JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -As the smell of roasted turkey, fresh cooked carrots and garlic potatoes filled the air, approximately 200 members of the Washington Wing Civil Air Patrol, filled the seats of the seasonally decorated ballroom at the Collocated Club here, Nov. 10, in celebration of their 71st Fall Anniversary banquet.

It was the largest annual opportunity for Civil Air Patrol members of Western Washington to dine, dance and visit with old friends of the organization and to meet and greet new members.

Chartered by congress Dec. 1941 - the government thought the CAP would be a great way to use America's civilian aviation resources as an aid to the war effort. The CAP is a federally supported, non-profit organization and is the official auxiliary of the United States Air Force.

Their mission? According to congressional mandate, it includes search and rescue, disaster relief, emergency services and homeland security operations - to save lives and to reduce human suffering.

It has an all-volunteer membership of aviation minded people with backgrounds representing all socio-economic groups. Membership ranges in age from 12 to 18 for the cadets while senior leaders range from 18, to, well, way beyond in some cases.

Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col.'s, Eleanor Baker and Evelyn Lundstrom-Weiss, both of Seattle, are shining examples of how the family-like atmosphere associated with the CAP can entice some folks to remain for a lifetime. They've both been active members for 63 of CAP's 71 years. Interestingly enough, Baker and Weiss were both born on Sep. 10, 1930 - they're identical-twin sisters.

At 82, the twins enjoyed a bit of celebrity status at the event, and having arrived to the occasion adorned in identical evening gowns, it was extremely difficult for even some who had known the two for years, to tell one from the other. At their diner table sisters Baker and Weiss shared many stories of the Civil Air Patrol's history, as personal witnesses to practically all of it.

"We both wanted to be flight attendants when we were very young," said Weiss, "but back then you had to be a nurse to be a flight attendant so it just wasn't in the cards financially. That's when we got involved with the Air Patrol; it gave us so many opportunities to be involved with aviation in ways we never could have expected."

The ladies said that they had begun in the CAP as two very shy, young girls, but through the years and through all of the opportunities the air patrol had given them, they were taught to have courage, and their self esteem and confidence grew strong. Today, the sisters insist that neither of them has been shy for years. In fact they are the official historians for the Washington Wing CAP, which is headquartered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Immediately following dinner, the members were treated to the inspirational and entertaining words from the evening's key-note speaker, I Corps CSM John Wayne Troxell.

Troxell spoke of how proud he was of the accomplishments of the Civil Air Patrol. He shared a few of his own experiences of younger life and of his years coming up through the ranks to arrive in the uniform that he wears today. He spoke of the importance of leadership values, traits and traditions.

"It's Americans like all of you, and like the men and women who serve in our armed services, that help to make up the one percent of our country who are willing to risk it all when duty calls," said Troxell. "Whether or not any of you younger cadets grow up and decide to join one of the branches of the armed forces, I have no doubt that America will have no shortage of heroes thanks to people like you."

Troxell was given a standing ovation for his remarks and was called back to the podium two more times in appreciation and for questions.

As the event wrapped up, the lights went dim and music began to play, the dance commenced and took the group into the night. Laughter, conversation and good cheer could be seen and heard as members of the Washington Wing Civil Air Patrol enjoyed the remainder of their 71st Fall Anniversary Banquet.

Page last updated Mon November 19th, 2012 at 00:00