Those gents being honored on the field last Thursday - now in their seventies and eighties - are US Marines, retired officers of Marine All Weather Fighter Squadron 312. Each one of ‘em has flown a jet in excess of 1,000 mph!
They are Viet Nam vets of the famous "Checkerboard" squadron that dates back to World War II, and this group of pilots flew 718 sorties in 1965-66 out of Da Nang.
Called The Last of the Gunfighters, because their cockpits sat atop four internal 20mm cannons, they piloted F8 Crusaders.
The pilots hold a reunion every two years, and this spring they landed in the Triangle - home of squadron member Joe Mavretic. Upon his military retirement Joe served in the NC House of Representatives for fifteen years, and is currently a panelist on NC Spin.