Skyball X

Submitted by Rick Ault

The Airpower Foundation, one of America’s longest serving military charities, presented Sky Ball X at Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport on October 25-27, 2012.  It is stated that ‘no other event in the country that matches the scope, power and impact of Sky Ball’.  I can attest all was so very true.  I have never seen, let alone, had the privilege to be part of such an incredible display of honor, respect and love for our military past and present.

Lt. Colonel William “Razz” Rasgorshek, Inside Director for Honor our Marines, Inc. facilitated the Corps participation in this event and coordinated all of our needs for myself, Dennis Coochyouma, Howie Whitaker and Ed Powell.  We stayed at the DFW Sheraton which was hosting most of the participants and guests and the Sky Ball Operations Center.

Thursday, October 26 the hotel provided space and fantastic food for a reception.  We met some amazing people at this event.

Friday around 1600 hours we boarded buses headed for the American Airlines Hanger.  We were escorted by the Patriot Guard and Dallas Police.

Now, I have lived in North Texas for 23 years, I have never seen a highway shut down for anything other than a major traffic pileup.  It’s rush hour on a major Dallas freeway, when our line of busses entered the freeway, all traffic had been stopped, all of the on ramps were being held back and no one seemed the least bit upset.  It was quite a sight.

As we turned toward the hanger area, the street was lined with American Flags and when we disembarked, we were greeted by the nicest people, all employees of American Airlines.  Everyone smiling, everyone was genuinely pleased to be there and to greet us.  We were directed through the hanger, where there were chairs set up for the nights concert, to a large, heated tent, next to the flight line, where there was also a military aircraft static display, including a Huey.  There we were once again greeted with smiles and handshakes.  A stage and podium had been set up and decorated tables and several open bars.  We were free to mill around, meet people and enjoy a great dinner.  The speakers talked about The Airpower Foundation and Sky Ball X and the purpose of the foundation and all they do for our Wounded Warriors and Veterans.  They talked about the scholarship foundations and of course the many sponsors of the event.

There was a skit of what it was most likely like 237 years ago in a local watering hole called Tun Tavern. 

Gary Sinise came out an spoke with us and welcomed all of us.  He talked about his involvement helping veterans and his foundation for helping Wounded Warriors.  And he gave us a brief history lesson about the Lt. Dan Band.  In the movie Forrest Gump, although Forrest Gump is a fictional character, all of the stories in the movie were based on real experiences.  Gary Sinise played Lt. Dan a Vietnam platoon commander.  In the story line, Lt. Dan called in an airstrike on his position after being ambushed by a force greater in numbers and his platoon was being decimated.  Forrest Gump carried several wounded members of the platoon to safety, totally disregarding his own safety, over and over again he went into hell to bring out another wounded soldier.  And then we heard from the Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient whose unselfish act or heroism that scene was based on.  According to Mr. Sinise he related how when people would see him, out and about they would ask him about his character, Lt. Dan.  This is how Gary Sinise decided to call his band, the Lt. Dan Band. 

After dinner, we were treated to the most incredible concert.  I am told there were at least 3,000 people at this concert.  Organizers, sponsors, guests, military members and their families. There were several local singing artist to warm up the crowd for the headliner, the Lt. Dan Band, with Gary Sinise.  They played for hours and were absolutely incredible.  The band, the back-up singers, the dancers, they were all so amazing.  And their energy, it was never-ending.

Saturday we had a repeat of Friday, only this time when we boarded the buses we were dressed for a black tie event.  Military Officers in their dinner dress uniforms, guests dressed to the ‘nines’.  And once again, we were escorted by the Patriot Guard and Dallas Police to the American Airlines Hanger.  Only this time when we arrived there was a red carpet and employees of American Airlines and organizers to greet us.  We exchanged out tickets for a challenge coin and a glass of champagne.  We were once again directed to the same tent, outside of the hanger, only this time it had been redecorated to look and feel like, Tun Tavern.  I am told a former Marine brought in most of the artifacts to make the event as real as it could be.  There was an open bar, singers, dancers dressed for the era.  Nothing was sacrificed to make this the most incredible experience.

On the flight line there was the static display and we were treated to a great aerial display by parachutist, the last one, of course, displaying the American Flag.  It was an incredible sight.  A local high school provided the music and that had to be a bit rough, because a cold front had moved in to the area and it was getting very cold and windy, quickly.  But, nothing could stop or wipe the smiles from the faces of everyone that was there to greet and guide us through time, from 237 years ago to the present

As we were directed back in to the hanger, again there was the red carpet lined by American Airline employees, all holding American Flags, smiling, greeting and freezing….Once inside there were assigned seating and tables set up for an incredible dinner.  We had a chance to meet even more of the sponsors and  organizers.  We met and talked with some of the most amazing, humble and patriotic people.  I was the one humbled by so many people who donated so much time and money and were so incredibly patriotic.  We had a great dinner, of course an open bar and presentations by organizers and guests.  Dennis Coochyouma was one of the guest speakers.  His presentation was about the contributions of the American Indian and his experiences in VMO-6.  Everyone was given a hardback copy of Into the Fire, written by Marine Corporal and Medal of Honor recipient, Dakota Meyer .  And once again we were treated to a fantastic concert from the Lt. Dan Band.

This was one extraordinary experience.  American Airlines was incredible in their preparation and execution.  The organizers did an amazing job putting this all together.  Our sponsor Lt. Col. Rasgorshek made it look so effortless, but it was obvious how much work and planning went into making this a life changing opportunity for us of VMO-6.