Former Marine, aerobatic pilot inspires teens to follow dreams
By Staff Sgt. Christina C. Delai
| | April 11, 2002
6TH MARINE CORPS DISTRICT, PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. --
"I challenge each of you to find something that you love to do - that you feel passionate about - and do it," said Jim LeRoy, former Marine and current aerobatic pilot for Bulldog Air Shows.
LeRoy, who was in Central Florida for an air show recently, took time out of his busy schedule to visit Poinciana High School's Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps class to talk about his experiences in the Marine Corps and his love of flying.
To a class full of eager listeners, LeRoy explained how his decision to be a Marine was not only significant to him accomplishing his dreams, but it also helped shape him into the man he is today.
"The Marine Corps showed me how I could overcome challenges and push past my limits," he said.
Enlisting as an infantryman more than 20 years ago, LeRoy spent the majority of his enlistment in California. Still not satisfied with his accomplishments and needing more challenges, LeRoy applied for and was selected as a Marine Corps Sniper.
As a young child, LeRoy dreamed of flying. His grandfather was a flight instructor who gave young LeRoy his first lesson. LeRoy obtained discounts on aircraft rentals for pumping gas at the local airport.
During his time in the Marine Corps, LeRoy joined a military flight club while stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif. As part of this club, he was able to obtain his pilot's license, commercial flight instructor certificate and flight instrument certificate.
LeRoy, a third generation pilot, prefers aerobatic flying to all others. Considered by many as one of the premier solo acts in the business, LeRoy has pushed aerobatic flying to a new level with his heart-stopping surprises and exciting signature maneuvers.
"I've always been an extremist," he said, "when you say boat, I think hydroplane - when you say automobile, I think Indy 500 - when you say aircraft, I think low-level aerobatics."
Throughout the class talk, LeRoy's enthusiasm and love for flying was obvious as he whipped around the room demonstrating various flying maneuvers and answering questions.
According to LeRoy, when he takes to the air, he is part ambassador, part artist, part entertainer, and part role model.
"I think it's important to show kids these days that you can have dreams and you can accomplish them if you work at it," he said. "I also think it's important that they know that it was the Marine Corps that helped me to accomplish mine."