A Man and
Jerry Wilkins is a man beaming with pride.
“My pole is sure impressive,” he boasts.
It’s not a sentence one man usually hears from another so
I bite my lower lip.
“Wanna see it?” he inquires. Respectfully, I decline.
“No, no, you’ll love it. Let’s sneak out back
and let me show you my pole.”
Even on the walk through the Museum’s backyard he continues,
“It’s long and sleek and built to last.”
I’m becoming very uncomfortable.
As we turn a corner, he wheels in front of me. “Ready to see
it? Here you go.” He steps aside to show me his pole.
Jerry’s right, it is impressive.
At thirteen feet in length and several tons in weight, it is all
he said it would be. It’s destined for the Museum’s
new Korean War Memorial, where it will support a North American
F-86 Sabre jet.
“Yep, made of one-inch thick, high grade steel,” Jerry
said as he slapped a palm against the side of the pole. “Stainless
steel welds too, so they won’t rust. And check out the end;
see how it’s angled to hold the airplane?”
The end of the pole Jerry referred to is angled and pre-drilled
with holes to accept the F-86, one of two aircraft that serve as
focal points for this memorial to “America’s Forgotten
War.” The other aircraft, a Russian-built MiG-15, already
sits in its concrete cradle at the memorial site.
know,” Jerry said as he took a seat on the pole. “This
pole is more than a pole, it’s a symbol. Oh sure, it’s
built to suspend a Korean War airplane overhead, but it’s
also symbolic of how we as a nation need to support our military.
“We sent thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines
over to Korea. They went because their nation asked them to. They
didn’t complain. They fought; many died, and three years later,
those who survived simply packed up and went back home and got on
with their lives.
“Sadly, their nation forgot all about their war. Forgot what
they sacrificed, how they served. We can’t do that. We owe
them more than that. That’s why this memorial is so important.”
Jerry’s points are well taken. In the 37 months of the Korean
conflict, America deployed nearly 1.8 million troops to the Korean
peninsula. Over 36,000 Americans died, another 92,000 were wounded,
and nearly 5,000 are still missing in action. The war ended in stalemate,
and disagreements between North and South Korea still fester. Sadly,
ask most Americans about the Korean War and they’ll shake
their heads. It didn’t end with victory parades. It’s
not taught in the schools. It’s largely forgotten.
“I’m so proud of Planes of Fame with this project,”
Jerry said. “Our Korean War Memorial will be a living tribute
to all the men and women who served in this conflict, and especially
those who died.”
The passion in Jerry’s voice speaks of his commitment to the
project. There’s still much to do in the coming weeks to pull
the memorial together, but clearly, he is the man who can do it.
I almost feel ashamed at my earlier misreading of his boastful comments
about his pole.
But as Jerry points over to the F-86 Sabre jet that will be a part
of the memorial, he remarks, “Now I just need to figure out
how to mount her on my pole.”
Once again, I bite my lower lip.
Our thanks to Gary Johnson and all the gang at Ace Clearwater Enterprises
for their generous sponsorship of the F-86 pole. You guys rock!
Email sent out from the Planes of Fame Air Museum August 4, 2020
from Craig Bryant: "I was at the museum on Saturday and got another
picture of the F-86. When I looked at the new paint job up close I
guess I hadn't noticed before how much of a metal flake finish it
has. It really sparkles in the sun. I don't know if you can zoom in
on this but I think it's clear enough that you may be able to see
it. I spoke with a couple people on the progress of the project. The
outer fence around the display is done being painted. I was told that
Corey, one of the young guys who works out there, is going to head
up doing the detail painting on the plane. I've seen his work and
he is very good. It's just a matter of him getting the time to do
it. Soon I hope. Arrangements have already been made to use the same
crane company to lift it up and put it in place once the painting
is done. I know that it seems slow, but things are moving forward."
you Craig for that update!
Adam helped with the fence
restoration below. He cited that they packed up after lunch there
since it had gone over 100 degrees! They used scotch brite to sand
off the calcium from the sprinklers and repainted them with Rustoleum.
July 11, 2020
During this time, Craig
noted that the F-86 has moved from its area near the hanger and has
been pushed back to the wash area in preparation of being painted.
In the meantime, he took a beautiful shot of the MiG fighter on the
newly poured concrete pedestals. This MiG will also be a part of the
new Korean War memorial.