Marines spend holiday in service

Things have changed a bit from the days the A-4E Skyhawk ripped through the skies over Vietnam.

“We had a little bit more influence then,” said Tom La-Cour, a former Marine pilot. “We’d just get a bunch of corporals to do this.”

La-Cour and other United States Marine Corps League members spent Presidents Day giving the jet a facelift outside the Kaua‘i Veterans Center.

With music from former judge George Matsuoka’s retirement party filling the air, the Marines employed good old-fashioned elbow grease to wash down the jet fighter that used to be flown by Navy and Marine pilots during the Vietnam War era.

Monday’s event coincided with the Presidents Day holiday, bringing a touch of patriotism to an atmosphere filled with the celebration of achievements from one of Kaua‘i’s judges.

All federal, state and county offices were closed, as were many community businesses.

“The Navy guys did the same thing — wash with soap, water and brushes,”said John Burns, another Marine pilot. “The Marines were smarter — we just flew the planes in thunderstorms. That was the plane wash.”

With no engine, fuel tank or electronics in the decomissioned plane, volunteers added about 600 pounds of sandbags to keep the plane grounded.

“We also replaced the chains that anchor the jet to the concrete slab it sits on,” Gene Redden said. “And to make sure it doesn’t fly away in the wind, more chain will secure the wings.”

Today, La-Cour, whose name is painted beneath the cockpit in honor of those days he flew the skies, joined Burns and other Marines in getting the job done.

“When he was a pilot, he downed MiGs and 27 cases of beer,” one volunteer said.

“We’ll have steaks after this,” said J.Q. Smith. “Judge Matsuoka offered us some food after this is done, so we’ll enjoy that as well.”

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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