AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (KDVR) — It all came together in a hurry.

Fellow veterans and friends arranging a caravan to Colorado Springs. A transport van found. The Air Force Academy rallying its airmen. All to help check off the most important item on Kenneth Curry’s bucket list.

Captain Curry, as he was known a half-century ago in Vietnam, just entered palliative care a week ago. It’s hard to say how many days — or how few — he has in front of him.

He had one last wish before he dies: seeing a B-52 bomber one last time.

His friends discovered that not only is a B-52 on permanent display near the north gate of the Air Force Academy, but it happens to be one of the planes Curry flew over Southeast Asia.

Two larger-than-life heroes — one made of metal, one with nerves of steel — reunited one last time Monday.

“Thank you. That’s the best thing I can say. Thank you for loving us,” an emotional Curry told a crowd of friends and fellow veterans who gathered Monday in his honor at the Air Force Academy.

Kenneth Curry, 78, of Loveland, Colo., gets emotional at the Air Force Academy
Kenneth Curry, 78, of Loveland, Colo., gets emotional at the Air Force Academy on Monday. Friends and fellow veterans arranged a visit to one of the B-52 bombers Curry flew in Vietnam. The airplane is on permanent display at the Academy. (KDVR)

157 B-52 missions over Vietnam

Curry flew the aircraft during 157 missions over Vietnam, including one that nearly killed him in April 1972. He was in the commander’s seat over North Vietnam when a surface-to-air missile exploded near the left wing, taking out two of the eight engines on board and riddling the aircraft with shrapnel.

“He managed to get it back to Da Nang, and they were hit so badly that the inside of the aircraft was filling with fuel,” friend Steven Mulvihill said.

Curry survived that night and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroics. He went on to survive three full tours in Vietnam. But Agent Orange-related cancer and dementia are the enemy now.

Friends knew time might be running out to reunite Captain Curry with the aircraft he loved. So they worked the phones, trying to locate a B-52.

What resulted was a bucket list wish granted thanks to a group of friends who refused to let a dying wish die.