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#OperationSong Richard Stroud: Good Co-Pilot
This #OperationSong spotlights “Good Co-Pilot,” based on the experience of World War II and Korean War Veteran Richard Stroud.
Recently, Richard “Dick” Stroud received a call from Steve Williams in Nashville about an interview for the project Operation Song. Stroud was surprised that Williams wanted to write a song about Stroud’s experience in the Navy and was happy to share his stories and experience. The process of creating the song “Good Co-Pilot” brought back memories of his service in World War II and the Korean War.
Stroud wanted to join the Navy because he wanted to fly. When he was 15, a Piper Cub aircraft landed in the field of his family’s farm in Texas, and Stroud had the opportunity to try flying for the first time. That day, he realized flying was his dream.
He enlisted in the Navy when he was 17. After graduating high school in 1944 and completing his first semester of school at the University of Texas, Stroud trained as a machine gunner and left for the Pacific, just as the Second World War was coming to a close.
After World War II, Stroud stayed in the Navy to attend flight school and earn his wings, finally fulfilling his dream of flying. He later served as a pilot in the Korean War.
The song “Good Co-Pilot” repeats the question, “How do you live to be 93?” Following this question, the lyrics recount the passage of Stroud’s life and a harrowing night landing during a Category 4 hurricane. During this hurricane, Stroud landed his aircraft on an aircraft carrier, catching the very last available cable to keep from crashing into the sea. This complex story contrasts the song’s simple and subtle guitar melody. By opening each verse questioning the circumstances and using the word “how,” the song emphasizes the wonder and the fortune of each situation. The song concludes with a direct explanation that has been hinted at throughout the lyrics.
Stroud credits his survival to his good co-pilot – his guardian angel. Despite the fact that Stroud’s aircraft only seated one man, Stroud’s believes his good co-pilot guided him and helped him survive through two wars.
Operation Song has allowed Stroud to continue to share his story with people beyond his immediate community. After the song’s publication, Stroud received many comments and calls from listeners. He is happy his song had a positive impact and helped people learn more about World War II and the Korean War. Stroud’s time in the Navy further strengthened his faith. The process of creating the song and hearing it for the first time helped him remember his experiences as well as how much he needed his guardian angel during both wars. He is glad his experience and message are being shared with others through this song.
After leaving the Navy, Stroud worked at Lockheed Martin as an aeronautical engineering supervisor for 62 years. Now, at the age of 94, he is still in great health and lives with his daughter in Georgia.
We honor his service.
Operation Song is a non-profit based in Nashville, Tennessee, that partners professional songwriters with Veterans, active military and their families to help them tell their stories through song. Since 2012, they have written over 600 songs with Veterans of WWII to those currently serving. They hold weekly workshops in Middle Tennessee and sponsor events and group retreats throughout the U.S. Those who serve need no musical background, only the desire to tell their story. If you are interested in learning more about Operation Song or hearing more songs, please visit: http://www.operationsong.org/.