My father in law, Charlie Cook, is also a veteran of World War II, and he too is pretty quiet about it for the most part. But partly because of my strong interest in flying, and the fact that Charlie was a B-24 pilot in the South Pacific, I asked him about it, and he gradually opened up and agreed to talk about his experiences. He also shared a number of photos that he kept from his flight training days in 1941-42 (example above, B-17 in formation flight - he first trained in the B-17 before being transferred to the B-24). In the fall of 2000 (when Charlie was 80 years old), I interviewed him and wrote an article about his experiences. My friend Peter Inglis has hosted Charlie's story as part of his Flight Sim Museum (and as a PDF, new window) since then.
In the conclusion to that article, I said
He did the job, took care of his crew, and suffered badly from the stress, but never asked for any special thanks or credit. We owe a lot to Charlie and the people like him who did so much at such a young age during World War II – we live in freedom and prosperity today thanks largely to the work of men like him. I want him to know that I and many others are very grateful for his service and for his sacrifices.I'm also grateful for the service and sacrifices of all the other thousands of men and women who have served in the military in the past, and who continue to serve today, doing important and often difficult and underappreciated jobs.