HOMETOWN HERO: Aviation Heritage Park Volunteers

By Kristin Martin | 

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) Aviation Heritage Park relies on its volunteers to get and restore airplanes for display.

"They do tremendous amounts of man hours that if we had to raise the funds to do what we do, it would be cost prohibited. We would not be able to do it without our volunteers," said Jim Wright, the president of the park.

Gerald Roark is one of those volunteers.

He's had a big hand in helping the park take flight.

"My first function was, we took the F-9 Panther jet out to the park in October or November of 2010. Then I've been involved in the rest of the airplanes, the F-111, the T-33 and the T-38," Roark said.

While he does much of the restoring, he said other volunteers work just as hard.

"We have a number of people in the community that at one time or another during their careers have been in the military and have worked on the airplanes and they enjoy coming back out and putting in some time," Roark said.

Wright said it's a labor of love to honor the people the aircraft represent.

"We like to try to provide an artifact that's a museum quality artifact in a venue that allows people to get close to it and actually see it and touch it -- and see it up close," he said.

While seeing it up close might be nothing more than a history lesson for some, it's effects are much greater for those with a military background.

"We have people who served in combat and they know what these aircraft mean to them, to their survival. So there's an emotional attachment to it. I think as a draw for the community it's something we can be proud of to help people with the healing. Some of them are still having a lot of difficult times with the post-traumatic stress that they undergo," Wright said.

For contributing to the promotion of a rich heritage of aviation in our area, we honor Jerry Roark and the volunteers of Aviation Heritage Park as this week's Hometown Hero.

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