TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - --
More than 60,000 troops trained here during World War II to destroy the axis powers, but two individuals found lifelong love in preparation for war.
Ed and Mary Butzke only spent a couple years at Tyndall in the 1940s, but on Aug. 25, they had the opportunity to come back and see how much the base has changed.
"When I was here, the base was still being built and sergeants flew the aircraft," Ed said. "There was a huge sign that read, 'Welcome to Tyndall. Elevation 23 ft.' By the time I left it read, 'Welcome to Tyndall. Elevation 19 ft.'"
Ed arrived at Tyndall in 1942 as a machine gun instructor during WWII, where he met and married Mary.
Mary worked on base, with nine other women, linking machine gun bullets for planes.
"After we loaded each belt, we said a silent prayer, praying that this would be the belt that would end the war and bring our husbands home," Mary said.
The tour was arranged by Col. Christopher D. Holmes, 325th Mission Support Group commander.
"I first met the Butzkes at the Panama City Garden Club's Memorial Day service back in May," Holmes said. "Their stories of working on Tyndall Field during World War II inspired me. They knew how important their jobs were to the overall war effort and did their best to do their part, a lesson as relevant today as it was 70 years ago."
On the tour, the Butzkes were given the chance to see how much had changed since they left Tyndall Field.
"It is mind blowing how much has changed," Mary said. "I hope one day, everyone will get the chance to come back here after 70 years and see the changes."
They were first taken to an aircraft hangar to see the F-22 Raptors and see a tow banner, which is dragged behind a plane and used as an aerial target for F-22 machine guns. All those present could see the rush of memories and joy in the couple's eyes.
From there, they were able to visit the Airmen doing the job Mary used to do at the munitions flight. Members of the flight gave the couple a hands-on tour of how the rounds are loaded up to be transported to the aircraft.
Their eyes lit up as they saw how far technology has come, and how much the job changed to essentially do the same task.
"It seemed fitting to honor these quiet heroes by inviting them back to Tyndall to see how the base evolved, and more importantly, to share their story with those of us who follow in their footsteps," Holmes said.
The Butzkes were extremely grateful for the opportunity to visit and repeatedly thanked everyone they talked to.
"I would like to thank all of Tyndall and Holmes for bringing us back," Mary said. "There are no words we can think of to say thank you to those who worked so hard to make this our special day."