Picture this. You are at the Superbowl. About 100,000 strangers fill the stadium and you begin to think… I wonder who the wealthiest person here is. What is the wildest event someone here has experienced? How many of these people have been sky diving in Hawaii or lived in the Congo? Who here has saved the most lives?
Everyone has a story.
I, Aaron Parrish am beyond lucky to work with people invested to their core about sharing them. Cre8ive has had the opportunity to tell countless stories in several ways, but documenting the impact of the nation’s first three female fighter pilots for the WASP Homecoming Rendezvous has been a remarkable experience start to finish.
General McPeak introducing three pilots who were to become members of the first group of female combat pilots: Sharon Preszler, Martha McSally, and Jeannie Leavitt.
Wait, WASP? What’s a W.A.S.P.?
Here’s your crash course about WASP:
The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of women in aviation and World War II. The WASP program was established during WWII to train women pilots to fly military aircraft in non-combat missions. Over 1,000 women served as WASP pilots, ferrying planes, towing targets, and performing other essential tasks. Despite their crucial contributions to the war effort, the WASP program was disbanded in 1944, and it wasn’t until 1977 that the women pilots were finally recognized as veterans.
The WASP museum, located in Sweetwater, Texas, is dedicated to preserving the legacy of these pioneering women. The museum features a vast collection of artifacts, exhibits, and memorabilia that highlight the achievements of the WASP pilots. Visitors can learn about the challenges these women faced, the aircraft they flew, and the impact they had on the war effort.
Inside the WASP museum in Sweetwater, TX.
Our first stop while crafting this documentary was Tucson, Arizona. After setting up our gear in the Pima Air & Space Museum, Martha McSally walked in toward her jet with importance and all the wandering history buffs knew she had to have her own Wikipedia page. That kind of energy. With a fiery boldness, she recounted her experience growing up, joining the military and ultimately being among the first to pave the way for so many women. Passerbys would stop to listen to the wellspring of insight and emotion coming from her lips.
We met Sharon Preszler the next day at the Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix. We felt like royalty navigating through the establishment with her. She was down-to-earth (irony, because pilot) and warm. A protector. She gave her perspective about the events in the ‘90s that led to her groundbreaking achievements (or sky-breaking – sorry, I promise I’m not trying to be punny IT JUST KEEPS HAPPENING), and provided valuable advice to the next generation of aspiring flyers during her interview.
North Carolina was a bit different. Jeannie Leavitt is still an active General Officer, and every person at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was conscious of her every step. When she entered the hangar with her entourage, the respect was tangible. But she was soft spoken. A woman with true humility and reverence. Her eyes were gentle and every word out of her mouth carried so much weight.
BTS of our interview with General Jeannie Leavitt.
Each of these women had a vastly different demeanor, yet each of them are fighters. My own story has been altered after intersecting with the stories of these three pioneers. As a father of two girls, I now possess more hope and confidence about their future than before this experience. From the women who stepped up and challenged stereotypes in World War II to the daughters I get to share each day with, the stories told and still being written, it is a privilege simply to exist in a world where your mark has been (and is still being) made.
General Jeannie Levitt with upcoming female fighter pilots.
I must also acknowledge Lisa Taylor, a fighter in her own right. She is the Executive Director for the WASP Museum. She has fought to share the stories of not only these ladies, but all the women who came before and their contributions to our nation, in the air and on the ground.
This documentary will premier Friday, April 28th, 2023 at the Rendezvous – an event occurring during the WASP Homecoming and Fly-in. Sharon “Betty” Preszler will be the keynote speaker that evening where there will also be a dinner, an auction, and a ‘40s themed dance.