LENA, Ill. (WTVO) — Veteran organizations in Northwest Illinois have been working for the last few years on an ambitious project.
In Spring 2018, the project was in the beginning stages of bringing a retired F-4 Phantom II fighter jet to town to create an aerial combat memorial.
A dedicated group of Stephenson County veterans shared their dream of creating the memorial.
“We’ve got an aircraft, the F-4 that was flown by all three services. Navy, Air Force, Marines,” said Robert “Bing” Wells, who is part of the team that brought the jet to Lena. “And as far as we know at least eleven other countries. And it was the most produced fighter jet of all time.”
Transporting the aircraft from Hollomon Air Force Base, in New Mexico, to Lena was a major obstacle, but eight months later they made it happen.
The F-4 rolled into town and will be mounted on a pedestal across from the American Legion Hall to serve as a symbol of America’s honor.
“To memorialize the brave Americans who risked their lives and in some cases were actually killed defending our country in aerial combat in hostile skies around the world as well as the ground crews that worked day and night trying to keep them in the air,” said organizer Terry Young.
“I think, when younger folks can see that and get some hint of the sacrifice that went into the service, there’s maybe a little greater appreciation,” Well said.
For Henry Saavedra, the memorial will mean recognition for brave pilots who flew fighter jets.
“I am a Vietnam veteran and we were taken care of by these pilots,” he said. “When we needed help, they were always there.”
The jet will be refurbished, and once its sealed, sanded and painted, it will be moved to the permanent memorial on Main Street, and will be surrounded by a park-like setting.
“I see myself going there, maybe sitting down in one of the benches, looking at it and remembering a lot of what I went through, and what the other guys went through,” said Mike Brose.
DONATIONS CAN BE SENT TO –
Northwest Illinois F-4 Jet Memorial Project
PO Box 290
Lena IL 61048
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