There have been a few occasions in Taylor's life where someone has decided they want to do something extraordinary for her and they will let me know and then it is up to ME to keep that surprise. It happened again and this one was very hard for me to contain my excitement on!
Taylor LOVES the mighty B 17 and P 51 Mustang, they are her all time favorite WW11 planes. The knowledge she holds on these is pretty amazing and she has had the great fortune of being able to be in a B 17 before, the Yankee Lady.
I am sure all that read her blog and know of Taylor, know of her meeting with Capt. Larry Jenkins, B 17 pilot, at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo. If you scroll down, you will see the post about this most amazing meeting between Taylor and Larry. I was contacted not to long ago by the Air Zoo saying that they had found the post and would like to know if they could print the story out in their newsletter that goes out to all their members. Of course I said, after all, Capt. Jenkins story should be heard by everyone as well as what little Taylor Batten does. They printed the story and had a really nice sized picture of Larry and Taylor together in it.
A few days after it was printed, we got a phone call from Capt. Jenkins. He told me had something for Taylor, I asked what and he told me that it had been arranged for Taylor to go up in a B 17. I asked what he meant by go up, as I was assuming 'go up' in it and look around. Go up means just that, GO UP, as in fly!! I actually was speechless and as most of you that know me, that does not happen often at all. He told me the date and time and where, we hung up and I grabbed ahold of Tanner and just started jumping up and down screaming! I KNEW what this was going to mean to Taylor! Tanner just looked at me like I had finally lost that one final screw that was holding my brain together!
Not only was there going to be a B 17 there, but a P 51 Mustang as well, again, I knew what this was going to mean to Taylor, her favorites were together and she had never seen a Mustang up close either. A B 24 and B 25 were with them as well.
We decided to keep this whole thing a secret from Taylor, just letting her think she was going to go see the planes, we thought it fitting that Capt. Jenkins be the one to tell her.
We got to the airport and there was Larry, sitting in his chair with the story of him and Taylor together, telling people about it. As soon as he saw Taylor, he just broke out into this wonderful smile. She almost ran to him and they hugged, she snuggled right into him. He kept his hand on her shoulder and said he had something for her, he reached in his pocket and pulled out the medal that is given for being a prisoner of war. He gave it to her. Do I need to tell you that the water works started then? She was in shock and so awed by it and so grateful.
This was a couple of hours before take off time, so they had plenty of time to go out and check out the planes and to just talk. As soon as she saw the Mustang, she started jumping up and down in excitement. It was off to our left and right in front of us was the B 24 and the B 17 beyond that. No B 25 as they had lost an engine and were doing work on it in Wisconsin. Taylor didn't know where to go first, she looked at both her beloved planes and they were in opposite directions. She followed Capt. Jenkins and they both looked up at the B 17 and then people started coming up to Larry. Taylor couldn't help it and she got up in the 17, called Nine O Nine. Again, that is why she thought she was there, to look at the planes. As soon as she got up, the Mustang started up and went out for a ride, so she got to hear it, feel the air as it went by, feel the rumble of it and then watch it take off. She just stood there clapping, she couldn't contain her excitement for this!
She then went in and looked at the 24, called Witchcraft and spent time in there. She came back out, couldn't help it, got right back in the 17! When she was done, she came out and talked with Capt. Jenkins again. At one time, it was so sweet. They both had been out for a good hour, talking with people almost non stop and in the sun and she was a bit concerned for him. She came up behind his wheelchair and put her hand on his shoulder and asked how he was doing. He looked up at her and held on to her hand still on his shoulder and told her he was doing alright and he wanted to know how she was doing, she said 'if you are alright, then I am alright to'. They stood there holding hands, looking at each other and smiling. It just took me back to when they first met and for a moment, it was just those two together as if no one else was around. It happened again and I remember so clearly thanking the good Lord right there and then that I was able to witness this incredible moment and bond that was just meant for them at that very point in time.
