Legends & Heroes Autograph Tent
Meet aviation, military legends and heroes at our Autograph Tent. Throughout the day, flying aces, decorated war-heroes, veterans and special guests will be present to sign autographs. Many of these living legends will also offer for sale copies of their autobiographies and other memorabilia. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet these heroes and hear their stories!
Check out the list of who is coming in 2022 below!
A french horn player in the U.S. Navy band, Frank was aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania on December 7, 1941, witnessing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As the band played morning colors, Frank saw the first bomb drop and explode at a hangar on Ford Island. After seven years of playing horn, he became a Navy bandleader, retiring in 1968.
“I’m about the last one (Pearl Harbor survivor) left around here,” Emond said during a drive-by birthday party last year at the Gonzalez United Methodist Church.
He remained a music man; sometimes leading the music at Gonzalez Methodist and performing with the Pensacola Civic Band. The Guinness Book of World Records named him the “Oldest Musical Conductor” in the world after he participated in a 2019 Memorial Day concert.
After receiving his B.S. degree in aeronautical engineering from Parks College of St. Louis University in 1954, Kranz was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force, and flew high performance jet fighter aircraft, including the F-80, F-86, and F-100. In 1958, he worked as a flight-test engineer for McDonnell Aircraft, developing the Quail Decoy Missile for B-52 and B-47 aircraft. Kranz joined the NASA Space Task Group at Langley, Virginia, in 1960, and was assigned the position of assistant flight director for Project Mercury. He assumed flight director duties for all Project Gemini Missions, and was branch chief for Flight Control Operations. He was selected as division chief for Flight Control in 1968, and continued his duties as a flight director for the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing before taking over the leadership of the Apollo 13 “Tiger Team.” He was discharged from the Air Force Reserve as a Captain in 1972. He contributed his expertise to a number of other NASA missions during his career, including the Skylab Program. After the Skylab Program concluded, he was named deputy director of Flight Operations for NASA, which gave him the responsibility for space flight planning, training and mission operations, aircraft operations, and flight crew operations. In 1983, he was assigned the post of director of Mission Operations, and given the responsibility for all aspects of mission design, development, maintenance, and operations of all related mission facilities, as well as the preparation of the Space Shuttle flight software. Kranz has received many awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he received from President Nixon for the Apollo 13 mission, and his designation as a Distinguished Member of the Senior Executive Service by President Reagan. After retirement Kranz served as a flight engineer on a B-17 “Flying Fortress”, constructed an aerobatic bi-plane and in April 2000 published a memoir about his experiences in the space program, Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. His book, a New York Times Bestseller, has been selected by the History Channel as the basis for a documentary on Mission Control. He and his wife are the parents of six children, and reside in Texas.
SSgt George Truman Waters
“At the age of 101, his mind remains sharp. He had just turned 21 years old and had been working at an aircraft repair shop in Alabama when he was drafted into the war. He would participate in trainings and tests in various locations , including in Las Vegas.
That’s where he went up in the T6/SNJ advanced trainer — the first plane he ever left the ground in.
The trouble would follow him to the war where he served as a B-17 gunner. After flying 14 missions in 22 days, he would be shot down on February 22, 1944. His book, “No Thought for Tomorrow,” details his experiences, including when he had to bail from the B-17 as it fell apart and crashed during combat.
While he survived the crash with a front-loader parachute that he put on right before the flight, he would ultimately spend 15 months as a prisoner of war in Germany — where he was interrogated and walked over 600 miles across the Nazi-controlled country.
Today, Waters — who also nearly died as a child from scarlet fever — believes “ignorance is bliss” and that the secret to living a long life is to “not dig too much, and when you find yourself in a hole — to stop digging.” He sat surrounded by family and friends, including his wife, Mavis, 101, who he married the week before the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.”
Info and photo source: https://www.yourconroenews.com/neighborhood/moco/news/article/Homage-paid-to-100-year-old-WWII-Conroe-veteran-16244485.php
Lt. Col. James Harvey III
James H. Harvey III is a retired United States Army Air Corps/U.S. Air Force (USAF) officer and former African-American fighter pilot with the 332nd Fighter Group’s 99th Fighter Squadron, best known as the Tuskegee Airmen, “Red Tails,” or among enemy German pilots, Schwartze Vogelmenschen (“Black birdmen”). He is one of the 1007 documented Tuskegee Airmen Pilots.
