‘Wings of Hope’ struggle for peacetime existence

Date: December 27, 1980
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Newspaper: Hattiesburg American
Page: 5

NEW YORK (AP) – In a way, it seems to take a warrior to bear up in the harsher struggles of people to survive in peace.

That’s the experienced observation of an interfaith, air-service organization, Wings of Hope, whose pilots sustain some of the world’s roughest flights for sheer peaceful existence.

“It takes a strong person,” says William D. Edwards, executive director of the organization whose St. Louis headquarters crackle with shortwave radio communications with remote bases abroad.

The needed qualities, he says, are “much the same” as in war.

“But it also takes spiritual and moral conviction, a deep concern for brothers in need under difficult circumstances,” he adds. “We have some rough-and-ready guys out there. But unless they’ve got real compassion, too, the soft touch, they don’t work out in this game.”

The peculiar combination is explored in a telling, sensitive TV documentary, “Missionary.” being shown Sunday on the ABC’s “Directions,” in cooperation with the National Council of Churches.

“It’s a nagging, old question,” says the film’s producer and narrator, Howard Enders, a World War II infantry veteran himself. He asks one of the fliers, a former Navy combat pilot, how he squares being a man both of war and peace.

“A man who wants to keep this peace occasionally has to war,” says Roy Johnsen, 51, serving to fly basic necessities to a remote colony in the Honduran jungles and to ferry the ill and injured for medical aid.

“It’s much the same kind of battle,” he says, comparing the service in Honduras to past wartime flying in Korea and Vietnam. Instead of enemy gunfire, “we have some other very real enemies. And perhaps even greater dangers.”

Those pressures are brought out in the film, including difficulties that proved too strenuous for a woman replacement pilot, and also the breakdown of a Peace Corps mission of young idealists in strain, fear and a flare of violence.

But Johnsen, a former Navy commander, veteran of 20years of military flying with numerous combat decorations, blends in heartily with the rugged duty, the poor, pioneering peasants clearing land, striving to build a better life, the hardships and emergencies.

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