My Hero

I want to tell you the story of a hero. There are few heroes around these days outside of the military, so he can be your hero too if you need one. But first I have to tell you about my father. He was a first generation German in America and a perfectionist. He was an independent, fiercely honest man and he never slept past sunrise in his entire life. He served in the American Expeditionary Forces in WW-1 where he may very likely have been fighting and killing his relatives.

My father ran an ornamental iron works – that means he could turn iron into beautiful shapes in his shop. It was the 1930s and times were tough. So all of us in the family worked in that shop. Even I, at four or five was put to work picking up pieces of scrap iron off the dirt floor. There was nothing unusual about that. Every family during the Great Depression worked just to survive.

The hero I want to tell you about was George Edward Boeckmann. He was my only brother and was seven years my senior. He worked right alongside my father in that hot, dusty, smoky shop sometimes until late at night. One of my earliest memories of “Sonny” as we called my brother was the sight of him at the breakfast table. Resting his tired head in his right palm, he ate with the other hand, a school book open so he could read his assignment for that day. One of the early pictures of him in his high school annual shows a very sleepy eyed young man who obviously had not had time to comb his hair.

In spite of deprivations and hard long hours of work, he excelled at school. He was the President of the Beta Club, an honor society. He was the Valedictorian of his graduating class. He won a full scholastic scholarship to North Carolina State College.

But America was at war. And Sonny had always had a love of aviation. At that time it required two years of college to be eligible for Flight Training in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Sonny was studying to be an engineer, but when he finished his second year at State he immediately enlisted and began his military training. As in everything else he excelled. He was commissioned a Lieutenant and had one trip home. On that trip he became engaged to a lovely girl named Betty. Then he returned to the wars. He was a fighter pilot and flew arguably the most beautiful fighter airplane ever built, the P-51 Mustang.

But then in June of 1944 General Eisenhower sent the ground troops onto the shores of Normandy and the Allies took the war to the Nazis. Sonny’s whole squadron was transferred as a group to fly the Republic P-47 which was a much better fighter plane for support to the troops now on the ground. Sonny, although neither he nor anyone else knew it at the time, could have been in a European war that would end in a year. He would never see the end of that war.

On a hot early August day in 1944, Sonny hitched a ride on a C-47 transport plane for a twenty-minute flight to his next fighter base That plane flew into a thunderstorm which tore it apart and 28 young boys fell to their deaths in a flaming ball of fire. Sonny was only twenty years old when he died.

Sonny never treated me like a little brother. He let me follow him around, he took care of me, he protected me from the fiery temper outbursts of our father. He actually was more of a father figure to me than my non-communicative dad.

His death ultimately dissolved our family which ended with my parent’s divorce. It also deprived me of his counsel and guidance which I am sure would have given me solace through many years of my life. I know I would have been a better person for having him close. I know that on 3 August this year I will hurt from losing him as much as I did on that August day sixty-eight years ago when he died.

The world and America has changed over the years and not for the better. Yet when I look up at the sky I know that the only thing that has not changed since 1944 is the sky. It is the same sky now as it was on 3 August 1944. And I look at it and can transport myself back to the day before he died and remember how simple, uncomplicated, and tranquil my young days were. And how that all came crashing down the very next afternoon. Sonny was my fighter-pilot hero brother then – and he always will be.

About johnbeckmanbooks

John Beckman, a retired meteorologist, was known as “Johnny the Weatherman” in a career that spanned forty years. He forecasted the weather on WSJS-TV in Winston-Salem, NC, at WFGA-TV in Jacksonville, FL, and for thirty-three years in Atlanta at WSB-TV and WXIA-TV. Also a well published author Beckman now devotes full time to writing fiction. He currently has several eBooks on, "Tropical Knights," first in a series of adventure/mysteries about a sailor and his lovely CIA cohort on a mission to save America. Now available the sequel, and second in the series: "Tropical Daze." The third Jack & Amy adventure is "Tropical Rage" which became available on 30 April 2014. All of his books are highlighted on and available from . .
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2 Responses to My Hero

  1. Consie S says:

    Dad, This means so much, thank you for sharing!

  2. Mike Combs says:

    John I am extremely glad you finally put the feeling in print, so others can share the pain also!!
    Thanks to your brother Sonny and all the brave men that loved Flying, and gave their life for their belief in Duty, Honor, and Country. I thank you for your brother’s life and service for this country!
    Mike Combs- 8-6-2012

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