On Nov. 13, general aviation airplanes carrying combat-wounded soldiers will descend on Tangier Island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The day’s mission: to give the soldiers a scenic flight and a seafood lunch in grateful recognition of their service.
If weather permits, “Wings of Appreciation” will fly an estimated 40 soldiers and non-medical assistants (NMAs) to the island. Tangier has about 500 residents and can be reached only by boat or airplane. Soldiers and NMAs will be bused from Walter Reed Army Medical Center to Tipton Airport in Fort Meade, Md. Flights will depart and return to Tipton.
Tangier Island’s airport is a favorite summer $100 hamburger destination for pilots in the Mid-Atlantic. “Part of the whole challenge for me is that I didn’t want to take them to someplace like Annapolis, it ought to be part of an adventure,” said Wiley Loughran of Vienna, Va., who is spearheading the event.
And Tangier residents are excited to be a part of the adventure. Loughran said that two church choirs will be at the airport to perform for the soldiers as they arrive, and a local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars will decorate the island’s buildings with flags. The one restaurant that remains open year round will prepare food, and the soldiers will be served lunch in a church social hall. Since some of the soldiers have difficulty walking distances, a group of residents has volunteered to transport them via golf cart to the church. (There are few cars on the island.)
Loughran put out a call for volunteer pilots in October and “within two days” had received more than enough offers, he said. Wings of Appreciation still needs volunteers to help with ground duties at Tipton, as well as those who could fly to Tangier with additional supplies or carry photographers. Tipton (KFME) is located within the Baltimore-Washington Special Flight Rules Area. If you would like to help, contact Loughran via e-mail.