Former Gaston Day parent, Jim McRainey, is exhibiting memorabilia in the Pamela Kimbrell Warlick Visual and Performing Art Center Lobby from his combat service as the co-pilot of a B-17 for 35 missions in the European theatre of World War II. On Tuesday, September 10, at 5:00 pm, Gaston Day School invited the public to a reception for Mr. McRainey, and I interviewed him about his service. About thirty-five citizens and school community members attended. Librarian Karen Ellison beautifully planned and presided at the event. Rick Fischer helped set up the exhibit and provided patriotic music.
Jim McRainey's story of military service is fascinating and inspiring. While he survived the war without physical injury, over half of the B-17 airmen were either killed or wounded. Over 26,000 airmen were killed in the European theatre, more than the entire death total for the Marine Corps during World War II. The human cost was simply staggering. Jim McRainey is fortunate to be alive.
Jim's memory is phenomenal, and he is a superb storyteller. He recreated the excitement and the incredible danger involved in a mission. German fighter planes attacked "like hornets," and German ground forces sent up sheets of anti-aircraft fire from below. We were all on the edge of our seats as we listened to some of his most harrowing missions. I could not help but think that what he and other airmen experienced was almost beyond the limits of human endurance. Jim McRainey has been to a hellish place to perform his duty faithfully and well. Thank you, Jim, and so many other veterans.
Jim and I regularly attend and have become friends at a Wednesday morning prayer breakfast at First Presbyterian, Gastonia. His wife Madrie served as one of Gaston Day School's first reading specialists in the 1970s. Their son Steve was my schoolmate and teammate here. At prayer breakfast, Jim shared some of his war-time experiences and conceived the exhibit. There are several benefits to the school. First, the maps, airplane models, and war documents make history come alive. Second, the exhibit reminds us of the enormous sacrifice that others have made so that we can enjoy the blessings and the freedom of living in the United States.
I am so proud that Jim's personal story of valor and bravery is displayed here. His example is inspiring and humbling. We must do our best to preserve and enlarge the patriotic legacy that he and others have left us. Instilling patriotic values in our students is an important part of Gaston Day School's mission. Please come see Jim McRainey's exhibit in the PKW Lobby.