04/27/09 — Day 2 of Wings Over Wayne pushes crowd total over 100,000

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Day 2 of Wings Over Wayne pushes crowd total over 100,000

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 27, 2009 1:46 PM

Patrick Walker hasn't put on an Army uniform in nearly 25 years.

"I had a good run," the 67-year-old said. "Fought a war. Lived to tell."

But he didn't spend Sunday morning talking about his two tours in Vietnam -- or the day a sniper's bullet "whistled by" his head.

Walker, like thousands of others who showed up at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base for the conclusion of its two-day air show, came for the sights and sounds.

"You do reflect on things when you see the helicopters and jets and all," Walker said. "But if anything, it helps take your mind off some of the stuff you'd rather forget."

Base officials said "well over 100,000" people attended this year's installment of Wings Over Wayne.

And if tourism formulas are any indication of the economic impact the event had on Goldsboro and Wayne County, millions likely poured into local coffers.

Stacy Johnston -- whose father, Kyle, fought in the Gulf War and died years later -- was among the faces in the crowd.

"I came for him," she said. "I've been to Cherry Point and Pope Air Force Base. ... When I'm on a base, I feel like he's here."

Her 6-year-old son, Clay, never met his grandfather.

But he wants to be just like him.

"He runs around with toy guns and loves wearing (my) Daddy's dog tags," Ms. Johnston said. "He's excited today because I told him we were going to meet some soldiers."

The Johnston's were not the only ones who showed up to honor a loved one.

Gerald Bean had his son in mind when he made weekend plans.

"He's on the front lines in Afghanistan. He's a Marine." Bean said about his only child and namesake. "After his last tour, he talked about jets like they got here. They saved his life."

No decision regarding the timing of the next Wings Over Wayne has been made -- the show is typically annual but this one came nearly two years after the last.

But Walker is already sold on attending.

"You'll see me next time," he said. "If the good Lord carries me that long."