Lockbourne plans memorial wall to honor air base military

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Theresa Garee
Lockbourne Mayor Christie Ward throws candy from the float that showcases an upcoming collaboration between Lockbourne and Rickenbacker Air Force Base – a memorial wall. The Memorial Wall Project will be available for viewing at an upcoming open house on June 12 at the Lockbourne Historical Hall & Event Center.

Eighty years ago, Lockbourne Army Airfield was home to the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of Black service members under the leadership of Colonel Benjamin Davis, Jr., the first African American officer to command an Army Air Force Base.

The village of Lockbourne never forgot the airmen’s dedication and precedent-setting service to their country and started work in March 2023 to install a memorial in the village’s Veteran’s Park honoring the Tuskegee Airmen and others who served at the base.

“Rob Stroup, author of ‘Crossroads of Liberty,’ approached the village about installing a monument in Lockbourne to commemorate the history of Lockbourne / Rickenbacker Air Force Base,” said Lockbourne Mayor Christie Ward.

Lockbourne Air Force Base was named after the village of Lockbourne. Ward said the base is not only part of the village’s history, but also that of Hamilton Local Schools and throughout Hamilton Township.

She said so much of the base’s history and historical buildings were destroyed with development in and around Rickenbacker and the village wants to ensure that history is not lost, but preserved for generations to come.

Rediscover Lockbourne is spearheading the wall project through donations, book sales, and other fundraisers. The cost of the project is estimated at $600,000 for 10 to 12 black granite panels installed on the east side of Veteran’s Park in the center of the village.

“We hope to unveil the Memorial Wall in summer or fall of 2026, which is the 80th anniversary of when the Tuskegee Airmen arrived at Lockbourne Army Air Base,” said Ward. “Funding can be a roadblock. We have applied for Ohio State Capital Budget monies for the project. If we receive monies from the state, we can move forward with the project in the timeline we have set. If not, we will have to raise the money at a grassroots level and that may take time.”

On June 12, the village, Rediscover Lockbourne and the Ohio Memorial Chapter Tuskegee Airman, Inc. held an open house in Lockbourne’s Historical Hall and Event Center for the memorial wall project in conjunction with the 2024 Columbus Air Show.

“Designing Local is the design firm for the project and is responsible for the construction phase,” said Ward. “We have partnered with the Tuskegee Airmen Ohio Memorial Chapter, Motts Museum, 121st ARW and Hamilton Township High School on this project. Students from Hamilton are providing feedback and have been very engaged in preserving the legacy of the base and its connection to the school.”

According to Ward, students said the wall is important to them because it shows how men and women overcame obstacles. They also felt it is important to tell the history of their community and central Ohio, not only to their generation, but to their children, and grandchildren.

“Lockbourne Air Force Base was the last home of the Tuskegee Airmen,” said Ward. “No other community in the country can claim that. They were brought here to fail. Instead, they strove for perfection under the leadership of then Col. Benjamin A. Davis Jr. It was the best run base in the country at that time. Their success contributed to the integration of the military. We anticipate the memorial wall to bring visitors to the region from all over the country. There is not a monument like this anywhere else.”

Donations can be made through Rediscover Lockbourne at P.O. Box 73, Lockbourne OH 43137. “Crossroads of Liberty” books are on sale at the village office for $20. All proceeds benefit the Memorial Wall Project.

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