published Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Veterans welcome fighter jet to Dunlap

By Corrina Sisk-Casson
This A-4 Skyhawk Navy fighter jet built in the late 1960s will be placed in front of  the Sequatchie County Veterans Memorial Park in Dunlap, Tenn.
Photo by Corrina Sisk-Casson
This A-4 Skyhawk Navy fighter jet built in the late 1960s will be placed in front of the Sequatchie County Veterans Memorial Park in Dunlap, Tenn. Photo by Corrina Sisk-Casson

DUNLAP, Tenn. -- When Tommy Hickey looked at the Navy A-4 Skyhawk fighter jet strapped to a Walmart truck here on Friday afternoon, tears welled in his eyes. It was a proud moment for himself and other veterans in attendance, he said.

"I just think about how proud I was to see them when I was in [Vietnam]," Hickey said. "They were lifesavers."

The fighter jet was escorted through downtown Dunlap on Friday on its way to becoming a display at the new Sequatchie County Veterans Memorial Park. Various groups helped get the plane to Dunlap, including the Tennessee Highway Patrol, which made a donation for fuel; veterans such as Randy Miller, who spent many hours locating the jet and finding a way to get it to Tennessee from Texas; and Walmart, which donated a truck and provided drivers to transport it.

Danny Ewell drove the truck that pulled the plane across the country on a trailer. He said people would take pictures as they drove alongside it.

"I would see them with their cell phone and cameras. Or they would come by and give you the good thumbs-up," Ewell said.

He said the community welcome to the Walmart parking lot was an amazing experience.

Ewell's father was in the Army when he was growing up and he felt a sense of pride bringing it to Dunlap, he said.

"The support that the town has for something like this is just wonderful," he said.

After a brief stop at Walmart, the plane was escorted by Sequatchie County sheriff's personnel to the veterans park headquarters on Rankin Avenue. It will stay there for a few days and then be taken elsewhere to be assembled and cleaned, officials said.

Eventually, the 46-foot-long fighter jet, which was flown in Vietnam, will stand on a special platform in the memorial park. It will be one of four special pieces on display.

The other pieces that will be on loan and featured in the park are two Army personnel carriers. The veterans hope to acquire a helicopter but are having trouble locating one, Hickey said.

"That's the missing link. And we've got everyone in the world looking for one that is available," he said.

Corrina Sisk-Casson is based in Dunlap. Email her at corrinacasson1@aol.com.

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