Thunderbirds meet local veterans ahead of Arctic Thunder Open House

Medal of Honor recipient Earl Plumlee was among those in attendance
Medal of Honor recipient, Earl Plumlee, was among those in attendance
Published: Jul. 29, 2022 at 10:41 PM AKDT
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JBER, Alaska (KTUU) - This weekend will mark the first Arctic Thunder Open House on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in four years, and today marked the first one for 10-time Iditarod musher Rick Casillo.

“I’ve seen it from afar, but I’ve never actually been to an air show,” Casillo admitted.

It sounds a little strange, considering his wife is in the Air Force, but Casillo stays busy in the Alaskan summers running the Battle Dawgs camp out in Talkeetna — a nonprofit support organization that helps veterans through outdoor recreation and mentorship.

But this year was certainly an exception for Casillo.

“They asked us to submit some warriors or people that were deserving to do the meet and greet,” Casillo said.

The Thunderbirds invited members of the organization to view a demonstration and meet the pilots in person.

“A really cool thing for us is we hosted the Medal of Honor — the latest Medal of Honor — recipient, Earl Plumlee at our camp for three days with his wife and his two kids, and we invited Earl out to join us here today,” Casillo said.

Earl Plumlee received the Medal of Honor last December for his actions in Afghanistan that took place in 2013. He just so happened to be visiting a friend he used to serve with, who is now affiliated with Battle Dawgs.

“I’ve always been infatuated with the Thunderbirds,” Plumlee stated. “It was the first aerial demonstration team I saw as a kid and it kind of lit my fire to be involved in the military.”

After an air demonstration by the Air Force Squadron, the F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots met the group of about 50 to shake hands, sign posters, and thank those who served before them.

“It’s neat to see a demonstration team kind of reaching out across the fence to an organization that’s helping veterans and, and giving them another venue to get people here and feel remembered and feel special one more time,” Plumlee said.

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