May 10, 2017 Edition

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Air show celebrates 75th
anniversary of air field

Thousands of spectators attended the 75th Anniversary Walnut Ridge Army Air Field Air Show Saturday. The show was presented free of charge thanks to sponsorships from many businesses and individuals.
TD Photos ~ Megan Heyl

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The 75th anniversary of the Walnut Ridge Army Air Field was a success with estimates of 4,000 to 5,000 people in attendance for the air show Saturday afternoon.

"We are overwhelmed and gratified that so many turned out to participate in this tribute to a great air field and to help us recognize and honor the service men and women who served during WWII, and those who have served in the years since, to preserve our priceless freedom," said Harold Johnson, Wings of Honor Museum Board President and event coordinator.

The event was made possible by a small team of volunteers, including Dina Rose of Walnut Ridge.

"Our primary goal as a committee was to honor the veterans and military personnel who have served and are serving our country," Rose said.

Among the crowds Saturday were 10 WWII veterans who were honored in a tribute prior to the air show. Many of the veterans shared their story for the audience.

Billy Mitchell was one such veteran who spoke during the tribute and also during the reunion dinner held Friday night. Mitchell said he enjoyed his time in service, though his return home couldn't have been more perfect as the Statue of Liberty was one of the first things he saw.

"I'm glad I got to serve," Mitchell said.

The dinner Friday also featured guest speaker U.S. Senator John Boozman, who spoke on the veterans history program that encourages veterans to record their stories to be archived in the Library of Congress. He said there are over 100,000 stories recorded so far.

Kim Moretto Niemeier, daughter of WRAAF graduate Fred Moretto, was another speaker Friday night who addressed the importance of saving veterans' stories as she spoke about her father's story. She said he never talked about the war at first, but over time she was able to convince him to share and even revisit places from his time in service.

"I wanted to tell dad's story. I wanted people to never forget," Niemeier said.

Thanks to the support of many sponsors, the museum was able to present the air show free of charge, helping to spread awareness about the army air field and the Wings of Honor Museum to as many as possible.

"The museum board of directors, along with the air show committee, deeply appreciate our generous sponsors, and everyone who contributed money, products, services or time for making this fitting tribute possible," Johnson said.

Those who attended were able to visit the museum, many of whom hadn't been for many years or this was their first time to see it.

"The volunteers of the Wings of Honor Museum have worked tirelessly and invested so much personally over many years to establish a place to preserve and share the rich history of the air field and to honor all veterans past and present," Rose said.

"It's an underappreciated and often unrecognized treasure in our community, and the volunteers deserve praise for their valiant efforts and all they have accomplished. I was blessed to serve on a committee helping the museum volunteers plan this celebratory event and promote the museum."

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