'They can do it!': Area vets, Make-A-Wish families treated to their own AirSho
FARGO—It didn't matter if they were Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines, when the Blue Angels flew by in their big blue F-18s, the veterans at the AirSho practice were all smiles.
"Terrific!" said Gordon Monson, who served in the Army from 1966-68.
The 76-year-old, who lives in the North Dakota Veterans Home in Lisbon, said he couldn't pick out the best part of the practice show Friday, July 27.
"They're all good," Monson said. "They can do it!"
Chuck Root, a Detroit Lakes, Minn., man now at the Fargo VA Hospital, enjoyed the roar of the brawny fighter jets and their nimble rolls and close passes.
"Oh, yeah. They're great!" the 83-year-old Army vet said.
The Blue Angels practice show started at 3 p.m., about the same time as planned for Saturday and Sunday.
The Naval aviators were the highlight of the afternoon for dozens of area military veterans and a number of families brought in as guests of Make-A-Wish.
Rather than braving the 15,000 or more people seen on a typically hot AirSho afternoon, they had a hassle-free day, with partly cloudy skies and a light breeze.
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Thomas Menz, a former Navy senior chief petty officer, had enlisted in 1964. He and two brothers served on the carrier USS Forrestal at the same time during the Vietnam War.
Menz, 72, had last seen the Blue Angels In California in 1969, when they were still flying A-4s.
The Perham, Minn., man said he enjoyed "getting out and meeting all the veterans, fellow sailors."
Jerry Toso, a volunteer at the Fergus Falls (Minn.) Veterans Home, said quite a few lakes-area veterans were in the audience.
Toso, an Air Force vet himself, admitted he enjoyed the show.
"They're OK," Toso said with a laugh. "You know, a veteran has to stick up for veterans."
A few dozen yards away, Mendi and Jaden Blake of Fargo put headphones on the heads of their three children for the show.
Their oldest child, Harper, 7, has Rett syndrome, and is non-verbal, but Mendi Blake said "she loves anything that moves and is performing."
A few yards away, Kelly Hatlen, with the help of a nurse, was preparing her son, Cash, 6, and two of his siblings for the show.
"We don't get out to too many outings," Kelly Hatlen said, glad for the help of Make-A-Wish.
Her husband, Dave Hatlen, who served in the Navy from 1988-94, said the outing was the perfect way for their family to get the AirSho experience without trying to deal with the crowds.
"It's an excellent opportunity to get to see this when there's not (thousands) of people behind you. This is nice," Dave Hatlen said.
For more on the AirSho, including how to buy tickets, go online to fargoairsho.com.