Fighter jet joins Van Zandt Veteran Memorial

CANTON (KYTX) - After years of planning and restoration, a Vietnam era fighter jet has finally arrived at it's new home - the intersection of highway 243 and highway 19 in Canton.

People of Van Zandt county say the jet means the world to the community, especially to it's veterans.

Carter Clark designed the Van Zandt County Veteran's Memorial, which now includes a fully restored FD Phantom fighter jet.

He says, "Almost tears, from it being finished. It's taken so long! I was not able to serve in the military service and I decided this is something I could give back to our veterans."

He says it's the veteran's who seemed the most proud to have the plane on their home soil.

"You talk to certain ones," Carter says, "and tears come in their eyes."

Veteran Ronald "Red" Montgomery helped plan the jet's homecoming. Now that it's finally home he says, "It's unbelievable. So many things have happened, it's just unbelievable."

Clark and many other dedicated community members worked together to restore the jet.

Field McConnell flew the fighter jet for 13 years. He says restoring and getting the plane to Van Zandt was the work of many dedicated community members.

He says, "There's a whole lot of people all around us that not only support this Veteran's Memorial, but also the United States of America and it's just a real pleasure, it's my privilege to be here today."

He describes the special plane that will always be a part of him.

"This airplane was at the North Dakota International Guard in Fargo, North Dakota from 1977 to 1990 which was in our unit."

The plane was built in 1964, delivered to the Air Force in 1966, and flew actively from 1966 to 1991.

McConnell says, "This particular airplane always got me home and I'm glad to participate in this aircraft finally finding its final home."

It's homecoming had the people of Van Zandt County in tears of pride and joy.

Resident Debbie Phillips says, "It's emotional but it is an honor and privilege to be part of this and to see this."

Phillips' daughter marched in the parade in front of the jet, along with 400 band members from high schools across the county.

Phillips says, "To be part of our VZ county history and to honor our veterans."

Colton Bagheri served as the color guard, leading the parade with a flag. He says there's only one way to describe the day - "It's perfect."

McConnell competed with this jet in the William Tell competition in Florida back in 1982, and won two of the 5 awards.


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