04/26/09 — Thousands pack base for Day 1 of Seymour Johnson's big show

View Archive

Thousands pack base for Day 1 of Seymour Johnson's big show

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 26, 2009 2:00 AM

News-Argus Video Report

Full Size


An F-15E Strike Eagle and a P-51 Mustang make their heritage flight pass above the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base flight line Saturday during the Wings Over Wayne air show. The air show is set to resume today at 9 a.m., with the same headlining acts featured on Day 1 -- the Army Golden Knights parachute team, Navy Blue Angels, Seymour Johnson's F-15E Demo Team and Tora!Tora!Tora!, a Pearl Harbor re-enactment. Dozens of aircraft from both the military's past and present will also be on hand.

Full Size


Geoffrey and Jennifer Merritt and their son Hunter, 3, watch as the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team perform during the Wings Over Wayne airs show at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Saturday. Record crowds turned out for the event.

Full Size


Blue Angels No. 1 Pilot Commander signs autographs for the crowd after his team's performance Saturday.

Lacy Watts knew she was supposed to cover her ears.

Her mother, Tanya, had warned her that the sound of a fighter jet passing by might leave them ringing.

But when F-15E Demonstration Team pilot Capt. Phil Smith ripped through the skies over Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Saturday afternoon, that 7-year-old little girl couldn't help herself.

She pulled her hands off her ears and waved frantically to the jet, jumping up and down.

"Well, was I right?" her mother asked after Smith touched back down on the flight line.

"That was so cool," Lacy replied. "But I guess it was pretty loud."

The first day of this weekend's Wings Over Wayne air show saw children cheering, flags waving and smiles across the flight line.

There was Nancy Williams, who traveled from Raleigh with her fiancÃ(c), Davis, to catch her first up-close glimpse of high-speed acts and military aircraft.

"We thought it would be a good way to spend the weekend," she said. "We love the movie 'Top Gun,' so when we heard about the air show, we figured it would beat staying home and watching TV."

Janice Ervin and her husband, Walter, agree.

"Why stay couped up in the house when all this is going on?" Mrs. Ervin said. "It might be hot, but Monday, we'll be able to say we did something."

Darius Williams can't wait until Monday.

"I am going to tell all my friends about the Stealth Bomber and I'm taking my camera to school to show them the pictures," the 12-year-old from Cary said. "They are going to be so jealous. This is so cool."

His father, Antwan, laughed.

"Yeah, they aren't going to be smiling," he said. "This is the place to be."

Others had similar feelings about the event.

"I have come to every air show here since I was a little girl," said 34-year-old Shannon McMillan. "It's like going to a race. There's sunshine, good food and the adrenaline's going."

Travis Starr had nothing to liken the experience to.

The 6 year-old was at his first air show.

"Whoa," he said, removing his sunglasses to catch a better view of the Navy Blue Angels firing up their engines. "Awesome."

"Wait until they are up there," his uncle, Barry, replied, pointing to the sky. "That's the awesome part."

Jason Kaplan disagrees.

The highlight of his day was "meeting all the pilots."

"I want to fly like them one day," the 14-year-old from Wilson said. "That's my dream anyway."

Heather Butler also has dreams of high-speed flight.

She wants to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather, a World War II pilot.

"Without air support, our troops on the ground would be in big trouble," the 17-year-old said. "That's why I joined ROTC -- to be one of the people watching over them."

Jeremey Rollins, 15, also sees a career in the military in his future.

But he doesn't want to be a pilot.

"I want to be a Golden Knight," he said. "Parachuting into battle sounds pretty cool."

Gladice Hunter never considered a career in the service.

"It just didn't feel right," she said, talking about the day a military recruiter talked to her high school in Clayton more than a decade ago. "It sounded way too demanding."

So she showed up Saturday, in part, to say thank you to the men and women who made the decision she "never could."

"They are just awesome. Some of them are laying down their lives right now for our freedom," she said. "So whenever I see a uniform, I make sure to go shake the hand of the person wearing it."

Donald Sapp also came to Seymour Johnson with a hand extended.

"We are so proud of them," the 67-year-old said. "These young people are facing Hell over there."

Julia Gooden feels the same way.

"I have always had one of those 'Support our troops' stickers on my car. Ever since 9/11," she said. "But by being here, I can really say 'thanks.'"

Miller Redding isn't old enough to understand what U.S. forces are engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He is only 6 years old.

But he knows he wants to be just like one of the men he met during his first Wings Over Wayne.

"He gets to fly that airplane right there? Cool," he said, looking wide-eyed at his father, Thomas. "Can I fly it, too?"

"One day," Thomas said. "As long as you grow up big and strong."