World War II veterans get to relive glory days thanks to Dream Flights


CREVE COEUR, Mo – On Sept. 2, 1945, Japan surrendered on board the USS Missouri which ended World War II. Last September marked the 75th anniversary of the war’s end, but the COVID-19 outbreak canceled celebrations and events for those who served.

This year, Dream Flights is honoring WWII veterans with a national tour dubbed Operation September Freedom.

From Aug. 1 through Oct. 1, Dream Flights will travel to roughly 300 U.S. cities and fly over 1,000 WWII heroes in six restored Stearman biplanes. Ralph Goldsticken was one of the St. Louis WWII veterans selected to fly Thursday morning at the Creve Coeur Airport in Maryland Heights. 

Goldsticken, better known as Goldie, served three years, three months, and 14 days in the United States Air Force during World War II. He flew two missions on D-Day and a total of 35 Bomboniere combat missions in England.

Thursday was the first time in 78 years since he’s stepped foot in a Stearman PT17 – the first plane he trained with entering the air force. 

“The plane I flew in brought back real memories of floating around the sky and being in an airplane,” Goldsticken said. “I enjoyed it then, and I enjoy it even more now. It brought back memories.”

Allyssa Vanmeter is a crew chief for Dream Flights who assisted veterans at the event. She has been helping with the Operation September Freedom tour for two weeks and says this moment for veterans is much bigger than just getting able to fly in a plane.

Giving WWII veterans the opportunity to meet one another and talk about their experiences is bonding, healing, and a chance for Dream Flights to preserve the stories of those who served for generations to come. 

“Most of them don’t talk about their time in the military, and they kind of shoved it under the rugs. We just try to lift their spirits and give them thanks for what they did for our country,” Vanmeter said.

Goldie reminisced on his time in the war. Fox 2’s Mikala McGee asked him how did flying today compare to flying in a combat mission. He said flying with Dream Flights was one of the most enjoyable and peaceful moments he’s had in his life – mostly because no one was shooting at him.

As he approaches his 100th birthday, he wished an opportunity like this would have presented itself sooner. 

For more information on Dream Flights, visit the organization’s website or Facebook page.

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