Hometown Hero: Veterans of Aviation Heritage Park

By Brett Baldeck | 

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Some of America's biggest pieces of flying history now rest in Bowling Green, but the stories of combat from those who flew the planes are even bigger.

"The only day I flew this F4 right here was April 16, 1972 when I shot down a North Vietnamese plane. That was a very exciting day. Something that fighter pilots train for," says Dan Cherry.

Cherry entered the Air Force in 1959 and retired in 1988. His F4 fighter jet is one of three planes currently on display at Aviation Heritage Park. More is yet to come, with a restored F-111 waiting in the wings. Months of labor by hard working individuals brought the jet back to life.

"The airplane mechanically was in fine shape as far as displaying it, but there was a lot of dirt, grease and grime that had collected on the airplane," says Arnie Franklin.

Franklin served nearly 30 years with the U.S. Air Force. His first operational assignment was inside an F-111.

"It was a thrill to fly her that first time and it was just as big a thrill to fly in the airplane which was my last operational assignment was wing commander at Cannon Air Force Base," says Franklin.

A handful of dedicated veterans brought the plane back to Bowling Green. Many were the same ones who brought Aviation Heritage Park to life in 2005.

"Even from the very first days, our board of directors has stayed pretty much intact. We have a group of patriotic, community minded citizens who are very very committed to what we are doing here today," says Cherry.

For their dedication to our country and bringing history back to our area, we honor Arnie Franklin, Dan Cherry and everyone at Aviation Hertiage Park as this week's Hometown Hero.

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