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Future brightens for Myrtle Beach Air Force Base signs

By Steve Palisin

spalisin@thesunnews.com

This photo shows one of the murals that Diane Moscow-McKenzie noticed several years ago inside the flight training facility of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. This artwork depicts the nickname of the A-10 fighter jet, the Warthog, part of the air base’s inventory starting in the late 1970s – and the nickname of Palmetto Academy of Learning and Success charter school in Myrtle Beach.
This photo shows one of the murals that Diane Moscow-McKenzie noticed several years ago inside the flight training facility of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. This artwork depicts the nickname of the A-10 fighter jet, the Warthog, part of the air base’s inventory starting in the late 1970s – and the nickname of Palmetto Academy of Learning and Success charter school in Myrtle Beach. Courtesy photo

The future is only brighter for the the historical markers across the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.

That’s because the several dozen signs at such sites in Myrtle Beach’s Valor Memorial Garden, Grand Park and Warbird Park, as well as The Market Common and the northern edge of Seagate Village, have been replaced with new panels. They’re refreshed and crisp again after seven years of standing tall and proud in piping hot Grand Strand summers and piercing sunlight. They also offer a neat way to learn the origins of the original building at Toffino’s Bakery, the tower where parachutes were hung to dry, and the humbling stories behind some of the names of the avenues crisscrossing the area, especially touching during “Military Appreciation Days” for all of May.

Diane Moskow-McKenzie, senior planner for the city of Myrtle Beach oversaw the signage project, and it remains close to her heart with their upkeep and additions made.

Question | How many signs were placed in 2009, and how many have been added since then?

Answer | One hundred fifty-four were installed in 2009. Nine additional signs have been added, and at Whispering Pines Golf Course, signage was added last week. We now have all of the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing Commander photos and bios on the 18 golf holes and around the patio area of the clubhouse – 28 total signs on the golf course. In addition, the tee markers have been changed to reflect the emblems of the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing, 352nd, 353rd, and 355th Tactical Fighter Squadrons.

Q. | With new replacement signs, after years of weather’s wear and tear, and piping hot sun, how refreshing is seeing each snippet of history and tribute look all bright again?

A. | In August, the Myrtle Beach Air Base Redevelopment Authority generously awarded the city $11,943.14 to cover the cost of the replacement signs for the Remembering the MBAFB history project. In March, our building maintenance division and planning department began changing the signs out with the new signs. We have completed the signs in the parks and along most major streets. We have a number of new signs that will be added in Warbird Park, honoring the pilots who once flew the A-7 and A-10 planes on display there. Col. Howard Barnard was an A-7 pilot, and Col. Joseph Barton was an A-10 pilot. You might have noticed the Georgia Bulldog painted on the A-10. Joe is a graduate of the University of Georgia. Both live in Myrtle Beach.

Q. | How fitting was the placement of each sign, whether as a namesake for an official, prisoner of war, or a casualty who had served our nation when the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base operated?

A. | As The Market Common continues to grow, we want to make sure that the people who live, work or visit here know that the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base has been a part of Myrtle Beach’s history since 1939. The men and women who served at the base, whether military or civilian, worked to give us the freedoms we enjoy today, and many gave the ultimate sacrifice. It is only fitting that we acknowledge their work and sacrifices. The city of Myrtle Beach takes a great deal of pride in honoring those who have served our country and are continuing to serve.

Q. | Sketching out the sites for each sign, what discoveries and bonus history lessons have you brought home?

A. | The project has brought a wealth of historical information from former military and civilian employees who once served at the base. The interest in the signs brought the museum projects to the Base Recreation Center and Crabtree Memorial Gymnasium which exhibit a variety of photos, uniforms, stories, and other memorabilia that help us to remember. The interest has been so overwhelming that we have reached capacity at these facilities. Horry County Museum, in Conway, also has exhibit space for the former air base.

Q. | With the growing depth in artifacts, art, and remembrances at Warbird Park, and that spot becoming memorial central, is that a prime place for additional historical markers?

A. | The Wall of Service has been expanded with two wing walls thanks to the generosity of the Myrtle Beach Air Base Redevelopment Authority. We have added two additional wing walls for about $50,000. The original wall now holds the names of 2,531 men and women – military and civilian – who once served on the former air base. We receive about 25 applications every six weeks for the Wall of Service.

