Mayor Chris Beutler today invited Lincoln area residents to observe the 21st anniversary of the Veterans Memorial Garden in Antelope Park at a ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 12. The event will feature the dedication and unveiling of a new memorial honoring Nebraska's 19 WWII Women Airforce Service Pilots.
Between 1942 and 1944, 1,102 women served as civilian service pilots for the U.S. Army Air Forces. The four living Nebraska pilots have been invited to attend the ceremony. They are Lois A. Bristol (originally from Bayard), Peoria, Arizona; Millicent A. Peterson (originally from Chappel), Colorado Springs; B. Kristin Swan (originally from Minden), Paoli, Pennsylvania; and Mary E. Williamson, Omaha.
The women pilots participated in instructor training, towed targets for practice, transported personnel and cargo, and ferried airplanes to other points, freeing male pilots for combat. Evelyn Sharp from Ord, Nebraska was a member of the original group, the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), and was killed while on duty. In 1943, the pilots were redesignated Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). By December 1944, when they were disbanded, the women had logged more than 60 million miles in military airplanes. In 1977, Congress granted the pilots veteran status, and on March 10, 2010, they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
The ceremony also will include a flyover by five pilots in WWII planes at 9:55 a.m.; the ringing of the Nebraska Liberty Bell; solos by singer Trudy DuMay; Edwin Mukusha on bagpipes; "Taps" played by Lumir Vajgrt; a recognition of Gold Star Families; and the dedication of 153 new memorial bricks.
In case of rain, the event will be held in the Auld Recreation Center at Antelope Park.
For more information on the event, contact Keith Fickenscher of the Mayor's Advisory Committee for the Veterans Memorial Garden at 440-2997.