The move, a fallout from the budget cutbacks in the military, signals the end of a 33 year tour of duty for the venerable Warthog Fighter at the Shreveport base.....along with the loss of hundreds of jobs filled by Air Force reservists from East Texas and the area.
Fighter Group Commander John Breazeale from Gilmer and the entire contingent of 917th airmen along with spouses, children, and guests from all over the Ark-La-Tex region bid farewell to the jets in a solemn ceremony where Col. Breazeale reviewed the stellar history of 917th personnel over the years.....literally from the beginnings of the 917th in 1963.
The Mayor of Bossier City, Shreveport-Bossier Military Affairs Council, 8th Air Force Commander, Global Strike Command Commander, 2nd Bomb Wing Commander, and several retired former group commanders were in the audience.
Family members and well-wishers attending the ceremony were Col. Breazeale's wife Karen, his daughter Madison, his son Keanon, his mom and dad Mr. And Mrs. Frank Breazeale, his aunt Ray and Mr. Kenneth White, and cousins Conrad Coppedge and his son Dodgion Coppedge.
Hometown friends and neighbors Steve and Linda Kay Dean, and grandson Blake Barton; Ruel Felipe and sons RJ and Samuel; Gordon and Betty Finney; and David and Aneita Henry witnessed and helped celebrate the historical event.
Gilmer has a proud heritage of notable Air Force leaders who have made significant contributions to the Air Force. Joining the ranks of Air Force combat notables such as Lt James Rex Lindsey in the Ploesti Raid, flying the wing of Col Killer Kane; Capt. Richard Potter leading critical 8th Air Force missions Germany; Col. Robert 'Silver Fox' Stephens pioneering world speed and altitude records in the SR 71; Lt Col Phillip Maywald's recommendation for the Medal of Honor and ultimate award of the Air Force Cross in combat in Vietnam; and Lt. General John Leonard Pickett head of Tactical Air Command; Col. John Breazeale is fast becoming recognized as a leader from the current generation of Gilmer High School graduates who have achieved top national honors and recognition in their military careers.
Steve Dean, a former member of the 917th, pilot in the 47th Fighter Squadron, and curator of Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum in Gilmer, praised our local-area military veterans, past present and future, and encouraged our youngsters to seriously consider service in the military as an honorable profession and service to the community. "By recognizing our veterans and honoring their service, the museum encourages service above self, patriotism, citizenship, and respect for the US Constitution."