By Steve “Stef” Stefanides
For 72 years one of Vernon “Bo” Sigo’s greatest hopes would be to have the opportunity to say thank you to one of the men he believed helped him to survive a combination of 32 sorties and 42 missions in B-17s during World War II.
When he spoke of that desire to Rick Wobbe, one of the volunteer coordinators during an Honor Flight Mission to Washington, D.C. two years ago, Wobbe made it his personal mission to make that happen. Wobbe also served as Sigo’s host on that trip to D.C.
On Tuesday, May 9, Lt. Col. Sigo (Ret.), along with Lt. Col. George Hardy (Ret.) were united for the first time. Hardy flew with the famous Tuskegee Airmen in P51s, which escorted the B-17s that Sigo flew in.
“Many of us owe our lives to these brave men,” said Sigo during the ceremonies held on a bright sunny morning at Cambier Park in Naples. They would arrive in the fashion you’d expect for these two heroes as a motorcycle escort would guide their vehicle to its place of honor and pull up under the canopy of the American Flag flying proudly from the City of Naples Fire Department tower ladder.
The two men would walk shoulder to shoulder and proudly stand on the stage as the Naples Police Color Guard advanced the colors and the Southwest Florida Guns and Hoses/Pipes and Drums performed for those present.
Hardy broke a barrier of sorts when he became one of the first African-American Pilots in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. The all black unit would win the respect of their white counterparts for their impeccable flying skills. They would log over 200 missions over Europe and never lost a bomber under their protection.
Hardy would also go on to fly combat missions in Korea and Vietnam before retiring.
In all, almost 1,000 black military pilots were trained during WWII and 450 were deployed overseas and 150 lost their lives, including 66 lost in combat.
Both men today reside in Southwest Florida, but until this event had never met.
The Inn at 5th Avenue has provided the two aviators with lodging for their stay and a special dinner will be hosted for them on 5th Avenue as they wrap up their stay in Naples.