The National WASP WWII Museum celebrated the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII at WASP HOMECOMING 2011 on May 28, of Memorial Day Weekend. Approximately 1,000 people from all around the U.S. attended the day-long event. Twenty-two WASP were present who trained at Avenger Field in 1943-44 to become the first women to ever fly military planes in the United States.
Many children were thrilled to take their first airplane ride, courtesy of the EAA Young Eagles Program. WASP Bee Haydu, the featured speaker at the standing-room only, luncheon, marveled the audience with her story. All ages were enthralled by the planes on display, which included two magnificently restored Stearman bi-planes, one of which, WASP #12, was flown by the WASP while in training in Sweetwater.
The guests attending the evening gala were in awe as WASP #12 flew over the flags during the Sunset Remembrance Ceremony as the Sweetwater Municipal played the Air Force Service Song. The audience was reminded of the ultimate sacrifice 38 of these young women made for the country when the niece of one of the 38 read the poem, “Celestial Flight,” written for her aunt, immediately after her crash, by her friend, another WASP trainee. Brigadier General Linda MacTague, Ret. USAF from Battle Creek, Michigan, read the names of the 38 as a bell tolled.
The WASP came from California, Florida, New York, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Arizona, Utah, Arizona, Alabama, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Texas. Many of them were returning to Avenger Field for the first time since they learned how to fly the Army way and become ferry pilots and test pilots, and many towed targets for live gunnery practice.
"This annual fundraising event hosted by the Board of Directors of the WASP Museum could not have experienced the huge success that it did without its major sponsors including the Sweetwater Chamber of Commerce, American Airlines/Air Compassion for Veterans, Pecan Plantation 99’s , Wal-Mart, Jack’s Liquor and the Sweetwater Municipal Band," said board members.
"The board also appreciates the Gold Medal table sponsors Bill and Linda Hunter, Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital, Eberle Communication Group, Dodge Jones Foundation, Lawrence Brothers, Sweetwater Travel Center and Van Baucom Real Estate."
Also supporting the event were the Silver Medal table sponsors Texas State Technical College, EMA Electromechanics, Bennett & Associates, Blue Goose Ranch/Tom and Jo Henderson, Loren and Jeannette Bryant, John Paul and Carol Cain, Choice Ready Mix/Steve and Jan Smith, Kathy Dickson, Peter Fox, Ray Greene, Capt. Garth C. Good, Ret. NWA, Susan King of the Wings of Dreams Museum in Florida, Ludlum Measurements, Inc., Rolling Plains Rural Health Clinic, Zollie C. Steakley, Sandra Edwards Spears, Sweetwater Rotary, Homer and Beth Taylor, Texas National Bank, Marjorie Andrews, Marianne Wood, Don and Micki Wright and McCoy Funeral Home.
The following local businesses contributed also: McGlothlin Medical Supply, M&M Electric, Sweetwater Floral, McCoy Funeral Home, Ronnie Kinsey/NAPA Auto Parts and Texas National Bank.
"The event could not continue to grow and succeed without the many volunteers, including the Winds of Texas Club, the Cross Plains Country Band, Brenda and Ralph Stirl, Elaine and Jimmy Curtis, Gene and Kim Norris, Lea Cleveland, Donnella Parker, Rita Lawrence, Capt. Dia Kinnaman, Dyess Air Force Base, Stacy King, Andy and Mike Porter, Jan Smith, Cannon Air Force Base Personnel, the EAA Young Eagles Pilots and of course the hard-working Museum Board of Directors. Cynthia James, Kathy Dickson and General Chuck Yeager donated coveted items to the auction," said WASP Museum Executive Director Sharron Davis.