One very special guest to attend the festival was Medal of Honor recipient, Col. Don "Doc” Ballard. Ballard served in Vietnam as a Navy corpsman, caring for the wounded. Shot 8 times and fierce in combat, Ballard demonstrated his profound dedication to his men and his country when he threw himself upon a grenade in efforts to protect his fellow soldiers; thankfully, the grenade did not detonate.
Col. Doc Ballard
Excerpts of two quotes from Col. Ballard as reported by Tiffany McCall of WKRG News Channel 5:
"..it helps us reunite. It helps us heal because we’re around people who understand us that are not judgmental..”
AeroFest is not only for wounded Veterans, it also recognizes disabled civilians such as Bob Lujano. Lujano lost his arms and legs due to a rare form of meningitis as a child. "There’s a future for anyone with a disability.” "…it’s your responsibility to make your life as independent as you can,” said Lujano in an interview with McCall.
Right: Bob Lujano
Mobile AeroFest 2015 achieved its mission: to bring awareness and service to those suffering the wounds of war, both before and after combat, to bridge the gap between the able-bodied and disabled in eliminating the stigma of disability, and to enhance the community with a new sense of opportunity and fellowship.
A special thanks to WKRG News Channel 5’s Tiffany McCall for her coverage of Mobile AeroFest 2015.
All photos courtesy of Michelle Stancil