A hero. Period.
Bob “Smoky” Vrilakas, a resident of Happy Valley, OR, held a book signing this week for his WWII memoirs, Look Mom – I Can Fly! He donated proceeds from the book sales to the Clackamas Community College Military Families Scholarship Endowment. I was honored to be on hand to meet Smoky and welcome the guests to the event in his honor.
In the mid-1920s the sound of airplane motors would cause the entire inhabitants of author Robert “Smoky” Vrilakas’ small Northern California village to dash outside to look up at the sky. Overhead would be a Ford Trimotor passenger plane droning off toward some unknown destination, a sight almost as awesome then as watching a manned satellite pass over in space today. The author, then a young boy, thought those who flew airplanes had to be super humans, far beyond anything he could ever even dream of doing. Later, in the midst of the Great Depresssion, Smoky Vrilakas’ life took a sudden, sweeping turn. Six months prior to the December Pearl Harbor attack and at only 22 years old, Smoky was drafted into the army in preparation for an expected major war. Look, Mom-I Can Fly! takes you through the author’s Army infantry training and his Army Air Corp flight training. You will share Smoky’s experience in learning to fly the Army’s top fighter airplane of the time: the P-38 “Lightning.” In mid-1943 you will travel with him and 65 other P-38 volunteer classmates to North Africa and Italy. (Read More)
I had the honor of telling the story of my own Grandma Fagan, a welder on the Portland shipyards during WWII. After welding ship 939 perfectly, it was named in her honor. The USS Imogene Fagan.