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.
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)