BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- With Veterans Day upon us, there will be ceremonies and special events to remember the men and women who fought for our freedom. But how about taking it one step further? How about making a personal contact with a veteran? We did, and found a remarkable man with a fascinating story. In fact, he has a lot of them! In my special report we meet war hero Arnie Franklin.
"Generally speaking," says Arnie, "when you have air-to-air combat, he who sees the other first, wins."
In the early 1970's Colonel Arnie Franklin flew two tours of duty in Vietnam. The 1st was flying OV-10 Broncos painting targets for bombers.
"Very mobile, very small," said Arnie. "You could see the ground very well from the cockpit because it had glass all around. You sometimes flew with two guys but most of the time you flew by yourself, looking for targets, finding targets.Calling in ordinance, having the fighters come. Then you'd mark the target for them."
Arnie also flew rescue missions, guiding a helicopter to the site where a pilot had ejected so they could get him back to base. "The most fun thing," said Arnie, "was to get back to NKP and you'd go over to the officers' club and the guy that you just rescued was sitting there at the bar and he couldn't buy enough whiskey for the Sandies and the HH-53 guys that picked him up. So that was real, that gave you a lot of satisfaction."
Arnie's second tour of duty in Vietnam was flying F-111's, the same plane he flew in Operation: El Dorado Canyon in 1986, the attack on Libya.
France and Spain would not let U.S. warplanes fly through their air space, so they had to fly all the way around Europe, getting refueled on the way. It took them six hours just to get to Tripoli.
"I can remember what it smelled like in the cockpit," Arnie recalls. "Not that it smelled bad, but I can remember what it smelled like. I can remember what happened. I can remember the sounds."
Arnie led the attack that knocked Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi out of power. "At about 25,000 feet from the target, I take the airplane and I pull it aggressively up into about a 45 degree pitch attitude, and the computer computes when the bombs should be released, and the four bombs leave the airplane," said Arnie. "The laser's on. Here you can see the target. There's a tent right here. 3, 2, 1, impact."
The plane Arnie flew is now on display at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. But the plane on his wing that night is right here in Bowling Green, at Aviation Heritage Park.
So how does someone who's seen the action Arnie Franklin has, feel about how people celebrate Veterans Day these days? "It makes me feel sad that in a lot of ways, we don't think more of our veterans than we do on that one day."
Well you can fix that.Get to know a veteran.Listen to their stories; a lot of them are fascinating! And let them know you care, any day of the week, year 'round.