The new Baer Field Heritage Air Park only hints at the legacy of Fort Wayne’s Air National Guard base.
Five planes that have been flown by the 122nd Fighter Wing, plus a Humvee representing local units of the Indiana Army National Guard, are on display at the park, which also features a pavilion, picnic tables, a playground and a parking lot.
The vehicles “symbolize American’s great military engine,” Col. David Augustine, the base commander, said Tuesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the park. “But what you don’t truly see is the faces of the airmen and soldiers since October 1946 to now that gave their blood, sweat and tears to make this base the finest Air National Guard base in the country.”
The 122nd Fighter Wing honored one of those airmen with a posthumous promotion and medal. Staff Sgt. Mark Creek, 44, who died April 3 of cancer, was promoted to technical sergeant and awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
Creek was an equipment maintenance team leader responsible for munitions used by the A-10 Thunderbolt II jets flown by the fighter wing. Many members of his family were at Tuesday’s ceremony.
Construction on Baer Field Heritage Air Park began in 2011. The 122nd Fighter Wing spent about $40,000 on the project and received $20,000 in donations, $2,000 in discounts and thousands of hours of free labor, according to Capt. Rebecca Metzger.
“As you look around the park, it is easy to see it is not finished. It will be in a constant state of evolution,” said Senior Master Sgt. John Furge, pointing out that “for over 65 years, the 122nd Fighter Wing has constantly evolved and will continue to evolve to answer our nation’s call.”
Three more planes flown by the base since its 1946 inception will be installed at the park.
Jessica Vietmeier’s design for a memorial sculpture was announced as the winning proposal from among 17 designs submitted by students at the University of Saint Francis. Vietmeier is a senior from Wauseon, Ohio.
The park is open to the public daily from 9 a.m. to dusk. Visitors should use the main entrance to the base to access the park, which is along Ferguson Road west of Bluffton Road.
The park is named for Lt. Paul Baer, a World War I flying ace from Fort Wayne. A World War II military air base and the civilian airfield that would become Fort Wayne International Airport both were named for Baer.
Dozens of people, including elected officials and members of military support groups, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“The community-military partnership in Fort Wayne is a great example of the outpouring of Midwestern support for its military,” Augustine said.