99-year-old WWII vet takes flight once again thanks to nonprofit

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CHICAGO — At Chicago Executive Airport, dreams can take flight, even for those who’ve lived nearly a century. 

At 99, Fred Springs, a World War II Navy veteran, enjoyed some flight time in a classic Boeing Stearman. The bi-planes served the United States well, training military aviators heading off to war. Decades later, the planes are used in air shows to provide rides to veterans like Springs. The nearly 100-year-old joined the Navy in 1943 and was stationed onboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, taking enemy fire and surviving suicide bombers. He also served in Korea. 

“Luckily, I came back without a scratch,” Springs said.

Thanks to the Dream Flights nonprofit organization, the military veteran is one of several Chicago area World War II veterans taking flight on Sunday.  

“It’s a very unique way to give back to those who’ve already given,” said Andrew Lohmar.

The non-profit was founded 10 years ago to help veterans in long-term care facilities still take to the air. 

Fred Springs

“They’re always a bit nervous before we get going and then radiant smiles when we get back,” Lohmar said.

 “You’re free up there. You see everything. I just love flying,” echoed Springs.

The flight was an early gift for Springs on a warm September day, just weeks before he celebrates his 100th birthday. After the flight, as aforementioned by Lohmar, Springs was jubilant.

“I loved it!” Springs said. “He took me over the lake and everything. That’s a real good flight.”

To Springs’ surprise, he received a commemorative medal for his service.

“How about that? Thank you very much,” he said.

Proving that even when there are more miles behind you than in front, the will to live every moment can take us where we need to be. 

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