, and I’m fortunate to have met him on that plane!

  31. Ian Beyer, when the Space Coast Honor Flight sent 25 World War II veterans on the Honor Flight to DC, she put on her uniform, on a Saturday, and she and her husband joined the group. She also spoke to the group on the bus as we were departing. Believe the two of them always had preparation for retirement in their minds as she surpassed many others in making sure her job was done above reproach. Her husband, after his Air Force retirement, taught the tough subjects in high schools, following her assignments overseas and in the U.S., to prepare for a better retirement for both. Sure she appreciates your fine comments and will insure she reads them.

  32. Thank you, Colonel / Cousin Don Mathews and others for sharing these memories and kind notes. It was/is a privilege to honor veterans like Don and those on the Honor Flight for their incredible and selfless service. I wore the uniform for 35 years in part to be associated with those service members who came before me. I am also delighted to be connected with someone I served with so long ago, Ian!

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