This Shot Is an Example of Veterans' Unique Dedication to Dedication
They are a special breed indeed.
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This Veterans Day, I want to tell story about an experience that has always stuck in my mind. Back on March 28, 2014, I had heard that a group of USMC AV-8B Harriers from VMA-311 “Tomcats” had landed at Portland International Airport, and they were here to do a flyover at a funeral. Aviation photography is a serious passion of mine, and I wanted to catch these guys going out on their mission, so I hauled out to the airport to catch them leaving. The only problem was the weather wasn’t just the usual rainy muck we see in the Pacific Northwest, it was especially horrible.
Sheets of blowing rain were blasting through the area, and at times the ceiling dropped down to just a couple hundred feet, with intermittent mist below that. It was a dark day. I thought there was no way these guys were going to attempt a flyover in this storm. What would be the point?
Then the canopies opened up and the ground crews emerged.
The division of Harriers sat with their engines running, preparing to taxi. Even air traffic controllers seemed surprised they were going to complete the mission. As they made the long taxi to the end of runway 10L, the storm worsened—the sky was dumping water by the bucket and the cloud deck plummeted.
Wind gusting and the rain pouring, I wondered how these guys would even be able to see their targeted flyover point, or each other for that matter, and was just amazed that they were going to attempt the formation.
The jets departed, their exhaust nozzles churning up massive clouds of mist that obscured them from view as they muscled into the air. I was soaked to the bone, but I got a few shots.
Later that day I had heard that the flyover was for a very special Marine. Staff Sergeant Francis G. Scott, who lived in Oregon City about ten miles south of Portland, was a Silver Star recipient for his actions during the Battle of Tarawa had passed away at 93 years old. Here is the official citation for his Silver Star:
“The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Sergeant Francis G. Scott (MCSN: 299979), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while serving with Battery B, First Battalion, Tenth Marines, SECOND Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces at Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, on 22 November 1943. Discovering an unexploded naval shell in the position assigned his howitzer section and realizing the danger to his entire battery, Sergeant Scott immediately seized the projectile and boldly carried it through the enemy's shattering machine-gun and rifle fire to an unoccupied area two hundred yards distant. His fearless initiative, prompt action and valiant disregard of his own peril served as an inspiration to all men in his vicinity and reflect the highest credit upon Sergeant Scott and the United States Naval Service.
Action Date: November 22, 1943”
I also learned that the four-ship of Harriers flew visually, in tight formation, below a ceiling of around 500 feet, down the Willamette Valley, and pulled off what was probably one of the best funeral flyovers ever.
The mission was a shining example of courage, not to win a battle but to pay homage to another man who displayed even greater courage in battle.
Oorah Marines, Oorah. And a huge thanks to all those who have served our country on this Veterans Day.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com