Q. | What are your favorite signs, or the most moving, maybe of the Phillis Boulevard and Farrow Parkway namesakes?

A. | My favorite is about Gen Robert H. Reed, a retired four-star general who once was commander of the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing. He still lives here in Myrtle Beach and has been the lifeblood behind preserving the history of the MBAFB. He serves on the Myrtle Beach Air Base Redevelopment Authority. ... A gentle giant in his career and retirement.

Most moving are for Lt. Col. Anthony Shine, Capt. Stephen Phillis, Lt William Farrow, and Capt. Paul Johnson. ... Every story I hear or read is amazing, with extraordinary acts of bravery and kindness that should never be forgotten. What is most memorable to me is the men and women, and their families, who have shared these stories with us.

Q. | Whatever became of the murals you had mentioned about happening upon a few years ago in a former Air Force building?

A. | We have photos showing the murals that were on the walls of the flight training facility. Horry County Department of Airports received that building through public conveyance. I am not sure if the building is still standing.

Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.

Eighth annual ‘Military Appreciation Days’

▪ Registration closing soon for Military Officers Association of America Grand Strand Chapter Golf Tournament, benefiting college scholarships for Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps high school seniors, wounded warrior vacations in Myrtle Beach, and veterans outreach programs, May 26 – with registration and lunch at noon, and start 2 p.m. – at Legends Golf & Resort’s Heritage Club course in Pawleys Island. $80 individual or $300 four-person team, and $5 discount for veterans. 843-251-4051 or 843-299-0167, or email jshort1020@aol.com or gerrysherwin@gmail.com, respectively.

▪ “Military Appreciation Dinner Dance,” 6 p.m. Saturday at Landmark Resort, 1501 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach. $32 – order at 843-918-1008.

▪ “Military Family Members Event, by Blue Star Mothers of Coastal Carolina and Grand Strand Blue Star Mothers, 2 p.m. May 15 at Myrtle Beach Moose Lodge 1959, 479 Burcale Road, in Forestbrook community, west of MyrtleBeach, south from U.S. 501, with guest speaker Mark Kruea, Myrtle Beach city spokesman. www.bluestarmothersofcoastalcarolina.com and www.grandstrandbluestarmothers.com.

▪ Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ third annual “Military Appreciation Night” and Military Card Set Giveaway (for first 1,000 fans through gates), with fireworks afterward, at 7:05 p.m. May 21 at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark, 1251 21st Ave. N., Myrtle Beach (Enter parking lot from Robert Grissom Parkway). Advance: $9, $11 or $13, and $2 more on game day. Also, with ID at box office, discounts of $3 for military for all games, in all sections, and $3 “Locals Appreciation”on upper-deck reserved seats for residents of Horry and Georgetown counties on Saturdays. 843-918-6000, 877-918-8499 (TIXX) or www.myrtlebeachpelicans.com.

▪ Memorial Day weekend parade, 10:30 a.m. May 28 on Farrow Parkway, at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach, with Noah Galloway, U.S. Army veteran and a third-place finisher with Sharna Burgess on ABC-TV’s “Dancing with the Stars” in spring 2015.

▪ Family Picnic, noon-2 p.m. May 28 in Myrtle Beach’s Grand Park, across from The Market Common, with meet-and-greet with Galloway and concert by Andrew Thielen Big Band, and free meals for military personnel, veterans, and their families, and “Veterans Beard & ’Stache Beach Bash” contest.

▪ “Blood and Sweat Fitness Challenge,” in a Marine Corps style with eight male and female athletes each – and benefiting Special Operations Wounded Warriors – by Gunny’s Boot Camp in Myrtle Beach, 2-9 p.m. May 29 at RH Acres (formerly known as The Rat Hole – 843-213-2688 or therhacres.com), 3833 Socastee Blvd., Socastee, near entrance to Socastee Automotive. 843-209-2315 or www.gunnysbootcamp.com.

▪ Memorial Day Veterans March with Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, 9 a.m. May 30, south on Myrtle Beach’s Ocean Boulevard between 16th and Ninth avenues North, with brief ceremony at former Pavilion site.

▪ Memorial Day ceremony, with Grand Strand Patriotic Alliance, 11 a.m. May 30 at Myrtle Beach Convention Center Plaza, on Oak Street at 21st Avenue North – with Festive Brass of Myrtle Beach performing at 10:30 a.m.

▪ Memorial Day tribute film, 1 p.m. May 30 at Grand 14 Cinema, at The Market Common.

INFORMATION: 843-918-1014 or www.militaryappreciationdays.com

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