PHOENIX — Lieutenant Commander Thomas Smith loved flying. He did it for more than 20 years as a Naval Aviator from 1954 to 1974.
"[I served] three years in Vienam on and off," said Smith. "I got shot at, that wasn’t fun, but I survived so I’m very lucky.”
Smith was born in Phoenix, one of the few who were in the 30's, and retired in Anthem with his wife.
Thursday, he turned 90 years old, and day that was set to lead up to a weekend of celebration.
Smith's family planned to invite more than 100 of Smith's friends, family and even old students to celebrate the milestone, but were forced to cancel after the spread of the coronavirus in Arizona.
So, his loved ones came up with a Plan B, and kept it a secret from the retired aviator, until that afternoon.
"I am absolutely dumbfounded. I thought some friends were going to come by," said Smith. “This is beyond my imagination."
Smith and his wife walked out to a street filled with family, friends and neighbors cheering as he waved from a distance.
Then, the real surprise. A line of cars drove past Smith's home, each decorated with signs, honoring the navy veteran.
Smith telling ABC15 he's grateful for the effort and love shown by his community who made an effort to celebrate the big day with him. Even though they couldn't share hugs or dances, they still shared smiles, laughs and joy.