The Sun N Fun Airshow, where ‘Lady Satan’ was scheduled to be today was hit by a suprise tornado that overturned 30 + aircraft, blew tents away and pushed in hangar doors. No serious injuries though. (EAA photos, above)
By the fates or lucky chance, ‘Lady Satan’ was still safely hangared in Leesburg, FL, as the weather was still too stormy to make the 90 nm flight to the show. From what we hear on news channels and the AOPA website, Sun N Fun has been suspended, because of the tornado damage.
“The old line that “the lord works in mysterious ways” is true. What you wish for may not be the best thing for you! All the hoping and praying that we could get Tom down to Sun and Fun turned out not to work out. The weather never cooperated so we have stayed in Leesburg about 90 miles north for the last 3 days. But many of you may have heard that a severe storm and tornado ripped through the Sun and Fun Fly-in today destroying about 40 airplanes, tents and buildings. Had Mike and I made it down there yesterday, we would have been there with Tom and his family today and right in the middle of the storm. The tornado does not care if you have a one of kind airplane that is the only one back from Iwo Jima or a mass produced airplane from the 60′s with bad paint and a burned out engine….it just tosses it like a feather. luckily they are currently showing only minor injuries to those involved.
Taking a step back, it was clear that besides the airshow, this trip has been a blessing. We are here with Tom, our hero. We are here with Esther and Rodney Vincent and their friends from Pennsylvania and we are here with The Kelley Family: Jeff, Lori and Karen. The airshow is just a place. These people are why we are here.
Tom and Gloria were very gracious hosts for all of us. Keep Tom, Gloria and the entire Rozga Family in your prayers. On the day we arrived, actually 2 hours before, Tom found out that his brother passed away. I’m sure it has been heavy on his mind but he never let it show.
This afternoon everyone got together at the hangar where the plane is kept. Karen is the daughter of Lt. Karl Elton Kelley who was the second Marine pilot on Iwo Jima. Lt. Harvey Olsen was the first by a few seconds. Tom called Karl one of his best officers and a great pilot. Jeff, Karl’s grandson, served in the Army and Air Force and was very proud to see his grandfather’s plane. Jeff looks very much like Karl as Tom pointed out. All three of the Kelley crew got to sit where their namesake did and experienced his point of view in the pilots seat. Lori is the one that found the article about Tom on the Internet and when she commented on the article, that is the only way I found her. hence why we spent today together. Karen brought her dads Air Medal to show us and numerous photos of the group on Iwo Jima. Amazing.
The Vincents also joined us but had to keep going to south after visiting the airplane. It was an honor to have them with us. We are sorry that Bob could not be around to see his plane again.
It currently appears that Sun and Fun will be closed indefinitely after today. We will see what the weather holds Friday and head north for Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Cross your fingers and pray for good weather.
A LETTER FROM TOM ROZGA
I became the Commanding Officer of VMO-4 right after Capt. N Blaha was wounded , during a Jap bombing raid and then he was evacuated from the island of Saipan. This was about the 8th day of the battle of Saipan. So I was the C.O. for the rest of that battle. Then we went to Tinian and soon we were on our way for the battle on the Island of Iwo Jima. Through all three of these invasions, I was very proud of what the men of VMO-4 had accomplished. Since then, what Mike, Chris and company have accomplished in getting the history of VMO-4 together, in locating so many of the men, getting in touch with many of the surviving relatives of the VMO-4 men, they have done a marvelous job and I want to thank them in behalf of all the men of the squadron. Through their efforts, I have learned of the accomplishments of all the men, living and those who have passed away, The accomplishments that you made , after the war had ended, on a whole your deeds were tremendous – – were brilliant, you were/are terrific!!! Thank you for letting me be a part of your life!!! Tom Rozga .