Veterans preview Memorial Day weekend air show

Friday, May 27, 2011 | 8:17 p.m. CDT
Air Force pilot Mike Schriever talks to Warren Cumpton about his experiences in WWII as Charlie Gehlauf looks on. Schriever flies an A10 Warthog and talked to many of the veterans at the breakfast.

COLUMBIA — Men and women who once wore military uniforms and defended the United States in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War got a Friday-morning sneak preview of the Memorial Day weekend air show at Columbia Regional Airport.

The Memorial Day Weekend Salute to Veterans Corporation puts on the show. Veterans from around the community and the country are invited to watch the practice run and share stories over coffee and donuts.

Tips for the air show

  • Bring folding chairs (no general seating available); collapsible strollers are OK.

  • Parking is highly limited. Use the $3 round-trip shuttle from the Hearnes Center to the airport. Buses begin loading at 9 a.m. and will run until everyone gets back.

  • Wear sunscreen even if it's overcast.

  • Provide earplugs for young children.

  • Bring binoculars and a camera.

  • Food and beverages will be available.

Don't forget:

  • No coolers or picnic baskets allowed
  • No pets
  • No alcohol
  • No in-line skates

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At The Bluffs, veterans who drove tanks, did flight engineering and medical work have been getting excited for the event, said Erica Utterback, the facility’s Alzheimer’s unit program coordinator.

“Even if they can’t remember, when you tell them about the air show, they are excited and will tell you their stories," Utterback said. "You can tell it brings them a certain honor."

Tiger Place resident Robert Habenstein and daughter Roberta Olson enjoyed the preview from the hangar, where they were out of the wind on the cool morning.

“It’s so kind to invite veterans for a special showing and give them time to sit and visit,” Olson said. “We’re looking forward to coming back for the full day tomorrow.”

Habenstein joined the Army in 1941, anticipating 10 months of duty. In the final month of his enlistment, Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Habenstein’s unit was sent to clean up the island, and as a photographer by training, he documented the process. When the war was over, the GI Bill allowed him to study sociology at the University of Chicago. He then taught sociology at MU for more than 35 years.

As for the air show, his favorite part is the acrobatic planes, which are the bright yellow planes of the Lima Lima Flight Team, twisting and turning, diving toward Earth and zooming overhead in perfect formations.

Ira Roberts of Ashland also likes the Lima Lima planes. Roberts was a gunners mate in the Navy and was in Tokyo the day the treaty ending World War II was signed.

“I like the show,” Roberts said. “I don’t get to see many other veterans often.”

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