Air foundation hosts hangar luncheonPublished 11:11am Thursday, June 26, 2014
The Southern Heritage Air Foundation got a special visit at their monthly meeting Wednesday.
Two World War II veterans and eight servicemen from Hammond, La. arrived in four Blackhawk helicopters to join in the luncheon, held at the Southern Heritage Air Museum.
The meetings were started in July to bring recognition to the museum.
In the first meetings, about twenty people attended on average. As of Wednesday, that number has grown to more than 80.
One of the veterans attending was Charles Seelinger, who served in Patton’s Third Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
“I think it’s all fantastic. I wish we had done stuff like this sooner. After the war was over people were just so sick of it and wanted to forget. Things like this are very worthwhile.”
Patty Mekus, president of the Southern Heritage Air Foundation, described the luncheons as a “friendraiser,” and that it cost $5 to cover the cost of the lunch provided.
With a goal of preserving local and regional World War II history, it is the only museum in which all of the planes fly. The foundation has six that were built between 1942 and 2000.
The museum, 179 VTR Airport Road in Tallulah, is open with free admission Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 pm.
The meetings provided an opportunity for veterans to share their different stories.
On the Battle of the Bulge — the final large-scale German offensive of the war — Seelinger described the conditions.
“The weather was horrible so shelling was all that was going on. As long as you could hear it you knew you were okay.”
In Luxemburg he met a family and he became so close to them they called him their “American son.”
Another veteran attending was Jim Westbrook, who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima. He was accompanied by his wife, Grace.
After a little more than 30 days on the island 6,821 American soldiers were killed and another 19,217 were wounded.
“I don’t know how I made it. If we didn’t do what we did, Mississippi would be speaking Japanese and German right now,” Westbrook said.
“All I wanted to do was come back to Mississippi.”