TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – You’ve seen pictures before of President Barack Obama boarding his official helicopter outside the White House.
You’ve probably never thought much of those pictures – but you might now. That’s because one of the pilots of that helicopter, Marine One, is a Terre Haute native.
Marine Captain Joe Hornacky is one of the pilots behind the presidential bird.
The 36-year-old is a graduate of Terre Haute North High School. Visiting family in Terre Haute, he sat down with News 10 and talked about this huge honor.
“There isn’t a typical day. You don’t know what’s gonna happen from one day to the next,” Hornacky said. “One day you can think that you’re going to South Africa and you find out the next day you’re going to Ireland. You just always keep a bag packed because you never know at any time once you get into the squadron you get a blackberry and it’s glued to you…”
Hornacky entered the Air Force right out of high school, later went to college and then Officer Candidate Flight School for the Marines.
He flew two tours in Iraq, was selected for Warfare School for the Marines and then perhaps the biggest honor.
Captain Hornacky was selected into what’s called HMX Marine One Squadron.
He’s flown Marine One for the President and Vice President of the United States for the last two years.
“Air Force One is going to take the president the long distances from state to state. The helicopter ride with Marine One is basically just getting to and from short distances,” he said. “You never really know what mission you are flying. You can be in the helicopter the President is in or you could be in one of the others. There are a lot of other helicopters that go along with support – both his detailed press. So, we’re not only flying the President and Vice President, we’re also flying the secret service, we’re flying the press around…”
Hornacky says his first impression of the commander in chief is that he’s very polite despite his unrelenting schedule.
“The first time I met him was on a lift from the south lawn. It’s a very short time,” Hornacky explained. “He’s one of the busiest men in the world. He comes up into the cockpit and shakes both of our hands, the two pilots and tells you ‘thanks for the ride’…”
For now, that ride is over for Joe. He’s officially retired come the first of February.
He and his wife Libby have three small children who no doubt look at dad as their hero.
A very humble hometown boy, Terre Haute can be proud he calls home.