Angel on our Shoulder – Roy H. Wilson

There are moments in your life when you meet a certain person and immediately form a kind of kinship with them. You dont exactly know why or how this instant bond is formed but it almost overwhelms you, that feeling that you and this particular person are like childhood friends. Brothers of a kind.
Roy Wilson touched my heart this week and I fear my words will not do the feelings justice. Meeting the former Alabama Air National Guard and CIA pilot with the kindest eyes youve ever seen is one of the moments, among so many this past week, that I will forever cherish.
Roy’s a big man, physically and figuratively, yet he speaks with a tender southern accent that engulfs you, moreso because you know his measured words, given the onset of Alzeimers, come from the heart and arent meant to impress or convince. As he speaks to you, you know he’s struggling to control his body, fighting against the symptons of his malady.
Roy flew C-54’s and C-46’s during the invasion and was in the one C-46 that landed at Giron to drop off troops and ammunition. He speaks of his participation in the asault with great pride and as much disappointment. He lost many friends, new found and old ones including a family member, his cousin Wade Grey, during the invasion.
We took video testimonies of many of the pilots, both the Cubans and their American counterparts, during the event this past week and while these men recounted their histories and their participation in the Bay of Pigs and the subsequent disapointment at it’s failure, it was Roy’s testimony that brought it all home for me, personally.
He spoke softly, recalling his part in the invasion and the loss of his comrades and you could tell that this man has always wished he’d done more. You could tell that now, 46 years after that fateful time, he wishes he’d been allowed to drop more supplies, more ammunition, more troops and that somehow, his roll in the invasion had been one to help make the operation a success. His one regret is that his government let those men on the ground and in the air, his brothers in arms, down.
After his video interview, where both he and I were literally in tears, Roy came up to me and thanked me, as if during our short interview Roy had finally released all the emotion he’d had built up inside all these years. He put his hand on my shoulder, tears streaming down his cheeks, looked me in the eyes and apologized for the outcome of the operation. He could barely get the words out.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry we failed you.”

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Roy H. Wilson, 117th Air Reconnaissance Wing, Alabama Air National Guard

Thank you, Roy, for your service and sacrifice, and for your candor, friendship and sincerity. I will never forget you and what you did to bring freedom to Cuba.

8 thoughts on “Angel on our Shoulder – Roy H. Wilson”

  1. Absolutely amazing, Val. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to be there and meet these incredible people.
    If only it would’ve been up to them on that fateful day; we probably would have been celebrating the victory at the Bay of Pigs, not commemorating the unnecessary loss of life because of the American administration’s betrayal.

  2. Albert,
    My head is still spinning from the whole thing. These pilots and others – there were guys there that just loaded the ordnance on the 26’s – are incredible people.
    As far as the operation is concerned, every single one of these guys is of the belief that had the planned number of sorties with the panned number of planes been flown, the 2506 ground forces would basically have walked into Havana unchallenged.

  3. That is the saddest aspect of this whole story. The media and historians all talk about the “fiasco” the invasion turned out to be as if it were the fault of the planners and the soldiers. The mission failed because of Kennedy–there is no other reason. Yet no one will ever blame the golden boy president for anything.
    It is a shame that the memories of those who perished may never be vindicated and the true story be told.

  4. No Sir, Mr. Wilson, you did not fail us. Kennedy failed us. I can never thank you enough for your valiant effort. You will always have my heart-felt thanks for what you and your comrades did.
    Val, I’m sure you have been drying your tears all week. You are so lucky to be among such brave and great men and to be able to hear their stories first-hand. Are you going to share the videos soon with us or do we have to wait for Cuba Nostalgia? Let me know so I can stock up on tissues!

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