Air show unaffected by budget cuts, attracts newcomers

Sunday, May 26, 2013 | 7:26 p.m. CDT; updated 10:22 a.m. CDT, Monday, May 27, 2013
Visitors to the Salute to Veterans air show were able to take the U.S. Air Force Command Center Alpha recruitment tour on iPads.They learned about the Air Force and different Air Force occupations through videos, 3-D models, and video games.

 COLUMBIA — Despite national budget cuts that grounded demonstration teams in air shows across the country, the 25th annual Salute to Veterans air show went "fabulously" without any cancellations, Chairwoman Mary McCleary Posner said.

The automatic national budget cuts, also know as sequestration, didn't affect every demonstration team. Serving in the Army for four years, Sgt. Trey Martin of Houston was the first paratrooper to jump Sunday from the All Veteran Parachute Team. The American flag unfurled as he jumped, and the national anthem played as he descended to the ground.

Martin explained that the sequestration has helped the team find opportunities to perform at more shows.

"With so many demonstration teams grounded, we have picked up tons of shows — especially on the East Coast," Martin said. "The team will be performing at the Coca-Cola 600 show." 

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps' naval aviation team, the Blue Angels, had to cut its remaining shows after Congress cut $85 billion from the government's 2013 budget, according to an April 9 news release from the Naval Air Forces. The Blue Angels, who last performed in Columbia in 1993, had 31 performances left this year, according to the team's website.

Keith Daniel, a Navy veteran who worked as an aircraft mechanic on F-14 aircraft, said he has been to air shows in four other states, but has never been to the air show in Columbia. Daniel and his family came from St. Charles for the air show. 

"I used to go to Blue Angels shows all the time, but never this one," Daniel said. "I was on the USS Carl Vinson in 1995 to mark the 50-year anniversary of the end of World War II."

Jordan Quinn, who works at Unlimited Opportunities Inc., a Boonville organization that provides assistance to individuals with disabilities, brought three women from the program with her to the air show.

"We heard about this, and so we woke up early and drove from Boonville," Quinn said. "This is our first time at this air show, and we're having a great time." 

Current and future Army soldiers worked the event gates, while deputies from the Boone County Sheriff's Department and officers from the Columbia Police Department helped security in and outside the event. Salute to Veterans volunteers and several Boy Scout troops also helped out at the event, selling informational books and vending at several booths.

Salute to Veterans is a nonprofit, educational company consisting of more than 3,000 volunteers.

Nick Wright, a 14-year-old West Junior High School student and Troop 707 scout, volunteered to work a concession stand selling food and drinks this weekend with other members of his troop. His grandfather served in World War II. 

"My favorite part of the air show is the paratroopers," Wright said. "I like the planes, also, and my favorite is the B-17."

Martin, with the All Veteran Parachute Team, said American paratroopers have been around since World War II and that the average jumper is 26 years old and has performed more than 1,200 free-fall jumps. Martin has performed 1,350 parachute jumps.

Sittirug Singkhorn and his friends Anuwat Phrawisat and Phattaraporn Khongdi, Thai students studying at Missouri University of Science and Technology, said they heard about the air show online and came to see it. 

"We finished our semester at Missouri S&T and we wanted to explore," Singkhorn said. "We have never been to anything like this."

The Salute to Veterans' Memorial Day parade will begin at 9:55 a.m. Monday in Downtown Columbia. Members of the U.S. All Veteran Parachute Team will jump into four Broadway intersections.

A military ceremony will be held at the Boone County Courthouse Veterans Memorial at 10:45 a.m., where the Columbia Community Band will play, and wreaths will be placed on the memorial.

Supervising editor is Shaina Cavazos.

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