Airmen Memorial 30 Year Commemoration and Dedication Set for Next Wednesday


November 23, 2022

After months of planning the time has finally come to pay respects and remember 13 Airmen who lost their lives in a plane crash 30 years ago in the skies over Blaine County. The Airmen Memorial 30 Year Commemoration and Dedication will take place on Wednesday, November 30 at the Airmen Memorial site in Harlem.

The Commemoration will get started at 3:30 pm with Darwin Zellmer serving as the Emcee. Following the welcome and Pledge of Allegiance, Veteran Reverend William Rima (ALC) will give the Invocation. Harlem City Councilmen Chris Green will provide the welcome. A new custom designed bridge was recently installed at the site and honors the 13 Airmen who lost their lives along one side of the bridge. Zellmer will conduct a Dedication to the site. Frank McGuire is the only confirmed family member expected to be in attendance and will read a short statement. There remains hope that a few others will be on hand for the commemoration.

Chinook Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kraig Hansen will read the names of the Airmen. Kevin Spudic will read the High Flight Poem and Louise Nissen will sing God Bless the USA. Following the commemoration there will be a gathering at the American Lutheran Church on Main Street with a social gathering to follow at Kennedy's Bar.

Zellmer stated that if weather becomes an issue, then plans will call for a very brief dedication at the site with the remainder to be conducted at the church. Everyone is invited to attend and honor these fallen Airmen on the 30th anniversary of the crash.

The Airmen Committee has maintained the site with private donations through the years and requires the same assistance to ensure both the dedication site in town as well as the crash site north of Harlem are consistently maintained. Zellmer has stated the group has received significant donations from the families of the airmen in the months leading up to the commemoration. In addition, the committee also received a large donation from the Commander that oversaw the flight crew that were involved in the crash. The Airmen were based out of McChord Air Force Base in Washington.

Zellmer is extremely proud of the community response to honoring the Airmen, not just at the time of the crash but in the 30 years since, "Nearly all money, time, labor and equipment that we used was donated, we got it built. No government funding or regulations, just guts and glory." Zellmer said that people of all ages from 12-80 helped in some way through the years.

Zellmer has collected and maintained a complete history regarding the crash, "We encourage everyone to stop by the Blaine County Museum in Chinook through the end of December to view our memory books. After January 1 the books will permanently be maintained by the Harlem Library.

The new bridge is another project Zellmer is excited for people to see, "When we decided on a new bridge I contacted Julie and Dusty Schwenke of Black Hoop Enterprises to gage their interest in building a replacement for the deteriorating wooden bridge. Their specialty is working with metal in design and fabrication. The bridge turned out fantastic and truly honors each of the 13 Airmen."

If you have the opportunity to take in the commemoration, please do. The families may not all be on hand but they will be able to watch a video at their convenience.


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