LEESBURG, Fla. — World War II veteran John “Papa John” McCrary checked another adventure off his bucket list on Tuesday.
The 92-year-old took a flight in a restored Boeing-Stearman used to train WWII pilots.
McCrary got the invitation from Dream Flights, a national nonprofit organization that takes military veterans and seniors on flights on the historic aircraft. The now TikTok famous veteran who appeared on the Kelly Clarkson show last year was chosen for the flight after being anonymously nominated.
“Wow, it’s such an honor,” McCrary said. “To be singled out, that’s something.”
McCrary has a decorated history serving as a Navy Seabee for 26 years and during three wars — WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Today he's a regular customer of the Combat Cafe in Umatilla, and he's been featured on many of co-owner Beth Chambers' TikToks. His dancing and patriotic performances landed him an interview with Clarkson for a Veterans Day special last year.
Then recently, The Dream Flight team reached out to Beth and Bruce Chambers, who were listed as McCrary’s contact.
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The couple connected the team with Papa John to make it happen. Some of the Combat Cafe family was even there cheering for him during his Dream Flight at the Leesburg International Airport on Tuesday.
“Dream Flights was started in 2011,” Dream Flight pilot Darryl Smith said. “Our founder and his family are dedicated to aviation and senior veterans. Since then, there’s been over 4,000 dream flights. This year, we changed and developed operation September Freedom, which we dedicated solely to WWII veterans. We want to honor them. We have over 1,100 WWII veterans scheduled to fly in one of our six Stearman we have flying throughout the United States in 61 cities.”
Darryl and his wife, Melanie, who are veterans themselves, travel to each of the cities to honor these veterans with Dream Flights.
It's just as much fun for them as it is for the veterans, they said.
“I almost feel selfish how much enjoyment I get out of this,” Melanie said. “It’s such an honor to get to meet these veterans. They all have stories and these stories won’t be around much longer so it’s always an honor for them to share them.”
The flight lasted about 20 minutes in air but McCrary came back down with a big smile on his face.
“I never dreamed that those lakes were that big,” McCrary said after landing. “It’s so beautiful up there. Now I know why they call it Lake County. It’s an honor for them to treat me this way.”
This article originally appeared on Daily Commercial: TikTok famous WWII vet takes a dream flight on Boeing-Stearman