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Two Eagle Ridge of Decatur residents were honored to take part in a special flight event to celebrate military veterans at Gaitros Aviation, LLC in Decatur, Illinois.

Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to seniors and military veterans living in long-term care communities, came to Decatur with their WWII Stearman Biplane, to help our residents soar. Their goal is to give older adults an opportunity to experience the thrill of a flight that includes riding in the cockpit of a Boeing plane that was used to train military aviators in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Eagle Ridge residents Jenseen Wilks and Ruth Bloxam were selected to take the flight this year, and several Eagle Ridge residents came along to cheer them on.  An escort was provided by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office, which made the ride to the airport even more special.  Volunteers with Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation dedicated their time and energy to this momentous trip and focused on making the day special for the ladies.

Riding in the Stearman Biplane was one of the happiest days of Jenseen’s life.

“It was heavenly, “she proclaimed, “Joyful and exciting!”

Jenseen worked at Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Hospital in California for 14 years after her time as a certified nursing assistant and physical therapy aide at Fairhavens Skilled Nursing Facility in Decatur. Her work in the VA Hospital involved direct skilled medical assistance, including wound care.  Jenseen says even though she was a CNA, she always felt her main job was to lift veterans’ spirits and make them laugh.  She loved doing special things to make their stay more enjoyable — sometimes using her own money to bring their favorite meals to the hospital. She said she was named employee of the month several times and took great pride in her work. If she could go back and work there again, she definitely would.

Ruth, who also was selected for this year’s flight, says she worked in an office role, doing record keeping at an Army Hospital during WWII.  It was a place for soldiers to heal with an orthopedic focus.  She got involved in the military after her older sister advised her to serve at home instead of going abroad. She followed her sister’s orders and served in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ruth says she was honored to be selected to fly, and she had never seen a plane like the Stearman and never in a million years thought she would have an experience that would allow her to ride in one.

Before going up in the flight, the pilot asked both both Eagle Ridge residents if they were scared to fly.

“Noooooooo!” Jenseen hollered over the engine, adding she would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

On the same note, Ruth shrugged her shoulders and added, “When you’re 95 years old, what is there to be afraid of?”

Thank you to Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation for making it possible for seniors to go back to a time that honored those who served and allowing them to live out their memories.