Each Memorial Day has a special significance at Myers Law Firm thanks to our founding attorney Lee Myers’ work with the group Warriors and Warbirds. Warriors and Warbirds is a Monroe, North Carolina-based nonprofit, all-volunteer group that works to preserve aviation history, educate communities, and keep alive the memories of those American veterans who gave their lives in service to their country. Through his work with the group, Lee maintains a connection with aviation history and our armed forces that extends back to the 1940s.
A Brief History of Lee’s Work with Warriors and Warbirds
Attorney Lee Myers began working with Warriors and Warbirds in 2010 after concluding his tenure as mayor of the town of Matthews. A longtime pilot himself, Lee discovered the group by word of mouth and, after meeting them, felt drawn to the aviation expertise and respect for history he saw. He started volunteering with Warriors and Warbirds on a regular basis, helping the group to put on its annual airshow at the Monroe Airport and occasionally drawing on his legal and political experience to offer advice.
In 2012, Warriors and Warbirds took on a new dimension when the group, with Lee now serving on its board of directors, acquired a one-of-a-kind piece of aviation history: a 1944 Curtiss C-46 Commando transport aircraft, which acquired the affectionate nickname “Tinker Belle.” Previously, the aircraft had spent nearly a decade sitting neglected and exposed to the elements in Texas, but the group set about restoring her and getting her ready to fly again.
Tinker Belle’s name is a wink-and-nudge play on its size: at the time of its production, the C-46 was the biggest twin-engine aircraft in the world, and it was also the largest and heaviest twin-engine plane to see service in World War II. Lee Myers had the privilege of flying Tinker Belle himself, allowing him the rare chance to step back through time to a golden era of aviation history.
“Tinker Belle is a very unique airplane to fly,” Lee says. “She’s a tail-dragger, and she has the largest footprint of any tail-dragging aircraft flying today, meaning she’s really special. There are larger planes out there, but they’re not tail-draggers — or they’re no longer flying.”
Connecting with Living History
One of Lee’s fondest memories from his time with Warriors and Warbirds came when he met a World War II veteran and C-46 pilot named Jeb Stewart at an event featuring Tinker Belle in Greenwood, South Carolina. Jeb, who was 92 at the time, approached Lee to tell him about his own intimate relationship with the C-46 and its storied history.
“Jeb came up to me and he said, ‘I want you to know that in World War II, I flew the C-46. I was a pilot flying over the Himalayas,’” Lee recalls. “I said, ‘You’re kidding me!’ That was a great meeting, and Jeb came up to some of our events and talked to people, and he would even sit in the cockpit.”
WBTV in Charlotte later aired a story on this chance meeting, as shown in the YouTube clip above.
Jeb and Lee stayed in contact from that day until Jeb’s passing three years later. Lee says he is continually grateful for the chance to meet Jeb and bond over their shared connection to the C-46 aircraft.
“It’s just a great story of the people you meet doing this kind of work,” Lee says.
Warriors and Warbirds Today
Today, Warriors and Warbirds continues to maintain Tinker Belle along with a second World War II-era craft, a Fairchild C-123 Provider named Ponderous Polly. The group also continues to hold its annual Warbirds Over Monroe air show, which takes place in November and attracts tens of thousands of aviation enthusiasts and curious visitors over two days.
In addition to dropping pararoopers (who sport full, historically-accurate equipment) each year at Warbirds Over Monroe, Tinker Belle also travels to perform fly-ins at other airshows like the Reading Air Fest in Pennsylvania and AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin. When not maintaining and flying historic planes, the group works to put on various events for the community, including combination pancake breakfasts and safety seminars for area pilots and their families.
“I think we’re giving tribute to the men, women, and equipment that played a part in World War II,” Lee says of the group’s work. “We’re losing World War II veterans every day due to age, and they’re becoming more and more special to us.”
Equally important to preserving these veterans’ legacy, though, is the process of educating people of all ages about World War II and its aviation history, which is why the group also works to put on events aimed at young audiences, including hosting field trips from local schools.
“It’s not just about the past,” Lee says. “We’re also looking at our kids today and letting young people know about this history and why it matters.”
Myers Law Firm Salutes Our Fallen Veterans on Memorial Day
On behalf of every member of the Myers Law Firm team, we wish to offer our thanks for the service and sacrifices of every U.S. armed forces veteran, whether from World War II or beyond. We also extend our deepest gratitude to those soldiers, pilots, and other servicemembers who gave their lives protecting our country, and we offer our condolences to their families and friends.
Although Memorial Day means a long weekend of leisure for many people, please remember the incredible sacrifices our veterans and fallen soldiers have made to ensure our security and safety, and think about what you can do to pay tribute to them at this special time of year.