In honor of the men and women who served and are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, Grimes Field in Urbana will look more like a military airfield than a civilian airport on Saturday, June 11, for the second annual Military Appreciation Day.
Co-sponsored by DAV Chapter 31 and VFW Post 5451, the event is being held in conjunction with the Champaign County Pilots Association’s annual Pancake Breakfast taking place the same day from 7 to 11 a.m. in the Champaign Aviation Museum at the airport.
First held a year ago in honor of the 50th anniversary of U.S. ground troops arriving in Vietnam, Military Appreciation Day 2016 will pay tribute to all veterans and active military personnel with special recognition again paid to those who served in the Vietnam War since The Moving Wall – a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. – will be on display next door to the airport at the former armory, 1412 S. Main St.
“We want to honor the veterans, and we want to engage the community and provide them with a memorable experience,” said Airport Manager Lou Driever.
Last year’s inaugural Military Appreciation Day event drew a crowd of roughly 4,000 people, and with the traveling wall exhibit in Urbana this year, Driever is hoping to see attendance double to 8,000.
If the enthusiasm from individuals wanting to help with the event is any indication of the public’s interest in paying their respects to military personnel, then organizers should expect a large crowd for the daylong tribute.
“People were very excited after last year’s event, and they were motivated to help volunteer in greater numbers this year,” Driever said. “Many of the returning volunteers are bringing their friends with them to help this year.”
There is no admission cost to enter Grimes Field for Military Appreciation Day when the gates open at 9 a.m. on June 11, but donations are welcome. While supplies last, all veterans in attendance will receive a commemorative pin.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) will help kick off the event as guest speaker during the opening ceremony set to begin at 10 a.m.
Along with food vendors and a beer garden, the event will feature several entertainment acts.
At noon, The Average Wright Band will perform a USO show at the Grimes Hangar, and an Ohio-based parachute team is scheduled to jump.
Another musical act, the Ohio Valley British Brass Band, will take to the stage in front of the Grimes Hangar at 3 p.m.
As for the event’s main attractions – military vehicles and aircraft – Grimes Field is the place to be to catch a glimpse of these historic machines.
Driever said eventgoers can expect to see over 40 military vehicles on display in the grassy area in front of the airport, while roughly the same number of aircraft will be viewable inside the airport gates.
As of June 1, pilots throughout the state and country had expressed their intentions to bring 25 fixed-wing aircraft and 11 helicopters to the event. Their availability, however, depends on Mother Nature.
“The caveat for everything is the weather,” Driever said. “My goal is to overbook to allow for those contingencies.”
The list of helicopters scheduled to be on display include two Hueys, two Cobras, a Dolphin 365, a Eurocopter, a Hiller, a Hughes 500, a Black Hawk, a Robinson 44 and a Robinson 22.
Fixed-wing aircraft scheduled to be on display include a C-123, a C-45, an A-26, a B-25, a Fairchild 24, a Stinson 10-A, the Grimes Flying Lab, a Partenavia, a L-19 Bird Dog, a Skymaster, an Aeronica L-3, three Nanchung Trainers, a Yak 52, two RV8As, a T-28, a Mustang, a Navion, a biplane, two T-6s and two C-47s.
While the majority of aircraft will be on static display only, a handful will be available for rides.
The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation (AAHF), a nonprofit organization based out of Georgia, will provide guests the chance to ride in two military helicopters – a Huey and a Cobra.
Higher Ground Helicopters, a helicopter flight school out of Cincinnati, will offer rides in a Robinson 44.
Visitors also can take flight in the following fixed-wing aircraft: a C-47 from the Mid America Flight Museum in Texas, a biplane owned by Dewey Davenport of Xenia, and a L-19 Bird Dog owned by Jim Bob White of Urbana.
A closing ceremony featuring a flyby, a volley by the American Legion firing squad, and the playing of “Taps” by Christopher Jeffries of the Ohio Valley British Brass Band will take place at 5 p.m. Scott Glover, president of the Mid America Flight Museum, will be the guest speaker.
Military Appreciation Day to serve as public outreach event
While the primary purpose of Military Appreciation Day on June 11 at Grimes Field in Urbana is to honor current and past servicemen and women, event organizers are also giving military and aviation-based institutions, organizations, and museums a chance to interact directly with the public.
For families in attendance with highschoolers unsure about their future career paths, military recruiters will be on hand to share information about the different branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, while numerous higher education institutions will provide information on aviation-related careers.
“It’s important to engage each succeeding generation with the wonder of flight,” Grimes Field Manager Lou Driever said. “Knowing there is an opportunity to study and work in the field of aviation will inspire young people to follow their dreams.”
Weather permitting, aircraft from the following colleges will be on display for educational purposes: The Ohio State University (Cessna 150, Piper Super Cub, Cessna Skyhawk), Ohio University (DC-3), Kent State University (Top Hawk and Cessna 150), Bowling Green State University (Seminole), University of Cincinnati (Cessna 172) and Western Michigan University (Cirrus). Ohio Hi-Point Career Center will be displaying its Piper J-3 Cub.
For eventgoers looking for something to do this summer, more than a dozen museums will have information available and displays set up during Military Appreciation Day. The list includes the Champaign Aviation Museum, the Flying Lab Foundation, the Mid-America Flight Museum of Texas, the Ohio Veterans’ Memorial Park, the Motts Military Museum, the Top Kicks Military Museum of West Virginia, the Miami Valley Veterans Museum, the Miami Valley Military History Museum, the Ohio Veterans Home Museum, the Heritage Flight Museum of Pennsylvania, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky, the Veterans Museum of the Ohio Valley, the WACO Historical Society, the Butler County Warbirds, the Champaign County Historical Society, and the Cincinnati Aviation Society and Historical Museum.
“There are many smaller museums that are not widely recognized,” Driever said. “This outlet gives them the opportunity to show a small part of what they have to the public. It’s good for the museums, good for the event and, more importantly, good for the community.”
As a service to ex-military personnel in attendance, various federal, state and local veterans organizations will be on hand to answer questions and provide information on the services they offer.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.