Static display dedicated at East Mississippi Veterans Memorial Park

Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 5:29 PM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Tuesday was a big day for the East Mississippi Veterans Memorial Park, a special gathering for the park and the anniversary of Meridian’s Air Guard.

A crowd of veterans, current members of the military, city leaders and citizens filled the property at Key Field.

With the flyover of a WWII era Stinson L-5 Sentinel, the new static display of an RF-4C Phantom is now officially dedicated.

“It took about four years for this to come to fruition,” EMVF President Jeff Summerlin said.

Summerlin spearheaded this project several years ago. Finding funding, working with local entities to secure the location and bringing the F-4 Phantom back to its home right here at Key Field.

“We started this project in May 2018 with me trying to coordinate how to get an airplane,” Summerlin explained.

This is the first of four phases planned for the park. This park recognizes all service members, veterans, and their families, including four members of the guard that were killed during training. Major James H. Wells, Captain Gary A. Mullins, Major George Dugas and Captain Raymond E. Bryson lost their lives. Their names are on the jet at the park.

“He just loved flying,” said Jimmie Wells, Maj. James Wells’ widow. “His daddy owned a plane when he was young and loved flying from then on. He went to Vietnam and did his part. I just couldn’t believe it, but it happens. You have to get on with your life. He would want us to get on with our lives.”

It’s no coincidence that the dedication coincides with the 83rd anniversary of Meridian’s Air Guard, which was federally recognized on Sept. 27, 1939.

“I love the fact this is located right outside of our base and right off the interstate,” said Col. Cynthia Smith, Commander, 186th Air Refueling Wing. “I’m hoping that as people transit Meridian they are able to stop and read some of the plaques and maybe learn more about what we do here as well.”

The next phase is a wall of remembrance where families may purchase a plaque to honor loved ones who have served.

“We are going to start on the Wall of Remembrance and my goal is to have it up and done by Memorial Day of next year,” Summerlin said. “We will see how that goes. I just need people to continue to be generous and help us. I feel like they will.”

A crowd of veterans, current members of the military, city leaders and citizens filled the property at Key Field.