For fifteen years, we had sped past the place just off I-95 in Pooler, Georgia. Every time we had driven to visit my in-laws in Florida and every time we returned home, we passed it. And every time we did so, we commented, “We’ll have to stop there some time–when we have more time.”
But we were always in a hurry. Only a limited amount of time. Had to get to Nannie and Poppop’s house. On the way back, had to get back to work. Had to mow the lawn. Had to get back before dark. There was always some legitimate excuse.
Until this time.
This time, our destination was two and a half hours shorter. We had no timetable to keep. We had no reason not to stop. So we did.
The best advertisements for the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum are the restored aircraft on display between the museum and the interstate and the praises of World War II veterans in whose honor the museum was built. Our experience confirmed those praises, and we add our own kudos to theirs.
We arrived just before the doors opened and just happened to enter as a museum administrator arrived. He introduced us to the museum and told us where to get tickets, where to start, and how to get the most from our visit. When we told him that Connie’s uncle had been a member of the flight crew on a B-17 in the 384th Bomb Group, he was helpful in directing us to Uncle Paul’s unit’s plaque and banner.
We spent the next 2 1/2 hours looking at excellently prepared exhibits, reading information placards, and examining the many artifacts and fully or partially restored warplanes. Those included a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-24 Liberator, a P-51 Mustang, a Messerschmitt Bf-109, and a Steerman biplane.
But the most impressive part of our tour was the docent who got us started with a series of three films (complete with special effects) that gave an abridged version of what it was like for a B-17 crew, from pre-mission briefers to ground crew to flight crew during a bombing run
over Nazi Germany. Then he gave us an informative walking tour of the central exhibits, which encircled the centerpiece, the gleaming B-17 City of Savannah.
This docent not only “knew his stuff” but also loved sharing his passion with others. Upon learning that Uncle Paul had been a tail gunner, he even allowed us to view inside the plane’s tail-gunner’s compartment. He gave us a greater appreciation for what the gunners experienced. He seemed reluctant to stop talking about his subject and answering our questions, but the start of his next scheduled film showing was imminent. We couldn’t have had a better docent, and I made a mental note to be more passionate in my own docenting duties.
But there was yet more ahead in our slower-paced journey down I-95. We had planned to defy Disney traffic and spend the night in Lakeland, Florida. The next morning we planned to surprise two people at a local church there. One, the pastor, I had grown up with in Knoxville. He had often urged us to stop by on one of our trips farther south, but we never seemed to have time. Now we did. We also wanted to surprise a young lady in his congregation whom we had gotten to know at the University in Greenville.
But as the saying states, the best-laid plans of mice and men go awry. Both of the people we wanted to see were in Kenya on a missions trip. We did, however, get to see, many for the first time, family members of both individuals as well as parents of kids we had once hosted in our home in Tennessee.
After the service, we completed our journey and enjoyed the company of my father- and sister-in-law in the heat and humidity of summer in the Sunshine State.
The moral of it all, I suppose, is that we should slow down occasionally and make time to visit the places and people we so often say we want to see “one day when we have more time.”
What is your “want-to-visit-someday” spot (Or even that “want-to-write-about” subject?) Why not begin planning to make that “want-to” wish a reality? And then just do it!