Veterans’ Day, Tuesday November 11, 2008

THE day! – What a wonderful feeling of accomplishment after literally years of planning and working toward this worthwhile goal on the part of many community leaders and their military partners.

The weather was cool and windy but the Starlifter glistened in the crystal-clear sunlight. With great humility, for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country, both then and now, the group of distinguished guests and families of these brave and honored men and women, paid tribute to, not only the military but also to the founder, a long-time President of the Foundation, an outstanding American patriot, and a Community leader, the late William Demas. He would have been proud of the accomplishment and of the devoted group assembled.

Following the introductions of the honored guests, the assemblage heard first, from the President of the Thomas B. McGuire Memorial Foundation, Mr. Ted Strempack. His message was one of stirring memories of those, who over its forty-year history, have served in this noble aircraft throughout the world in missions of mercy as well as supplying manpower and materiel to areas of need.

Mr. Strempack continued with this comment: “Throughout the years of planning and construction, the McGuire Foundation has been the custodian of this Park. Today we are here to offer this gift to its perpetual custodian, the members of ‘Team McGuire’; the men and women of the 305th and 514th Air Mobility Wings.” At this point, a granite memorial was unveiled for William Demas, President Emeritas of the T. B. McGuire Memorial Foundation, and for the dedicated efforts of the many professionals and businesses throughout the area who made this park possible through their contributions. Many thanks were also extended to those who donated through the personalized pavers which are now on display surrounding the aircraft. “This park will become a sacred meeting place to visit, honor, and remember.”

Following Mr. Strempack, Col. Scott F. Smith, Vice Commander of the 305th Air Mobility Wing spoke eloquently about the distinguished history of this aircraft and those that served with it during the almost forty years of service of the C-141.

Col James L. Kerr spoke with deep-felt words, meaningfully about the versatile C-141 (the warhorse of the air), the “Garden State Starlifter” and its many missions throughout the world and those who gave their all.

We were all honored to have Congressman Jim Saxton with us at this momentous ceremony, where he spoke of the many years of service of this aircraft and its subsequent expanded model, which carried even greater amounts of cargo over longer range flights. Congressman Saxton, as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee has been indeed, one who led the fight to remove McGuire AFB from the BRAC list and was able to reverse the scheduled closure of Ft. Dix in 1989 and 1991. Congressman Saxton has been instrumental in helping to create the “Joint Base” concept which ultimately saved many jobs in our area and subsequently laid the strong foundation of economic stability in Burlington County and beyond.

The VFW members performed a fitting memorial ceremony to recognize each of those airmen and women who gave their lives during the years that the Starlifter performed its service in MAC, and in dedication to those men and women who are in harm’s way now. The granite memorial was unveiled and each name inscribed was called in tribute.

Following the ceremony, a reception was held with refreshments for all.