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Carlisle man was pilot for the pope - abc27 WHTM

Carlisle man was pilot for the pope

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CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) -

For millions around the world, Pope John Paul II's historic visit to the United States in 1987 was a television event - but for retired Marine Corps Colonel Pat Halton, it was up close and personal.

Halton was a 36-year-old helicopter pilot in charge of transporting the pope during his three-day stay in Los Angeles.

For that mission, the young major code-named the aircraft "Shepherd One." It was a daunting task shared by the Secret Service, Marine support units and the Los Angeles Police Department.

"The helicopter pilot flying the pope was one part, and maybe an important part, but certainly not the only part of a big puzzle that had to be orchestrated and brought together," Halton said.

Halton was one of six command pilots of Marine Helicopter Squadron One, the elite unit designated to fly the President of the United States, the Vice President and visiting heads of state, which includes the head of Vatican City.

As a Catholic himself, Halton called the mission humbling and personally rewarding, especially when the pontiff asked to meet and thank those involved with his visit.

"He was a man of peace," Halton said. "He was gracious, thoughtful. It was a real honor to meet him as a person."

"I will say, at the time I did meet him and flew him, there was no pre-conceived notion that I was flying a future saint," he said with a smile. "Maybe I had a part to play in that, I don't know."

 

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