AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (KDVR) — It all came together in a hurry.

Fellow veterans and friends, arranging a caravan to Colorado Springs. Thompson Valley EMS freeing up a transport van. The Air Force Academy rallying its airmen. All to help check off the most important item on Kenneth Curry’s bucket list.

“How’s it feel?” friend Steven Mulvihill asked Curry.

“Kinda weird,” Curry said.

Captain Curry, as he was known a half-century ago in Vietnam, just entered palliative care a week ago. Hard to say how many days, or how few, he has in front of him.

“The last six months, he has declined very quickly,” Mulvihill said.

But he had one last wish before he dies: seeing a B-52 bomber one last time.

157 B-52 missions over Vietnam

It’s the aircraft he flew during 157 missions over Vietnam, including one that nearly killed him in April 1972. He was in the commander’s seat over North Vietnam when a surface-to-air missile exploded near the left wing, taking out two of the eight engines on board and riddling the aircraft with shrapnel.

“He managed to get it back to Da Nang, and they were hit so badly that the inside of the aircraft was filling with fuel,” Mulvihill said.

Curry survived that night and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroics. He went on to survive three full tours in Vietnam. But Agent Orange-related cancer and dementia are the enemy now.

Friends knew time might be running out to reunite Captain Curry with the aircraft he loved. So they worked the phones, trying to locate a B-52. Then they discovered that not only is a B-52 on permanent display near the north gate of the Air Force Academy, but it happens to be one of the planes Curry flew over Southeast Asia.

“Thank you. That’s the best thing I can say. Thank you for loving us,” an emotional Curry told a crowd of friends and fellow veterans, who gathered Monday in his honor at the Air Force Academy.

Kenneth Curry, 78, of Loveland, Colo., gets emotional at the Air Force Academy
Kenneth Curry, 78, of Loveland, Colo., gets emotional at the Air Force Academy on Monday. Friends and fellow veterans arranged a visit to one of the B-52 bombers Curry flew in Vietnam. The airplane is on permanent display at the Academy. (KDVR)

Hero of the Month

Two larger-than-life heroes — one made of metal, one with nerves of steel — reunited one last time. And a bucket list wish granted, thanks to a group of friends who refuse to let a dying wish die.

“He’s just a true friend, and I just want him to be happy in whatever days he has left with us. And we did that today,” friend Phyllis Minch said.

Because of his service to his country, Curry has been named the FOX31 Serving Those Who Serve Hero of the Month. In addition to a plaque, he receives a $500 Visa gift card from our sponsors at Ford, Adaptive Adventures and the Leo Hill Charitable Trust.

To nominate a veteran or active duty service member for our Hero of the Month honors, visit the nomination page.