CAMANO ISLAND — Bob Blank is rallying veterans who have taken to the skies for their country.
The Camano Island man is starting a new group on the island for former military pilots, no matter when they served, where they served or what they flew. He wants to start monthly lunch meetings where the pilots can stop by the Camano Center for a $6 meal and good conversation.
The idea is based on a group Blank was part of in Prescott, Arizona, before he moved to Camano Island last year. In Prescott, up to 100 former pilots would gather each month at the local Eagles club and swap stories about their time in the service and their adventures since. It was a good way to meet people who already shared similar interests and insights.
“These guys are pretty interesting and they usually have stories to tell,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe the stories you’d hear. Too many near death experiences.”
Blank, 81, is a former Navy pilot. He was stationed on Whidbey Island from 1957 until 1964, where he worked with the Heavy Attack Squadron. During the Cold War years, the squadron trained pilots, bombardiers and crewmen to be ready for long range nuclear strikes.
“We flew all sorts of things,” he said. “We had some strange planes here when we were getting things going.”
Blank is working with the Camano Center on starting the pilots group. The first meeting is planned there March 17 at 11:30 a.m. The center is located at 606 Arrowhead Road.
The plan for the first meeting is to have lunch and write up a list of initial members, then start talking about possibilities for the group’s future. It may be that people want to expand the group beyond pilots to include others who served in the skies, such as navigators and crewmen, Blank said. He’s also not sure how far reaching the group will be, whether it will draw only Camano Island and Stanwood veterans or if others may want to come from farther afield.
He’s hoping to get a good-sized group, and asks that anyone interested call him at 425-210-7109. He plans to talk to other veterans organizations in the area to drum up interest, too.
“I’ve still got to get ahold of the American Legion and borrow an American flag,” he said. “We can’t have our meeting without that.”