HAVELOCK — About 250 people packed the Havelock Tourist and Event Center auditorium Friday morning for a dedication ceremony and unveiling of a new monument in tribute to the Grumman A-6 Intruder aircraft.
The A-6 Intruder, built by Grumman Aerospace, flew missions for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from 1963-97. It served in the Vietnam War, Gulf War and conflicts in the Middle East. Several Intruder squadrons were based at nearby U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point during the Vietnam War and other conflicts.
Retired Col. Tom Blickensderfer, who flew the Intruder and was a squadron commander, was master of ceremonies for the dedication. He is a member of the local chapter of the A-6 Intruder Association, an organization dedicated to preserving the history surrounding the Intruder.
Wyatt Threatt, the 7-year-old grandson of Gunnery Sgt. Mike Threatt, who used to work on maintaining the Intruder at Cherry Point, sang the national anthem to kick off the ceremony Friday. His performance was followed by the reading of a poem in memory of 30 Marine A-6 aviators who were killed in the Vietnam War.
Retired Navy Capt. T. Ladson Webb, president of the Intruder Association, spoke on the work being carried out by a program under the U.S. Department of Defense to locate remains of aircraft lost in war. He said they recently found what is believed to be parts from an Intruder that crashed in South America around 1985.
“It was lost under conditions that we couldn’t pin down for many, many years and several search parties,” he said. “…That closure is so important to families. And I think for all of us, it gives that deeper sense of honor of what’s going on, that you’re not forgotten. There is a group that’s going to keep trying to solve the mysteries that sometimes we’re left with in our operations.”
Capt. Webb also thanked those who were involved in making the Friday event a reality.
Many of the attendees were former Intruder pilots or crewmen who were involved with the aircraft at Cherry Point and other installations across the country. Some former crew members even came from out of town to attend the festivities.
“We welcome you to Havelock, those of you who served here, those of you who lived here, those of you who have come back to enjoy this special (morning), we thank you for being here,” Havelock Mayor Pro Tem Brenda Wilson said in her remarks. “…You not only gave your time, you gave your spirit to the community.”
Retired USMC Maj. Gen. Tom Braaten introduced the main speaker of the day, Maj. Gen. Marty Post.
Maj. Gen. Post flew the A-6 Intruder at MCAS Cherry Point through the 90s and participated in several missions overseas and shared some of his fond memories of the aircraft with the crowd.
“As you look back and think of the friends you made over time, you kind of go back to the memories (that are) really clear and stark in your mind with the Intruder community,” Maj. Gen. Post said. “…What I remember best is nighttime on the flight line.”
Maj. Gen. Post also recognized all those in attendance who flew and worked on the Intruder and acknowledged the friends and colleagues who have been lost over the years.
The monument was unveiled with a ribbon cutting following the dedication ceremony. It is a 9-foot tall black granite obelisk containing a four-panel collage of images and information on the Intruder. It also includes the names of some service members who died while flying the Intruder.
The tribute is the fifth of its kind in the country, with additional sites at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., the Cradle of Aviation in Garden City, Long Island, N.Y., the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Wash., and the Naval Aircraft Carrier Memorial Park in Virginia Beach, Va. The Havelock site was chosen because its connection to military aviation, and there is a static display of an Intruder aircraft.
The event was supposed to take place last year in October, but Hurricane Florence last September delayed organizers’ plans.
Contact Elise Clouser at email@example.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.