I had been giddy about this event since hearing about it a week ago. In Monroe, LA there is a small metal building near the airport that is easily overlooked, but by no means should it be. This building is the last standing structure of of Selman Air Field, a crucial training ground for pilots in WWII. Inside is a wonderful museum dedicated to General Claire Lee Chennault and his Flying Tigers. I have written an entire article about them and the history of ULM, but I’ll post that after the magazine in which it was published is released in a few weeks.
Today the Museum held a special event to premier the grand opening a new exhibit based on Chennault’s memoir, The Way Of The Fighter, and to honor the remaining living members of The Flying Tigers. After finding out the event cost $50 to attend, I was bummed that I couldn’t attend. As someone just starting out in the working world, I have to budget, you know! After sleeping on it, I decided that this is a once in a lifetime chance to meet these war heroes and I needed to go.
Arriving at the museum, I was thrilled to see that it was packed! I had to park far down the road and was a bit late by the time I got to the parking lot where a large white tent shaded the honored veterans, congressmen, and Chinese government officials that were there to honor the occasion. A bonus of having to park so far away was that I got to pass the plane yard, where a dozen old war planes are left out until the museum can afford to build a nice hangar for them. I love looking at the giant skeletons of these once mighty aircraft.
The ceremony was nice, but the speakers were not turned up nearly loud enough. If I at 23 has trouble hearing them, I know that the other elderly folks in attendance could not here. Still, the notion was nice. Nice weather and a glorious sunset accompanied the evening. After everyone’s speeches, and the honoring of the Flying Tigers with solid gold medals, the crowd made their way inside to enjoy the silent auction, a private tour of the exhibits, and a wonderfully stocked open bar.
The highlight of my evening was getting the chance to shake hands with and thank each of the veterans for their service. Two of them were even kind enough to autograph my book. I was shaking with excitement and will treasure these memories for the rest of my years.
If you are ever in Monroe, please take the time to visit the museum. Check out the link below on how to find it and keep in contact with them!