Harvey is best known as the first African American USAF jet fighter combat pilot to fight in the Korean War. Harvey and his 332nd Fighter Group Weapons pilot team won the USAF’s inaugural “Top Gun” team competition in 1949. Harvey — along with every member of the Tuskegee Airmen — received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2006. Harvey, along with Dr. Harold Brown, George Hardy, and fellow 1949 Top Gun winner Harry Stewart, Jr., are among the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Ralph Coleman Graham
Author of “12 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Ghost Plane at the Battle of the Bulge”, Ralph Coleman tells the true, and riveting, story of divine intervention in one of WWII’s most historic battles. Coleman, at the age of eighteen, volunteered fourteen months before the beginning of the attack at Pearl Harbor and the Declaration of War. Graham’s book conveys the horror and turmoil of the Battle with both striking honesty and commendable stoicism and objectivity. Above all else, however, the book excels as an examination of God’s guiding hand in the affairs of man and an account of one celestial intervention in particular that brought a crew of young Americans safely home from Europe while thousands perished all around them.
Col. Joe McPhail
McPhail flew with the most successful Marine Fighting Squadron of 1945 was VMF-323, the “Death Rattlers”. In just a few weeks, they shot down 124½ Japanese and counted a dozen Aces. Col. McPhail downed a Zeke and, on April 12, 1945, while on patrol flying a F4U Corsair, shot day Ki-27 Nate. He is also a decorated combat pilot veteran of the Korean War.
Capt. Don Smith
Sharon Caples McDougle
Sharon Caples McDougle joined the NASA family working in the Space Shuttle Crew Escape Equipment (CEE) department. She was the first African American to join the CEE team as a Suit Technician and was responsible for processing the orange launch/entry suit assemblies worn by astronauts.
McDougle is regarded as a “modern day hidden figure”. Everyone knows Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to go to space – but many don’t know that an African American woman, with her own list of firsts, “suited her up”. McDougle was Jemison’s suit tech for her historic mission aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
Later, McDougle became Crew Chief making her the first woman and first African American CEE Crew Chief. In her new position she was responsible for leading a team of technicians to suit up astronaut crews. McDougle had the honor of leading the first and only all-woman suit tech crew.
During her career she was recognized with the Astronaut “Silver Snoopy” Award, and the coveted Women of Color in Flight Award from Dr. Mae Jemison.
McDougle is also an Air Force veteran. She was an Aerospace Physiology Specialist responsible for training, suiting up, and strapping in the SR-71 and U-2 reconnaissance aircraft pilots. She also worked with the hypobaric and hyperbaric chambers.
Lila Holley is a multi-award-winning, bestselling author, Army Veteran, and founder of Camouflaged Sisters. She uses her books and real-life lessons to help other Service Members maneuver through the emotional battlefield of transitioning from the military, take ownership of their stories, and heal using the power of storytelling.
The Camouflaged Sisters anthology series consists of 8 published books sharing the inspirational stories of 130 courageous military women. The books cover topics such as leadership, mentorship, sisterhood, career challenges, and combat experiences. They also tackle tough topics like surviving military sexual assault, toxic leadership, PTSD, and surviving domestic violence while serving. These authors do not shy away from the ugly details of their experiences while sharing their lessons learned hoping to leave readers with a message of inspiration and hope. Their desire is for others to read their stories and know that they are not alone in their struggles. This method of writing and storytelling is healing for both the writers and the readers.
Lila believes there is no one better to tell these stories than the women who lived them. Camouflaged Sisters has created a platform for military women and women Veterans to share their incredible stories – where their voices are valued and their service honored.
