Freedom Fighters: John Wilkerson - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: John Wilkerson

By Joan Hallmark - bio - email

Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

CHANDLER, TX (KLTV) - Although John Wilkerson is no longer in the military, in many ways he is still serving his country by honoring our military.

"See, I have the patriotic guard sign in the front," said Wilkerson. 

It's been 47 years sincehe joined the U.S. Airforce and served in Vietnam. Ironically his assignment was not flying, but to keep our country's top secret spy plane. The U2, flying.

"It was maintaining the ECM electronics counter measure and aviontics, all of the instruments and slide scope and stuff to keep that plane flying."

The U2 carried only one person, the pilot. Others stayed on the ground where they were constantly subject to missle attacks.

"One day we lost 23 with 106 men wounded all around us."

The Vietcong knew something was going on at the Benwa base, they just didn't know what. In fact the U2 spy plane was so secret, Wilkerson and the others involved were told they couldn't talk about it for 25 years after leaving the service.

"I couldn't tell my mother what I was doing. I couldn't tell my wife what I was doing. It was just something President Kennedy wanted to keep under wraps and we did and we did a wonderful job and the old bird is still flying today 60 years later and she's still doing a good job."

"Gathering intelligence? air sampling....air sampling yeh...yeh."

During the Cuban Missle Crisis of 1963, when the entire world stood on the brink of World War III, it was the U2 that offered proof of the Russian missle buildup in Cuba.

"You could see the construction of the sites. You could see the missles. You could see the workers and you could see the cars, the trucks and what not they were using, draglines everything they see to make the different sites."

John Wilkerson left the Airforce in 1965, but he never left his brothers in uniform.

"The Vietnam Veterans of America. Our moto is never again will one group of veterans abandon another."

As a member of the Patriotic Guard Riders and Welcome Home Soldiers, Wilkerson practices what he preaches. He never again wants our military to suffer the shameful treatment received after the Vietnam War.

"When we loose patriotism and love for one another, we've lost a lot, and when we do that we're going downhill I believe."

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