Family honors lost soldier in a ‘Freedom Flight’

Posted at: 10/11/2013 5:32 PM
By: Kim Tobin, KOB Eyewitness News 4

One family at Balloon Fiesta had a ride they will never forget on Friday. The Herrick family went up in the Freedom Flight, a balloon that honors soldiers who are MIA and POW's, to pay their respects to a young man who never came home from Vietnam.

"It doesn't get easier as time goes on," said Kathy Herrick. "It's still hard."

Air Force pilot Jim Herrick died a day before his 25th birthday, 44 years ago. He was shot down over Vietnam. His body was never found.

Alisha planned the special flight for her father's birthday, to honor his lost brother.

"I never did get to meet my uncle Jim but, I've heard just what a wonderful man he's been and wanted to honor him," Alisha said, holding back tears.

"It was a gentle ride and a nice way to remember him," Kathy said.

The Freedom Flights have been coming to Balloon Fiesta for more than 20 years. Friday's pilot, Gus, remembers his first flight like it was yesterday.

"I didn't know the emotion that we would be carrying with us," Gus said. "You know, we would land and 300 people would come up to us, people in wheel chairs. It was very emotional. I still remember it. Day One."

The family says they still haven't found closure yet. But as they floated peacefully, high above the ground, they felt like Jim was with there with them.

"He's always with us in spirit," Kathy said. "It's times like this, we feel a closeness with him. We're blessed to have been able to do this today."