Michael Lynn Graham
Michael Lynn Graham graduated from Athens High School in Athens, Texas in 1965 as a proud and eager Hornet. He attended Henderson County Jr College through 1967. At the height of the Vietnam War he volunteered to serve his country in the U.S. Navy. His boot camp was in Great Lakes, Illinois where he became a seaman apprentice. His first orders were to report aboard the U.S.S. John W Weeks, a Fletcher Class destroyer. His next promotion was to boatswain mate in the first division. His shakedown cruise was to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba prior to sailing to Vietnam in 1969. His ships’ duty was to protect the aircraft carriers which were conducting air strikes on the Vietcong. They also stationed on the gun line to fire spot shots ashore for the troops in country. His duty in Vietnam was completed in 9 months upon returning to Norfolk, Virginia. His next deployment was aboard the U.S.S. Gearing destroyer DD710 out of Groton, Connecticut. He sailed to the Mediterranean area to cruise ports in Italy and Spain where he trained reserves until honorably discharged in 1971. After his service he had a career in plant operations and insurance sales while raising his family in Palestine, Texas. Upon retirement he spends his time with family and playing golf with his 99 yr old father, a veteran of WWII.
William "Buzz" Barron
“Buzz” Barron’s book, Crew Chief, be he ne’er so vile, provides more than a glimpse into what it took to maintain, service, launch, and recover the workhorse of the air war up North. His story is more than just what it was like to be a crew chief; it is about growing up, it is about life. He presents his story with great detail in the vernacular of his native language – Texan! His writing is full of earnest passion, humility, and empathy, sprinkled with subtle humor and some out right passages of out loud laughter.
MSgt Wes Fields
Master Sergeant Fields is a 24-year service and a combat veteran. He earned 62 decorations and awards while serving in the United States Air Force as an Aerial Gunner on the AC-130H Spectre Gunship assigned to the United States Air Force Special Operations Command. He participated in numerous special operation missions throughout the world.
CW 4 Daniel Flores
Flores is a native Houstonian and flew the AH-64 Apache helicopter. Flores was activated in 2005 to be deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom and, during his one year tour, was witness to the resurgence of the Taliban. Flores participated on some of the fiercest fighting in the Hindu Kush Mountains.
Dr. Du Hua
Dr. Du Hua, a Navy veteran, was born in Vietnam during the war and lived under communist rule until escaping in 1981 and coming to the United States a year later. After learning English and earning a GED and an associate’s degree, Dr. Hua joined the United States Navy in 1987. He served multiple deployments, including Operation Desert Storm. After his military career, he became a pharmacist.
George W.S. Abbey
George Abbey is a former director of the Johnson Space Center (JSC) and Fellow in Space Policy at the Baker Institute of Rice University. He had more influence on human spaceflight than almost anyone in history. Abbey oversaw the selection of every astronaut class from 1978 to 1987, deciding who got to fly and when. He was with the Apollo 1 astronauts the night before the fatal fire in January 1967. He was in mission control the night of the Apollo 13 accident and organized the recovery effort. Abbey also led NASA’s recruitment of women and minorities as space shuttle astronauts and was responsible for hiring Sally Ride.
Brig. Gen. Jean-Loup Chrétien
Gen. Chrétien is a French astronaut and was the first person from Western Europe to go into space, aboard a Soviet flight to the Salyut 7 space station in June 1982. Chrétien flew a second Soviet mission to space station Mir in 1988 and then returned to Mir as a U.S.-trained astronaut aboard NASA’s space shuttle in 1997.
Maj. Terry Pappas
Terry Pappas spent 41 years flying for the USAF and NASA, including service during the Vietnam era. He has flown a wide array of aircraft from the T-38, Learjets, Gulfstreams, the Super Guppy, DC-9s, and the SR-71 Blackbird. With more than 10,000 hours, Terry retired from NASA in 2011.
Captain Mike Trahan
Mike Trahan was a pilot in Vietnam flying the AC-47 “Spooky” gunship. After graduation from Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training, he spent two years in the Military Airlift Command, flying the C-141 Starlifter jet transport aircraft. In 1969, he was re-assigned to the AC-47 “Spooky” Gunship and later to the EC-47 Electric Countermeasures aircraft. He served a year of combat in Vietnam in those two aircraft.
Sadly, we have more to add to this display and will be updating this list.