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‘Unbelievable honor:’ Retired Army vet flies the skies again with the US Air Force Thunderbirds

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MILWAUKEE -- Before the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds wow the crowds this weekend at Milwaukee's Air & Water Show, they gave a Wauwatosa native and Army veteran the ride of his life.

It was only a few weeks ago, Army veteran Chad Knutson learned he was going on a mission like any other. He was selected by the Thunderbirds to take a ride with an F-16 Falcon.

"This is incredible and I'm humbled. Completely honored to be here," Knutson said.

Chad Knutson

Chad Knutson

Knutson spent Friday morning, July 20 going through extensive briefings and safety procedures. The 41-year-old was nominated by his fellow volunteers at Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.

"He's been with us for a couple of years," said Karyn Roelke, with Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. "He's done everything from fundraising for the Fisher House to develop a virtual reality for veterans who are unable to fly to Washington, D.C."

Chad Knutson

As an Army ranger serving five tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, Knutson has a history with jumping out of planes but he's never been in a fighter jet quite like the F-16 Falcon.

Chad Knutson

Knutson jetted above the clouds for a 30-minute flight. He soared above Milwaukee, and experienced the same maneuvers that will be executed at this weekend's Air & Water Show.

Leading up to a moment where the retired sergeant experienced 9 Gs; Knutson was floored by the time he was back on the ground.

Chad Knutson

"Unbelievable honor and I am humbled," Knutson said.

The Milwaukee Air & Water Show is July 21-22 along the lakefront. The Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform at 3 p.m. both days. That's an estimated time depending on weather and other factors.

The Air & Water Show’s mission is to be Wisconsin’s premier free, family event of the summer -- and one of the top air shows in the Midwest.

CLICK HERE for more information on the show, viewing areas, tickets for premier seating and much more.

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