10/16/06 — Crowds swarm SJAFB for show

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Crowds swarm SJAFB for show

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 16, 2006 1:45 PM

Mackenzie Williams had never seen a fighter jet before.

But when her father, Danny, walked her up some steps and showed her the cockpit of an F-15, she held out her hand and pointed inside.

"Whoa," the 6-year-old said. "I want that."

The Williams family was one of many awe-struck by the sights and sounds of the Wings Over Wayne Airshow at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Sunday.

Young and old, an estimated 50,000-plus turned out to catch a glimpse of their favorite aircraft -- and the men and women who operate them daily in operations across the globe.

Beth Jennings, 23, a Wayne County native, waited until after the F-15E Demonstration Team had finished their performance to buy souvenirs for her friends and family.

As she picked out a 335th Fighter Squadron 'Chiefs' patch for her father, Will, she shared her emotions with the airmen who had made the sale.

"Thanks for this," Ms. Jennings said. "And thanks for all you do for our country. We don't get to tell you this a lot, but we're real proud of you guys."

The airmen smiled.

"That means a lot," he said.

Jared Davis, 19, said he heard about the show on the news and woke up early to make the drive.

"I'm from right outside Kinston," he said. "I don't mind the drive if it means I get to see these planes, man."

His favorite was the Strike Eagle, he said.

"Those guys are just raw," he said. "The other shows were real good, but I like to feel my body shake when the jets go by. The (F-15) has so much power, you know?"

Retired Army 1st Lt. Keith Mitchell, 67, said he came from Greenville to honor the men and women currently serving, and the ones lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I came to pay tribute to them," he said. "We've lost so many young boys over there. Coming to a show helps you see the positive side, understand? It's about all the good things our folks in uniform do."

Mitchell's friend and road-trip partner, retired Capt. Joe Wharton, agreed.

"When the Golden Knights were coming down and everyone was cheering, I admit I shed a tear," he said. "America's song was playing and the flag was waving and it makes you think about the sacrifices we made and the ones still being made. It warms my heart to see all these people out here, clapping and waving at the people showing them what our country is made of."