Taking Flight

A century ago, the global conflagration tabbed as The War To End All Wars ignited in Europe and consumed the world. Sadly, the conflict did not end warfare in the world. Thousands of Americans have since answered the call to arms in defense of freedom, a sacrifice the Salute to Veterans Corp. does not take lightly.

This month, as it has done for the past quarter-century, the Salute to Veterans Corp. will say “thank you” to veterans in its own inimitable style with the 26th Annual Memorial Day Weekend Salute to Veterans Celebration. This year, the celebration offers a tribute to the centennial observation of the start of World War I.

The six-day celebration to honor American veterans runs May 21 through May 26, encompassing living history programs, special events, a banquet, two-day air show and parade.

The centerpiece of the celebration is the air show at Columbia Regional Airport on Saturday and Sunday. The free event over Memorial Day weekend features more than 40 current and vintage military aircraft on display and a slew of aerobatic performances.

New to the air show this year is a World War I-era Curtiss JN-4, known as “the Jenny.” The rare bird joins 18 other planes in the World War I Dawn Patrol exhibition on display and in flight. Columbia Regional Airport is constructing a special 1,000-foot grass runway for the Jenny.

Other rare planes — the Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon and Seafire Mk XV — return for tarmac display. The PV-2 Harpoon, best known as “Attu Warrior,” was used by the Navy until 1956. After sitting untouched for 20 years, this plane was restored in 2006. The Seafire Mk is one of only four of its kind in the world, and the XV model may be the only one in existence, according to Salute to Veterans. In 2010, the XV — known as the “hooked Spitfire” — was restored and took its first post-restoration flight.

The air show will also feature flights by the Snowbirds, the Canadian Forces national demonstration team; the Trojan Phlyers aerobatic team in Air Force and Marine Corps T-28s; a BT-13 Vultee Valiant “Viberator”; a T-6 Texan “Radial Velocity” Reno Racer; and a World War II-era TBM Avenger. The U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team will perform and a Vietnam-era Navy Grumman C-1A Trader will be open for tours. The University of Missouri’s Pershing Rifles Drill Team and the USA K-9 Corps Demonstration Team are also on tap. For more information, visit www.salute.org.

The public is invited to the Saturday night banquet in Southwell Arena at Columbia College. Check the website for ticket price and start time.

The celebration will wrap up with the 165-unit Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 26. The Golden Knights will kick off the parade by parachuting into five different intersections of Broadway in downtown Columbia at 9:55 a.m. The parade will end at the Boone County Courthouse with a wreath-laying ceremony.

9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 24 & Sunday, May 25
Columbia Regional Airport
Free admission/parking at airport; $3 shuttle from MU’s Hearnes Center

9:55 a.m.
Monday, May 26
Downtown Columbia
Cost: Free