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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