National WASP WWII Museum to host 9th WASP Homecoming
The Big Country has an abundance of history, much of which centers on ranching and railroad, but what some residents might not realize is the importance the area played in World War II. From 1942 to 1944, Avenger Field in Sweetwater was home to the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots), a select group of brave and patriotic women who were trained to fly and ferry military aircraft between Air Force bases throughout the United States. Their dedication to country and love for the open sky freed male pilots for combat duties.To honor these women and their role in the nation’s history, The National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater will host the Ninth Annual WASP Homecoming at Avenger Field. The event will be an all-day affair on Saturday, May 25, and will include plenty of excitement for all ages. The festivities will begin early with several warbirds and other planes on display. A spokesperson for the museum said they expect a Beech-18, a T-6 Texan, a Fairchild PT-19 and several Stearman PT-17s to be among the planes in the air and on the ground at Avenger Field. But, perhaps the highlight of this year’s plane line-up is the opportunity to get up close to a Douglas C-47 Skytrain. This particular C-47 is believed to have more WWII history than any other C-47 still flying today. Also available at the event will be the opportunity for children between the ages of 8 and 17 to go up for a ride in an airplane as part of the EAA Young Eagles program. There will be plenty of other activities and sights throughout the day including HANGARburgers and Fififries for lunch and an opportunity to meet the WASP in attendance. Carol Cain, the museum administrator, is inviting and encouraging the public to come out and learn the history of the WASP and to visit with them. “You have to realize,” Cain said, “These women were in their teens and early 20s in 1943. That puts most of them close to 90 years old.” The museum expects 18 WASP to attend this year’s homecoming, down slightly from last year’s attendance. “These women are an inspiration to girls and women across the globe,” Cain said. “They volunteered for this role. They are trailblazers.” U.S. Air Force Major Caroline A. Jensen is one example of a young woman motivated by what the WASP accomplished. Now in her first season with the U.S. Air Force Demonstration Squadron (“Thunderbirds”), Major Jensen said, “I know that I am able to do what I do today because of their courage, service, grace and skill. I have been fully aware of the WASP and their service and I have felt them with me every step of the way in my military career.” Major Jensen will be the featured speaker and will host the WASP Forum, at this year’s event. The museum recommends that anyone interested in attending the Ninth Annual WASP Homecoming visit www.waspmuseum.org for more information about the occasion. “We are looking forward to a special day and we welcome everyone to come out and participate,” Cain added.The National WASP WWII Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation located at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, the training field of the Women Airforce Service Pilots. The WASP Museum seeks to educate and inspire all generations with the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots — the first women to fly American military aircraft — women who forever changed the role of women in aviation.