WILLOUGHBY -- It was far off in the distance that 89-year-old Irving Rothman first sees her.
An old friend from days long ago is paying him a visit -- the Flying Fortress.
"That airplane will take more beating and keep you alive than any bomber ever built," the WWII veteran says.
Rothman, of Lyndhurst, was a gunner in the 95th Bomb Group, which flew 334 missions in the B-17 during WWII.
"Odds were not that wonderful," Rothman says of his days in the Air Force. "The average life of a crew back then was six to eight missions. I was on the long side. I was shot down in my eighth."
Rothman spent 16 months as a prisoner of war in Germany before being liberated. His fondness for the 95th Bomb Group remains as strong as ever.
"Your group is your family," he explains.
As years go by, the family grows smaller, but no less committed to one another.
Harry Hill, of Califonia, still credits his pilot, Jack Bertram, with his life after they few 36 missions together.
"Sixty-eight years of friendship," Bertram exclaimed at a recent reunion of the 95th at Lost Nations Airport.
"We never took off on a mission thinking we weren't coming back," Bertram says.
Adds Hill: "[We] actually never gave it a thought. It was just something that had to be done and we did it."
Heroism in its purest sense -- when it's not sought, but found nonetheless.
The members of the Greatest Generation put their lives at risk, and saw friends lose theirs, so we may live ours in freedom.