I think heroes are people who look for opportunities bigger than themselves. They put themselves on the line to benefit others. And it often comes with no fanfare, no thank you, no awards and no money.
The pay is felt in the heart. And in the memory.
Meet Bev Beesmeyer, Women’s Air Force Pilot WWII. She was my Mom’s classmate when they trained at the AF base in Sweetwater, Texas. She is among the less-than-100 living WASP who collectively flew 60 million air miles of domestic wartime duty, flying every plane in the U.S. arsenal. Bev flew the B-26 bomber called the Marauder, towing targets for gunnery practice with live ammunition. It was not without hazard. Thirty two WASP died in the course of duty but because they were not considered official military, there were no benefits and in at least one case, the women passed the hat to send the body home to the parents.
Unceremoniously disbanded in 1944, the Air Force refused to let women back in the cockpits of military planes for 30 years! Bev (affectionately called Beezy) left to work in an airport—doing anything to keep herself close to flying. In the course of her 97 years, she’s delivered planes, been a fight instructor, ran a string of employment agencies, and retired to Marina del Rey, driving speed boats and then Leisure World to take up golfing and her love of painting.
Despite the loss of her partner, breast cancer, hearing loss and macular degeneration, Beezy still lives alone with day time caregivers. Through all these adventures and losses, Beezy has remained a resilient, upbeat soul. She turns her head to one side, peers out of what’s left of her vision and paints through a gigantic magnifying glass.
But mention “plane” and she’s ready to be taken out to the flight line in her wheel chair. Just last week, she was assisted into an AT-6 and taken up where the pilot let her do some acrobatics.
She’s a hero to me—for what she did and continues to do. She has appeared on numerous panels and was a prime subject in the PBS special We Served Too, the Movie.
To all the women and men who served us then as now, a grateful nation salutes you.
PS: In 2010, the WASP were finally awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service.