Fall River WWII Hero Flies Over New Bedford Once More at 96
On August 12, right around 3 p.m., Fall River World War II veteran Manny Carvalho was 1,500 feet above the New Bedford coastline.
Thanks to a non-profit called Dream Flights, Carvalho was chosen to get the ride of his life at the age of 96. Here's how it went.
With a smile from ear to ear, Carvalho was buckled securely in the front seat of a Boeing-Stearman biplane, ready to take to the skies for the first time since 1941, when he served in the U.S. Army under General George Patton. Friends and family members surrounded the plane to get photos of the veteran who was ready to meet the sky once more.
"Everyone move back," one of the Dream Flights staff advised. We stood our distance and watched on as the propellers fired up. Moments later, the plane was in motion and Carvalho sat shotgun as his Dream Flights pilot lifted off the tarmac at the New Bedford Regional Airport and headed south.
It was just Carvalho and an open cockpit, the wind at his face and the sunset in the distance.
Twenty minutes or so rolled by and just like that, Carvalho's sky voyage was preparing to land. The pilot killed the engine and the crowd applauded as Carvalho gave a wave and a thumbs up. As the staff carefully helped him down from the plane, Carvalho touched his fingers to his lips, gave it a kiss and then touched the ground.
Among the crowd and bystanders gathered to watch the war hero was Massachusetts was Representative Paul Schmid, who stopped by to support Carvalho's big day.
"We are so appreciative of Dream Flight for being here today and recognizing a heroic figure in our community and that hero is Manny," Schmid said. "When I heard his story of how he supported our troops over in China, that alone proved itself of how much a hero he truly is."
What a monumental moment it was for Carvalho, and to witness the joy on this man's face, just looking at him, you could tell that it was all coming back to him. He was gifted a special hat that was not only signed by the Dream Flights pilot, but is only given to those who have sat in the cockpit of the biplane. Carvalho was finally instructed to sign the tail of the Boeing with a special marker, took a few more photos, then waved his goodbye.
"It was a good day," Carvalho concluded. "A very good day."
One last time, I reached out my hand to shake his, thanked him for his service in which he replied, "You're very welcome." It's veterans like Carvalho for who I'm beyond grateful, and to witness pure joy in this man's face was absolutely priceless. There's no better feeling.
Take a scroll through Carvalho's day from take-off to landing with these incredible photos below from Sousa Image Works.