Warbird area dedicated to honor all veterans
Story and photo by Frederick A. Johnsen
prominent new concrete parking apron in the Warbirds area leads
northward to a striking bronze eagle sculpture, flanked by flags on a
pair of grassy knolls. It’s a lasting tribute to veterans from all
branches of service, all eras.
In planning and execution for three
years, the improvements to the Warbirds area were still receiving
finishing touches last week. The dream of honoring veterans blended with
the need to allow people and aircraft to move efficiently in the
Warbirds area, said Warbirds of America executive director Bill Fischer.
“The main goal was to make this an anchor destination,” Fischer
explained. Just as AeroShell Square is a destination on the AirVenture
site, the enhanced Warbirds display site is envisioned as a venue within
the overall AirVenture venue.
The new concrete apron hosts this year’s
popular Warbirds in Review sessions twice each day during AirVenture.
These events highlight aviators and their aircraft from several military
epochs. The sessions are animated by the heartfelt interactions between
the audience and the veterans being honored.
In addition to the memorial and apron,
the Warbirds gift shop and pilot registration building was expanded.
Scotts Miracle-Gro provided major funding enabling these improvements.
Scotts CEO Jim Hagedorn owns a P-51 Mustang and is a former U.S. Air
Force F-16 pilot. And the intersection of the Scotts company with EAA
members goes even deeper, Fischer says, since Scotts is involved in turf
management that can be of use to grass airstrip operators.
Wally Binder, an EAA member from Wausau,
Wisconsin, helped design the improvements, Fischer said. The contractor
was Zillges Materials of Oshkosh and sod was placed over the new knolls
by Brinkman Landscaping, he added. The imposing bronze eagle was cast in
North Carolina by artist John Hair.
At 2 p.m. Monday, the American flag was
raised officially for the first time over the Warbirds memorial. Bill
Fischer reflected on what he hopes visitors will experience as they
approach the new Warbirds enhancements from the south: “I think it
should be pride… They can walk tall and reflect on the sacrifices our
veterans have made.”
DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3;
2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30