WPAFB, Ohio (WDTN) - By: Col. Mona Vollmer, USAFR
Stories honoring the heroic actions and dedicated service of veterans, patriots, and loved ones were
commemorated Thursday at the Air Force Museum Foundation's Legacy Data Plate Wall of Honor Tribute Ceremony.
Every data plate on the Wall of Honor represents one of the 475 unique stories that make up this lasting tribute to veterans, patriots and loved ones. While a data plate is a simple piece of stainless steel with an engraved message, those in attendance today will testify that it is so much more; it is a connection to a loved one.
Traditionally, all military aircraft have a data plate which identifies the builder and includes the aircraft model designation, serial number, and other important information. These Legacy Data Plates extend this tradition as a means to recognize and honor individuals.
Keynote speaker Maj Gen Charles S. Cooper III, ANG (Ret), former commander of the New York Air National Guard, described how he was able to establish a permanent tribute to his son and daughter-in-law on the Data Plate Wall of Honor. Cooper's son, Tom, is currently deployed in Iraq and due home in September.
Maj Gen Cooper paid tribute to Maj Gen Ed Mechenbier, USAFR (Ret), who flew his 80th combat mission in an F-4C over North Vietnam in June 1967 when he was shot down and imprisoned for nearly six years as a POW. Mechenbier returned home in 1973 and retired in June 2004 after a distinguished career that spanned 40 years.
Ohio native Lt Col Paul Kari, USAF (Ret), who was shot down on his 69th F-4C mission while bombing the Western Vietnam Military Training Headquarters, was also honored today. Kari was a POW for seven years and eight months. He recently visited the Museum in honor of the 40th anniversary of the first flight of released POWs on the "Hanoi Taxi," the C-141 in the Museum's Air Park.
Ms. Frances A. Duntz, secretary of the Air Force Museum Foundation's Board of Managers, spoke movingly about the bond she shared with her father and other family members who served the country. They are now enshrined on the Wall of Honor. She thought it was the highest tribute "for our family to be part and parcel of the walls that support our wonderful Air Force Museum."
Mr. Robert Makley bought a data plate for his dad, William A. Makley of St. Mary's, Ohio, who was a civilian welder at Wright Field when Pearl Harbor was attacked. William Makley volunteered to go to Hawaii to help rebuild Hickam Field. While in Hawaii, he was also a member of the Hawaii Air Depot, a volunteer civilian force which helped serve as protection of the islands during the war. His data plate on the Museum's Wall is a way for his service to be honored, as most other memorials are reserved for military only.
According to Maj Gen Cooper we can honor those who have died in service by doing four things recommended by The Wounded Warrior Project.
"Participate in the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 pm on Monday to honor our veterans who have paid the ultimate price; fly the American flag at half staff until noon and then raise it to full staff; attend local Memorial Day parades and events; and visit our national monuments, or in this case, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force," said Cooper.
Visit the Legacy Data Plates web site to find out how you can honor a loved one.
Visit the Air Force Museum Foundation online to learn more about the foundation.
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