Two hours had passed and it was getting close to take off time. During this time, the Mustang had come in a few times and taken right back off, but it flew right over her at a hard angle and it was so thrilling. Unfortunately, that was as close as she ever got to the Mustang that day. They pulled everyone off where the planes were except for those that needed to be there. I told Taylor we could stand there for just one more minute with Larry and then we would have to back up with everyone else so we could watch Nine O Nine fire up and take off. It was then that I saw the disappointment in her eyes, she could have stood out there all night long and wanted to do so! Larry rolled by her and went up and talked to the man that would be flying the 17 for a minute and then he came back to Taylor. He said so seriously, 'I just talked to the pilot and we wanted to know if you would like to go up in her'. Taylor didn't even catch on to what he was saying, she thought he meant the 'boy it sure would be nice huh' kind of way. He said it again and you could slowly start to see it sink in to her, but she was fighting it, she just didn't know what to think. Larry said to her that she was going up. Her jaw literally dropped down and I mean it when I saw it dropped! She looked at me as if she were needing me to clarify. I just started to laugh/cry and told her 'YES YES YES YOU ARE GOING UP'. Her tiny hands flew up around her head and she just kept yelling HOW over and over again. I have never seen her so shocked, ever. Then, I seen something else I hadn't seen her do out of excitement, she started crying! Then, her knees buckled and I had to go up to her, I am serious when I say she was on the verge of blacking out, she was that shocked and that excited. We finally got her to where I thought she was OK and then she just grabbed onto me and held me as tight as she ever has and jumped up and down screaming THANK YOU. I told her it wasn't me, I don't know who was making it possible for her to go flying in her beloved 17, but it wasn't me. She about rung poor Larry's neck when she gave him a hug to!!!!!
Want to know what even made it all the more special? Capt. Jenkins got to go up with her! Now she got to sit up front and poor Capt. was stuck in the back, but they were together and she knew he was there with her. During the flight, they popped a hatch and held her up so her chest and head were sticking out of the plane and she took pictures that way. She got to sit in the bombardiers seat for a while.
When they landed, she got out and had her hand over her mouth, she was still that shocked. She didn't even know what to say! It is 2 days later now and she is still just now trying to comprehend all of it.
On the way home, she did get a bit quiet, the excitement and shock of it all did a number on her, but it was WELL WORTH IT. She talked abit though about being so amazed, I asked about what. She said that sitting there as the plane was flying, she looked back and saw Capt. Jenkins sitting in the back. Then, she looked up front to where his place was and should be, in the pilots area. She said she was amazed because of how Larry's plane was hit and the injuries he sustained, on top of being blinded from the explosion, how he made it out of his seat to where he had to go to stay alive. She said in all earnest, 'mom, it is a miracle'. She is right, an absolute miracle. That got us both to talking, miracles to happen and they happen for a reason. There are many miracles around our family that have come to us because of Taylor.
Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell, a miracle he is alive. A miracle that happened so that he could fight forth and make a difference for thousands of wounded. Cpl. Josh Hoffman, a miracle that he is alive. A miracle that happened so that others may see what he used to be to what he is today, and he still fights and everyone around him is so happy. Sgt. Major Kasal, a miracle he is alive. A miracle happened so that he could save the lives around him and inspire. Capt. Larry Jenkins, WW11 B 17 pilot, a miracle he is alive. A miracle that happened so that he may pass on history as it really happened and a miracle that happened so that he may share special moments as he and Taylor have. GySgt Taylor Batten, a miracle she was even born because of her medical condition, less then 1% even survive birth. A miracle happened so that she could touch the lives of so many and make as much a difference as the many miracles before her. Look around you, how many miracles do you have in your life. Take the time to realize that they are just that, miracles and then do all you can to cherish them. These are just a small example of what we have been surrounded by because of Taylor, there are hundreds more.....
No one will tell us who gave this once in a life time gift to Taylor. I know they are reading this, so I want you to know that you gave her more then just a plane ride. You obviously know her story and you know how important things are to her. You know what matters and what doesn't. You know how giving her soul is even if her body and medical condition don't let her do the things she wants. You know how much she loves Capt. Jenkins and the B17 and you made this happen for her and Larry. Thank you. Your gift will last for a life time. I don't know if you were there to see her reaction to being told she was going, I hope you were. Ed Rossi, Ed Sackley and Roger Jenkins, I am glad you got to share this day with us, thank you!
I can only post 5 pictures at a time, so I am going to be uploading more onto her photobucket site and I will email to those of you that I have your email addresses.