This post comes courtesy of the 2011 Honorary Tailhookers of the Year, Kathy and Hans Schmoldt (written by Kathy). Every few years we Colorado Tailhookers gather on the Western Slope of Colorado for the Grand Junction Airshow. But honestly, I think the majority of us are there for “The Cattle Baron’s BBQ” (or ‘barren’ as Kathy puts it, cuz there ain’t no cattle on this ranch!) and Tailhook Party! This past gathering was one of the best, with attendance more focused on Tailhookers and the flight crews who performed at the show that weekend. There will be more stories to tell, besides this one, and I promise to get around to it soon… but for now Kathy owns this writing…
Because there was so much going on during the weekend of The Grand Junction Air Show, and because there is so much information associated with this particular post, I wanted to spend ample time 'covering this story.'
It spans two generations of heroes. You will want to at least scroll to the last part of this post to make the connection between two of these heroes.
It all began at the banquet on Thursday night when the Hansman [Hans Schmoldt], also known as "Big Gun" by some, met and invited a young man from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (VMM-166) to our Cattle "Barren" parties on Friday and Saturday nights.
Well, to our pleasure, THEY!!! showed up. Pretty much the whole Det!
These are just a few of the Sea Elks . . . more to come !
For those of you who want to know more about this group, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (VMM-166), CLICK HERE.
Now, for just a moment, let's visit one of the many static displays at the air show.
One of probably the most dominating displays was the VMM-166’s V-22 Osprey Tilt Rotor Aircraft.
As you can see by the crowd, it was also one of the most popular displays.
Hans and I were lucky enough to be given a personal tour of this magnificent bird . . .
. . . by Captain Eileen "Edna" Donovan. (Remember her name !)
Once we left the Osprey, I snapped these two shots . . .
. . . which do not do the Osprey justice.
Unless you've stood beside this magnificent machine, there is no way to appreciate the enormity of it.
Now, back to the party . . .
The Sea Elks were everywhere and kind enough to pose no less than 50 times with other guests.
Now, back to Captain Donovan . . .
. . . she is a sharp-shooter . . .
. . . a two-stepper . . .
. . . and, she's pretty handy with a bull whip. Unfortunately, I didn't capture that one with my camera, but just believe me, she knew how to use it.
Anytime we host a party, it's always difficult to visit with everyone and hear their stories.
As in this case, Hans and I learned about this story several weeks after the party !
Major Joseph P. "Pat" Donovan USMCR (Vet), 2nd Lt. Eileen C.
Donovan, USMCR and Col. William A. "Grease Gun" Beebe, USMC (Ret).
Lt. Donovan's platoon sergeant, GySgt. Holly Ellington, USMC, Joseph
P. "Pat" Donovan, 2ndLt. Donovan and her mother, Beba Donovan.
Her mother is acknowledging the bars as those formerly owned by Col. Richard L. "Rich" Bianchino, USMC (Ret).
Now, you may be wondering, what's the story ?
Or for those more astute readers, you have already made the connection.
It begins with this photo:
copilot Lt. Pat Donovan, right gunner Cpl. M. S. Opalka, crew chief Cpl. Michael E. Velleux, left gunner Sgt. Dolph Quijano and pilot Lt. Donald Robins.
Photo was taken at a fire base several clicks north of Thong Duc on the western end of Charlie Ridge known as LZ Pike. The hydraulic line being held is the one that was shot out resulting in the loss of both the auxiliary and #2 hydraulic boost systems. The crimp in the line was only the size of a clipped finger nail, but at that amount of pressure the entire aircraft and crew was covered with hydraulic fluid.
The following are three links to Major Donovan's career:
Here is the link to read about MANY MORE of Major Donovan's accomplishments.
By now, the connection is quite apparent.
Eileen Donovan's Wings of Gold July 27, 2007
Yes, that young lady who graced us with her presence is carrying-on her father's tradition of serving our great country.
Who knew ?
We were certainly surrounded by many heroes at our parties and are always honored to have them at our house.
This is just ONE of those stories.
I leave you with the words of Colonel Charles J. "Chic" Schoener USMC (Retired)
"Pat Donovan without doubt received more decorations ( in regard to precedence level), as a Purple Fox, than any other Marine who served with HMM-364. Not only that, Pat is probably one of (if not) the most decorated (precedence level) combat Marine pilot to come from the Vietnam era. While few Marines (air/ground) were recognized for their acts of individual heroism with the award of the CMH, the Navy Cross, the Silver Star or the DFC, Pat's multiple awards for his numerous act of heroism, taken in totality, is absolutely historic and should be recognized as such."
Pat Donovan's Humble Answer to Colonel Schoener's Remarks
I accept and hold in trust the praise of my Squadron mates and those Marines whom we helped while under night attack in the mountains north of the Nam O Bridge in Quang Nam (Feb 22), under attack in an open rice paddy northwest of Liberty Bridge in Quang Nam (April 21), engaged in combat with a large North Vietnamese Army force near the village of My Hiep (3) (May 9), under mortar attack on the island near Hoi An (Mar 17), and the lone Lt. with red hair who led the attack off our ramp into a fire fight, the same one we came back for, re-entered the zone and grabbed out of the fire fight near An Hoa (April 28).
By my count on every mission we were a team of pilot, copilot, crew chief, two gunners at each .50 cal, and the Navy Medic, or in the case of Doc Linkous, a Navy Doctor on board, not to overlook the maintenance crew that constantly went without rest to keep the aircraft "up". We were and are a Marine Air-Ground team linked by oath and blood to those on the ground we serve. We all achieved the missions and we all respect the memory of our Squadron mates and Marines on board who paid for the lives of their fellow Marines with their own.
And we all did this under the guidance and inspiration of a gentleman named Gene, whom we roast in song and toast in admiration.
All the best to all Purple Foxes and those we serve.
The Ospreys entertained us with a couple of fly bys the day they flew out of Grand Junction.
The first one went right over the top of our house.
In both videos, objects are much closer than they appear.
The second Osprey headed directly over the house and goes out of sight above The Colorado National Monument.
Thanks Guys and Gals for spending time with us.
Fly Safe !