I grew up in the shadow of freedoms wings, without being aware it existed. The sound of gliders releasing above the house I grew up in, was the soundtrack of my youth. When I left home, my 1st place I lived in as an independent teen, was the house at the next corner down from van zant gliderport. I had taken a flight as a child with my parents as well.
It wasn't until I was in my early 20's that I became aware of freedoms wings existence, purely by accident. That accident being caused by a pothole on the next road over from the one I would take from the house I grew up in, to the airport I would later fly out of. That accident resulted in a spinal cord injury. And that later, when I would discover freedoms wings, was actually 2 weeks after getting out of the hospital following that accident.
I remember that day well, sitting at home (the house I grew up in) feeling this burden of all the things I was told I would never do again, when someone stumbled on an article about freedoms wings, and the fact it was operating out of the airport I grew up just miles from.
This was days before freedoms wings annual picnic, and my 1st ride in a glider.
I started lessons that week!
I continued my lessons until solo, only getting 2 solo flights in before no longer having reliable transportation to continue my lessons. However, my second solo flight I had a wonderful experience thermalling with 4 golden eagles, an experience I later relayed to a Seneca medicine woman mentor, who gave me the name soaring eagle.
Although those early years soaring were cut short, the experience changed my life from the 1st time I left the earth, and my wheelchair far behind It gave me the courage to push the limits of what I could do, spending months off he beaten path in the wilderness, wrestling my chair over boulders and downed trees.
I can even see how my freedoms wings experiences influenced me into a lifetime of volunteering and service to the community.
Now it has been way too many years and I have finally returned to fly again on the wings of freedom. something that has been a strong desire each and every year since my last flights so long ago.