An aircraft flown by the 186th Meridian Air Guard Unit returns home

MERIDIAN, Mississippi (WTOK) – A former RF-4C Phantom II aircraft that served and flew Meridian’s 186th Air Guard Unit has been recovered from Arizona. It is now on its way back to Queen City to be displayed at East Mississippi Veterans Memorial Park, in honor of the unit and all American service members.

The aircraft flew from 1979 to 1991, then retired on September 9, 1991 and was taken to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, better known as “The Boneyard”, in Tucson, Arizona.

Jeffrey Summerlin, president of the East Mississippi Veterans Foundation, was in Arizona on Tuesday as the plane is being disassembled for shipment back to Meridian.

He said it took nearly 4 years to bring the plane home, but after raising the allocated funds and going through the pandemic, the plane’s journey to Meridian is finally beginning.

“I know there are a lot of guys and girls out there at Meridian who have served in the unit who are looking forward and excited for the plane to come back. It’s truly humbling that we’ve gotten to this point and I’m super excited and can’t wait for it to be on display and honor those guys at Key Field and all of the armed forces, military and veterans who have served in our Armed Forces of Meridian and East Mississippi Community,” Summerlin said.

Summerlin said the teardown will take about a week and the goal is to have the plane in Meridian by June 16.

The aircraft display will be the first in the East Mississippi Veterans Memorial Park. Ponsford LTD is expected to carry out restoration work in the coming months on the Phantom. Once all of this is complete, landscaping, sidewalk construction and signage will be added around the exhibit.

Summerlin said once the Ghost is displayed, the foundation will then focus on the “Wall of Remembrance” area and the rest of the park.

“This is just the beginning. This is only part 1 of 4. Of course, for any project like this, we need the help of the community to contribute and donate so that we can make East Mississippi Veterans Memorial Park the reality of what we have planned. It will be a unique park in the Meridian area. There will be none like it in the state of Mississippi. It is going to be there for the generations to come,” Summerlin said.

The East Mississippi Veterans Foundation plans to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Phantom aircraft exhibit.

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