When 94-year-old veteran pilot Les Phillips was a little boy, he witnessed the giant Graf Zeppelin Airship in flight from the farm he grew up on.
This event was the catalyst that began his fascination with idea of flight, and what eventually led him to become a distinguished pilot in the .
Phillips resides at Freedom Plaza Peoria, a senior living community, and he still loves to watch the different aircraft coming to and from Luke Base, located nearby. To honor his service, Brookdale and the nonprofit Wish of a Lifetime arranged a private cockpit tour of the F-16 fighter jet at the base.
Phillips joined the to become a pilot, after working on B-25 bombers during the start of World War II. He went on to serve on an aircraft carrier in Cherry Point, N.C, during the war and enlisted in the reserves at its end.
During the Korean War, he returned to active duty and eventually served in an all-weather fighter crew.
He earned the rank of Captain by the time his 16-year career ended and he also received the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Being able to reflect on his achievements is what made the wish experience truly special.
The F-16 squadron greeted Phillips at the base and told him the history of the legendary aircraft. During his one-of-a-kind tour, he was able to explore the aircraft and even sit in the cockpit.
After the tour, the base had him pose for pictures in front of the F-16 and older aircraft used during World War II. The experience made Phillips feel like royalty and he was very grateful for the opportunity.
He ended the day with words of advice: “Go with your heart. I wanted to fly ever since I saw that zeppelin as a little boy on the farm, and I did it.”
In 2010, Brookdale Senior Living and Wish of a Lifetime formed a partnership to provide a helping hand in making some of the dreams of Brookdale’s residents come true.
To request a wish, residents fill out an application, explaining an experience they would like to have fulfilled and how that experience relates to one or more dimensions of Brookdale’s Optimum Life platform.
Optimum Life cultivates whole-person wellness through fulfillment in the six key dimensions: purposeful, emotional, physical, social, spiritual and intellectual.
Since the partnership’s inception, more than 800 Brookdale seniors have had their wishes of a lifetime granted.