The first time I met Dan Cherry I liked him. He had a pleasant demeanor and a great smile. I couldn’t help but notice that he was small in stature.
The perfect size to fly fighter jets.
The next time I ran into him, we got a chance to chat. He was retired from the Air Force he told me. Since the Air Force Band of Flight had just been in town, we chatted about how nice that was. I made the comment that something like that really must help recruitment. He agreed.
The Air Force Thunderbirds did an air show in our town years ago, and my parents lived in apartment right next to the small airport that hosted the event. We watched the show from their little patio.
I commented that when they appear, that must really get kids charged up to be in the Air Force. I asked him what his rank was when he retired. “General,” he said like I would say “Iced Tea.” I said something profound like, “wow” and asked him what he did in the Air Force.
He was commander of recruiting services for the Air Force. I again was eloquent in my response, nodding my head and saying “wow.”
OK, conversation ends because somebody else comes up.
A month or so later, I run into him again. I started up the conversation where we left off. I speculated again about the success of the Thunderbirds for recruitment. He said, that yes they were well received. As an afterthought he mentioned he flew with them.
I was commander after they made me quit flying, he quietly added.
I am so articulate at times.
This guy is the real deal:
- completed 100 combat missions over North Vietnam
- 185 combat missions flying F-4D Phantoms
- he shot down a North Vietnamese MIG
- he was Commander and leader of the Thunderbirds
- His military decorations and awards include the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with nine oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 34 oak leaf clusters, and Air Force Commendation Medal.
His shooting down of the MIG has been shown on the History Channel program Dogfights which will be repeated July 13, at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Some local folks located the plane he flew in Vietnam and have it restored as the centerpiece for an aviation heritage park.
I wish you could meet Dan. You would like him too.