JBSA Air Force Ball Highlights Heroes with the Foundation
Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA) celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the Air Force in a grandiose fashion on September 17, 2022 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio. The Airman Heritage Foundation, along with the assistance of the Airman Heritage Museum (AHM), provided the centerpiece of the “Hall of Heroes” display at the request of the JBSA Air Force Ball Committee. In addition to the display, active duty volunteers participated in a Living History presentation that added a touch of nostalgia to the affair. The presentation enlightened many guests on the proud past and legacy of the U.S. Air Force.
Foundation Outreach Program Manager, Dave Shultz, said of the task at hand, “It was particularly challenging considering the difficulty of matching up uniforms to specific historical figures as opposed to our standard operating procedure of selecting standard issue period uniforms and throwing them on mannequins. Not to mention we were focusing on the scarcer period combat attire in most cases.” Thankfully due to the Foundation’s vast collection of vintage Air Force uniforms and accoutrements, most of which consists of veterans’ donations, the Foundation team was able to outfit twelve Air Force “hero” impressions respectively down to the smallest details, including Col. Robin Olds’ non-regulation mustache. We couldn’t have done this without the support of AHM Director, Bill Manchester, who provided most of the mannequins, pop-ups, and technical expertise via their curator Fernando Cortez. “Mr. Cortez’ extensive knowledge of flight apparel and gear proved indispensable in creating the ensembles of the likes of Col. Chuck Yeager, CMSgt Richard Etchberger, and others.” said Shultz.
Once again, the Foundation fielded a team of “Heritage Players” who circulated amongst the crowd in vintage uniforms educating attendees about the details thereof and dined at specified tables during the 2022 Air Force Ball. “It’s always a true honor for me to don the uniform of our veterans and ensure their memories are kept alive,” says A1C Zack Harvill of the 502nd Comptroller Sq. who wore a 1960’s set of cotton green fatigues replete with bright Air Force organization patches and nametapes. “Not to mention the uniforms of the past were so sharp looking, it’s too bad they can’t bring them back. Some of the old veterans who wore these uniforms told me how much they appreciated it and related some of their experiences in the process. That really meant a lot to me.”
SMSgt Bennett Weidemann, who headed the AF Ball committee, said the static display and reenactors put the “Wow factor” in the entire affair. Walking down the Hall of Heroes was like taking a trip through the golden days of the Air Force and the uniforms brought our ‘movie posters’ of Air Force history to life.” he said. “Everyone from the JBSA Commander on down were blown away by the extensive Hall of Heroes display which helped make the event a resounding success.”
The key takeaway for our Foundation members is to understand that this is what the Airman Heritage Foundation outreach is all about–keeping the Air Force legacy alive through the numerous programs the Foundation support both locally, regionally, and out-of-state. There’s plenty of events planned in the coming months to continue fulfilling that mission!