HHS F-16 Dedication Service held Sunday

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sunday afternoon saw a cool breeze with overcast skies—perfect weather for a special day that’s been a long time coming.

“It’s found its home, and it looks great,” Col. Lewis Drumheller told the large crowd that had assembled on the campus of Highland Home School Sunday afternoon for the F-16 dedication service. “I flew this airplane all around the world, and #061 took real good care of me.”

The F-16 fighter jet was retrieved from Ft. McClellan, Ala., and mounted at the school as its permanent mascot, something that people in the Highland Home community have been wanting for years.

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“It’s been a treat, an honor and a blessing for me to get to see the true heart of this community with this project,” HHS Principal Joseph Eiland said.

“For 21 years, I’ve heard Mr. C.J. Faulk’s name,” he added. “Because of this project, I got to see the true heart of him, and I can’t thank him and his crew enough for everything they have done for this entire project.”

Eiland said the goal to get a Flying Squadron mascot at the school really started years ago. As members of the HHS football team left to fight in World War II, the team disbanded, and was not started again until 1947. The mascot for the school was then changed after the war from the panthers to the Flying Squadron.

Several members of the 1947 HHS football team were present Sunday, along with many WWII veterans who were also honored.

“This F-16 is a tribute to the men and women who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today,” Rep. Charles Newton, who aided the school in the project, said. “As we look up at it, I think it shouts out to us what we think of our veterans, our country, and our school. Visitors will see this towering exhibit and see how it plays such an important role in this community and for this school.”

“It gives the appearance that it’s ready to soar into the skies,” Newton said. “In the same way, this school prepares our students to soar to all heights in their future.”

Col. Lewis Drumheller laughed as he explained how the F-16 that he flew around the world on so many different missions was always described by his crew as “the ugly one.”

“It was flown all the time, so it always had streaks of grease and oil down the side,” he said. “But it’s also what we considered a ‘nail driver.’ It dropped bombs perfectly and did exactly what it was supposed to do.”

SMSgt. Robert Owen, who was responsible for much of the dissembling and reassembling of the plane, gave a heartfelt thanks to everyone involved for allowing him to be a part of the entire project.

“And I thank you, Mr. C. J. Faulk, for letting me be a part of your dream,” he said.

C.J. Faulk and his construction company, along with several volunteers, helped retrieve the plane and set it on its permanent platform.

Owen gave another special recognition to the man whose name is on the canopy of the F-16, just underneath the pilot’s window.

Major Brian “Wolfman” Wolf served three tours of duty in Iraq. He was killed in a tragic car accident two years ago in Florida.

“You have the coolest fighter pilot’s name on that canopy,” an emotional Owen said. “I had the responsibility of getting these planes airworthy and ready for guys like Brian. He was a great person—he became my mentor.”

Owen presented a special honor of recognition to Major Wolf’s father, Chuck Wolf, in memory of his son.

The Roll Call of the fallen World War II soldiers was read, and the Maxwell Honor Guard, which was posted beneath the F-16, gave a 21-gun salute before “Taps” was played.

“When some planes are retired, they go to the bone yard or are sold off for parts,” Drumheller said. “You can imagine our excitement at seeing this plane find its final home in a community like this.”