2 FTS: Remembering Heros with Traditions

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Anabel Del Valle
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The wife of the 2nd Fighter Training Squadron’s ‘last man standing’, Glenda Bryant, donated a bottle of scotch deeply rooted in the service and sacrifice of World War II veterans to the 325th Fighter Wing during a dedication ceremony at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Aug. 6, 2022.

During WWII, members of the then 2nd Pursuit Squadron, championed air dominance by piloting airframes such as the Curtis P-40 Warhawk and the Bell P-39 Aerocobra in the European and Mediterranean skies. The 2 PS is credited for the confirmed total destruction of 184 enemy aircraft, with an additional 14 probable and 44 more damaged.

As Airmen in the 2nd PS finished up their service in several critical combat operations and the unit transitioned to the 2nd FTS, they upheld a tradition to pass on a bottle of scotch, saving it for the “last man standing” to finally break open the seal and enjoy.

Traditions such as dedicating bottles to the “last man standing” to honor squadron’s service members were popular among troops during WWII. U.S. service members throughout the European theater were unable to receive goods like American whiskey, so scotch became their drink of choice.

“Scottish companies jumped on the opportunity to take over the gap in the market,” explained Peter Coffman, 325th Fighter Wing historian. “They even began to mass produce ‘salute bottles’ to cater to the military customers using them for commemorative occasions.”

It is believed that retired Maj. Oscar Bushwar held onto the 2nd PS bottle the longest, having been the youngest member. After his passing, retired Col. Melvin “Mel” Bryant was officially the last surviving veteran of the 2nd PS. He never opened the now 101-year-old bottle.

After his passing in 2021, Glenda contacted the 325th FW to donate the
scotch. The wing responded by dedicating a T-38 Talon to Bryant, officially revealing his name on the jet at the ceremony.

“The whole family is honored to be a part of this moment,” said Tech. Sgt. Kyle Waldron, 96th Maintenance Group quality assurance inspector and
Bryant’s grandson. “This tradition has reached across generations of members from the 2nd PS to come together and pay respects to those that came before us. Having a jet dedicated to my grandpa’s service is beyond anything we expected.”

The ceremony included a flyover performed by four T-38 Talons, and speeches honoring the many accomplishments of the 2nd PS, including 11 pilots achieving the title of ace. The title of ace is earned by downing five or more enemy aircraft.

“The countless stories of personal responsibility, humility, perseverance, frugality, commitment, integrity and self-sacrifice give us unambiguous values to hold firm and protect,” said Col. George Watkins, 325th FW commander. “We honor these men today as constant beacons to a life well-lived and a cause worth fighting for.”

The squadron has since evolved to assist in training F-22 Raptor pilots by using air threat replication through the T-38. Although the unit has adapted to current mission needs, the ceremony provided an opportunity for Airmen of the 2nd FTS to remember their history while welcoming home a bottle that represents the Air Force legacy and values.

The bottle is planned to be placed on display in the new wing headquarters building, slated to be completed in April 2024.