Veterans, PMRF crew work together to restore fighter jet

A newly-painted A4-E Navy jet fighter is the centerpiece of a Kauai Veterans Council celebration set for July Fourth.

Thanks to the labor of Kauai veterans, the generosity of Pacific Missile Range Facility commander Capt. Robert Connelly and the help of PMRF sailors, the Vietnam-era jet is now shiny and white with official Navy markings on its fuselage.

The celebration is at the Kauai Veterans Center on Kapule Highway in Lihue, and known as the Kauai Veterans Round-Up. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m., the formal ceremony at 10 a.m., a special memorial service honoring veterans at 11 a.m. followed by lunch.

Pastor Gene Redden of the Central Kauai Christian Church is to give the invocation.

Retired Marine First Sergeant J. Q. Smith n a long-time resident of Wailua Homesteads and veteran of action in Okinawa and the Philippines during World War plus service in the Korean War and Vietnam War n said the aircraft is on loan from the Navy to be displayed as a memorial.

Smith described the plane’s colorful, and eventful, history to The Garden Island. He said it was last stationed at Barber’s Point in Leeward Oahu. Originally turned over to the Navy in 1964 at a McDonnell Douglas aircraft plant in Buford, South Carolina, the A4-E was shipped to an air base in Puerto Rico. The aircraft later moved on to Greece, Okinawa, Japan, Philippines and Vietnam, was stationed aboard the aircraft carriers USS Hancock and USS Kitty Hawk, based on land in Vietnam at Chu Lai and Bien Nhoa under Marine Air command. After the Vietnam War it was shipped to Barber’s Point.

The Kauai veterans’ organization obtained the plane about five years ago, and it was shipped on a barge to Kauai.

In recent weeks, the A4-E was enclosed in a tent and prepared for a new paint job with the assistance of the PMRF aircraft maintenance crew. With the blessings of the base commander, who will be the keynote speaker at the Fourth of July event Warrant Officer Joe Scala led the repainting with the help of seven other PMRF naval personnel.

The Fourth of July event is aimed at honoring the island’s veterans with special events.

The 50th anniversary of the end of the Korean War will also be marked at the event.

Members of the state Veterans Service Offices and the National Veterans Administration are to attend the event to assist veterans with information and other help in obtaining needed veterans benefits. Medical help with testing blood pressure and checking for diabetes will also be available.

Smith said two tiled memorial plaques are being erected adjacent to the memorial aircraft. One is to list deceased veterans of Kauai, and the other contributors to the project.

TGI Editor Chris Cook can be reached at mailto:ccook@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 227).

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