Mourners Honor Chuck Yeager, 'Who Pushed the Boundaries'

Pence leads tributes in West Virginia to famed test pilot
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2021 5:30 PM CST
Mourners Honor Chuck Yeager 'and All That He Has Done'
Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier in 1947, poses in 1985 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in front of the rocket-powered Bell X-IE plane that he flew.   (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac, File)

Mourners including the vice president told stories Friday about one of the nation's most celebrated aviators, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, an ace fighter pilot who went on to break the sound barrier as a test pilot. Yeager died last month at 97. "The best pilots are the most experienced," his wife, Victoria, said he once told her. "They lived through their mistakes." The service, which included an Air Force flyover, was held at a convention center in Charleston, West Virginia, Yeager's hometown, WCHS reports. Yeager's casket was taken there on Air Force 2, accompanied by his wife and Vice President Mike Pence. "Chuck Yeager lived a great American life," Pence told the crowd, adding that he "pushed the boundaries more than anyone could have thought."

His feats not only inspired "a generation of pilots," Pence said, they helped bring about the nation's space program. After he was shot down over France in World War II, Yeager was ordered to return to the US. He appealed, Pence said, per Fox News, and took his case all the way to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. "I've got people shooting themselves in the foot to go home. What is the matter with you?" Eisenhower asked Yeager. "I haven't done my job," Yeager said. An empty armchair was place on the stage during the service next to Victoria Yeager. She relayed what her husband had told her at a memorial for New York police officers and firefighters. "This chair may seem empty, but it's not,” she said. "It's full of memories." Don't let anyone forget, she said, "who this man is, who he was, and all that he has done." (Charleston once kept quiet about a Yeager stunt.)

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