Armed Forces Day in May

When we lived in Harlingen, Texas I loved visiting the Armed Forces Appreciation Day at the Texas Air Museum.  The last time I was there it was hot, Texas hot! I thought I might go in, look around, and say hello to my friends, John and Jeanette Houston, and then leave. But I ended up staying three hours, and I hardly noticed how hot it was because of all the interesting things I saw and learned. Volunteers were serving food, cleaning up, listening and telling stories, and heartily involved in recreating history for the Independence Day celebration.

The museum was like walking into someone's back yard.  From the road it doesn't look that grand, but when you turn the corner the grandeur of history begins to unfold. Even for me as a layperson, I could see through the restored displays of real military equipment that portrayed the drama of life how our military men and women lived in war and in peace. The first thing I saw was the super structure of the Iwo Jima.  Touring it, one can walk through history and vicariously experience the drama of life aboard an aircraft carrier. My husband and I recently visited the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi, and the tour of the air museum was equal to, if not better than that.

When we lived in Harlingen, Texas I loved visiting the Armed Forces Appreciation Day at the Texas Air Museum.  The last time I was there it was hot, Texas hot! I thought I might go in, look around, and say hello to my friends, John and Jeanette Houston, and then leave. But I ended up staying three hours, and I hardly...When I was given the opportunity to go up in one of the small planes, I was a little nervous.  Someone asked me if I thought I might get sick, and I told them, of course not, I traveled in planes all the time. But they reminded me that this was a small plane and I would feel the movements and rocking a lot more than when flying on a big commercial airline. I was not about to let the thought of getting airsick discourage me.  The plane I rode in was a 90 horsepower Piper-PA-18, L-21, which was used as an observation plane in the Korean War-era. When the plane lifted off the ground for a moment the wind made it hard for me to open my eyes, but then the ride became smooth and it was totally exhilarating. It was like riding a roller coaster without the jerking and twisting that usually does make my stomach sick.

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John glided in the air dipping now and then while I was able to view the people and the buildings below.  People on the ground resembled the characters in the movie “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, only this time the earth equaled the size of the little people. It occurred to me while I was flying the spacious skies why one could get addicted to this type of flying. It was a short flight, and I was disappointed when it ended.

Afterwards, I watched the Marines demonstrate the proper way to capture a fortified bunker.  This and other demonstrations and reenactments evoked gratitude from the audience for the men and women in uniform who made and continue to make sacrifices, to make experiences like this day possible. With all I saw and heard that day, the story of how this museum began in 1985 interested me the most.

John Houston, who made his living as a crop duster and who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era, was the director of the museum. He said that he and his wife, Jeanette were sitting with their friends one night talking about all the friends they had lost in Vietnam, and how they needed a place in history. They decided to build a museum in honor of these men and When we lived in Harlingen, Texas I loved visiting the Armed Forces Appreciation Day at the Texas Air Museum.  The last time I was there it was hot, Texas hot! I thought I might go in, look around, and say hello to my friends, John and Jeanette Houston, and then leave. But I ended up staying three hours, and I hardly...women. “Originally it started with Vietnam,” John said, “but then we decided to complete the confederate Air Force that included aviation from 1939-1945.  Our goal was to pick up where they left off.” The government wouldn't talk to them about focusing only on the Vietnam War, so they picked up the Korean War, hoping to get financial help, but that didn't happen. Consequently, they decided to take on aviation from the beginning to the present.

A year or so later they obtained a non-profit status, and continued their project with the help of friends, volunteers, memberships, fundraising projects, and a solid support from World War II veterans. “The backbone of the museum is the World War II veterans,” John told me. “They feel like the country has forgotten, and this helps them remember.” There are no paid employees, and John Houston continues to make his living as a crop duster, although that can be hard at times.

There are two other charter museums, one in San Antonio and one in Lubbock. The museums continue to survive on memberships, donations, and fundraisers. “This is a good way to teach our young people history,” John said.  They are our future. We have to let them know. Sometimes kids are not receptive to lectures, but coming in here for Kid's camp, movies, games and experiencing the reenactments make them walk away with history without even knowing it." What a great resource for our families.

 

You can access more information on the web through Texasairmuseum.com.

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Deana Landers
Author for Morningcoffeebeans.com

Deana Landers has had many roles in life — Pastor’s Wife , Nurse/Health Educator, Writer and Motivational Speaker ... more