Theodore Soliday has received numerous honorary awards, as well as three Purple Heart medals for his service in the military. On Saturday, February 6th, he stood beside his ripped uniform from a plane crash during the Vietnam War, which was on display at the military banquet held at the Hertz Hanger in Southwest Florida International Airport.
The banquet was supported by The Naples Senior Squadron Civil Air Patrol and was a fundraiser for the Museum of Military Memorabilia. Food, drinks, entertainment and auctions were provided for the veterans to enjoy for the night.
“Being able to help out even just a little for this event is an honor,” Carla Enriquez said, pastry chef for the event. “Just being here around all these veterans gives me the goose bumps.”
A couple of awards were given to a few veterans, however the focus of the night was on Theodore Soliday, a retired pilot, captain and air traffic controller for the United States Marine Corps, who has received three Purple Hearts. The Purple Heart is the oldest award still given to U.S. military members, and was established by George Washington. It honors wounded veterans who have fought in war.
He had three of his uniforms on display from the museum at the gala for everyone to observe. Visible tears and rips were present on the uniform from which he was wearing when he got into a crash.
“My recollection is that it was in early March or late February,” Soliday said, when asked about his crash. “As we were going down spinning, I aimed for the dirt and had to turn the aircraft so we could soften the impact, and then it rolled down the hill…it was a pretty traumatic crash.”
He describes what it was like and what was going through his head as he was going down. He chuckled and made few jokes about the experience.
“The funniest part of it though, is sitting there and thinking what don’t you do when you’re upside down,” Soliday said. “First thing I see is my copilot moving his head around, so that means he’s not dead…I told to him to get out. I had to cut myself out, and that’s where the rips on the uniform come from.”
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