USA — Retired Guardsmen Preserve War History, Camaraderie

NEW ORLEANS — At the Jack­son Bar­racks Mil­i­tary Muse­um, Wednes­days are a time for rem­i­nisc­ing and restora­tion for the mem­bers of the 122nd Bomb Restora­tion Squadron Unit.

Chap­man “Chap­py” Hol­brook, a mem­ber of the 122nd Bomb Squadron Restora­tion Unit, pre­pares the nose of a B‑26 to be used as a mon­i­tor to dis­play pho­tos in the Jack­son Bar­racks Muse­um in New Orleans, Oct. 27, 2010. The 122nd is a group of vol­un­teer retired Guards­men who meet every Wednes­day to help restore old mil­i­tary air­craft and can­nons for the Jack­son Bar­racks Muse­um.
U.S. Army Pho­to by Spc. Jes­si­ca M. Lopez, Louisiana Nation­al Guard
Click to enlarge

The unit is a group of vol­un­teer retired Guards­men who help to restore old mil­i­tary air­craft and can­nons for the muse­um and the mem­bers have sto­ries of their own to share while they work. 

Not long ago, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. John Cordero was recall­ing Thanks­giv­ing Day 1946, when a B‑29 crashed at an air­base in Tokyo. 

“Hor­ren­dous crash,” Cordero recalled. “I was scared. It was the first time I had to talk to J.C.”

His com­rades lis­tened more closely. 

“We have the same ini­tials,” said Cordero. “I fig­ured I could ask him a favor.” The favor?

“Please take me now. I don’t want to burn.” 

The unit is a place where sto­ries like Cordero’s are all too familiar. 

“Our get-togeth­er is more about the cama­raderie … we enjoy the com­pan­ion­ship,” said retired Air Force Col. Ernest “Bud­dy” Gos­som. “We start telling sto­ries. We don’t know who is telling the truth and who is not, and we don’t care.” 

Before Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na hit the city of New Orleans, the 122nd had 25 active volunteers. 

“Right now we have about eight to 10 peo­ple who come out here and join us,” said Gos­som. “Every­one is get­ting old­er, and they just can’t make it.” 

The reduc­tion of mem­bers is not the only chal­lenge the 122nd is facing. 

“Since Kat­ri­na our work has grown, and our work space has changed at least four times,” said retired Air Force Col. Arthur Alber­ti. “We look for­ward to our next work­space which is made just for us to do our restorations.” 

The mul­ti-use com­plex build­ing, sched­uled to be com­plet­ed in Jan­u­ary 2011, will have two bays in which the 122nd can work. 

“The 122nd is a part of the his­to­ry depart­ment, which is why we have an area for them in our new build­ing,” said Stan Amer­s­ki, act­ing direc­tor of the Jack­son Bar­racks Muse­um and cura­tor. “It’s impor­tant to hon­or their ser­vice by restor­ing the air­craft they flew.” 

Most of the mem­bers of the 122nd were the pilots of the air­craft that need to be restored. 

“It’s a bless­ing to have them because they are the experts,” said Amerski. 

On the move-in date, the 122nd will begin restor­ing the air­craft in the air park out­side the muse­um, to include: the T‑11, A‑26, F‑4, F‑15, T‑33, F‑100 and F‑102.

“Once we have our spot, we will be able to start on more than two projects,” said Cordero. “But we are going to need extra hands.” 

The 122nd is accept­ing vol­un­teers of all ages to help with the restora­tion process and to keep mil­i­tary his­to­ry alive. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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