Four F-16 jets to flyover city of Rifle just after noon on Veterans Day | PostIndependent.com
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Four F-16 jets to flyover city of Rifle just after noon on Veterans Day

Volunteers take down the flagpole at Veterans' Park in Silt in October.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Echoes of sonic speed will likely whip through the soundscape Wednesday as F-16 fighter jets prepare to fly over Rifle.

In honor of Veterans Day, the four jets, a part of the 140th Wing of the Colorado National Guard, will tip their wings over Loveland at 11 a.m. The departure signifies the Armistice of World War I, signed between the Allies and Germany on the 11th hour, of the 11th day and of the 11th month of 1918. 

Once they’re wheels-up, the jets will head south toward Durango. After blipping the radar at Grand Junction, the pilots will pass over Rifle around 12:15 p.m.

Garfield County Veterans Service Officer David Pruett, a Rifle resident and an honorably discharged Navy SEAL, advises everyone to go outside and look up around that time. The “Fighting Falcons” – to this day still used by the U.S. military – can reach top speeds of 1,350 mph.

In other words, a flyover like this can be missed in a blink of an eye.

“So probably between 12:12 p.m. and 12:20 p.m.,” Pruett said, “they’ll be over Garfield County and gone.”

But, for how fast the flyover is, it’s at least something to pay respect to the men and women who served for their country.  

“The purpose of Veterans Day is to remember everybody that served,” he said “And in that service, they preserved the country that we know, our Constitution, our government and the liberties that we have.”

On a local level, such a high-octane demonstration of speed and human skill will pay homage to the more than 3,000 military veterans still living in Garfield County. That number, Pruett estimates, is likely closer to 6,000, but statistics can only be quantified through official VA participation.

“Heck, I just dealt with a 97-year-old WWII veteran, Purple Heart recipient who’s never been in the VA healthcare system before,” Pruett said. “It was quite the honor to work with him.”

Due to tightening Covid-19 regulations, the flyover will likely be the only major Veterans Day event this year in Garfield County. Unfortunately, Pruett agreed, this year marks a time when many of the communities’ older residents will be forced to remain home.

“Especially for our elders, be it veteran or not, this lockdown doesn’t allow them to get out and do what they would hope to do,” he said. “To not be able to socialize and have a purpose and get out and go, to get out and have a Veterans Day celebration, it’s not really healthy.”

All, however, is not lost.

According to Sam Walls, a Silt city trustee and Operation Desert Storm Air Force veteran, a veterans-related event is slated for Saturday. The Veterans Park at Silt will hold an American flagpole rededication ceremony at 11 a.m.

The rededication, said Walls, is “back to the veterans of the town.”

“There’s actually local residents from Korea, Vietnam and WWII that have their names etched in the plaque at the base of it that it was originally set for,” he said. “The pole in general is just to honor the veterans that have served.”

First erected in 1947, over the years the flagpole began to deteriorate. Between 1986-1987, however, an old gas station owner by the name of Cecil Carpenter, also a Navy veteran, donated a new pole.

Yet again, the pole would rust away over the years. That is, until about three weeks ago, when Walls noticed the pole needed a revamp. And, with the help of local welders and powder coaters, the flagpole has now been restored.

Meanwhile, Walls said a small group of homeschooled students have also rolled up their sleeves.

“As part of their history lesson, they’re going to be raising funds to refurbish the base of the (flagpole),” he said.

The event will be ushered in by a Color Guard ceremony, Walls said, but a 21-gun salute is unlikely to take place.

rerku@postindependent.com


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