Air combat memorial arrives in Stephenson County

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LENA, Ill. (WTVO) – The State Line will soon have another landmark.

An air combat memorial will soon be established in Stephenson County. After years of planning, supporters are delighted to see the project take off.

Project managers said much of the work has been done behind the scenes so far, but they are now ready to show donors and other contributors signs of progress.

“It’s a day we’ve been looking forward to for a very, very long time, and it’s finally here and a little surreal, in a way, it’s actually, there’s a hole there,” said Terry Yount, president of the NW IL F-4 Jet Memorial Project.

The years of construction of the military monument came closer to reality Monday morning in Lena, as a local contractor began excavation of the future home of the Northwest Illinois Aerial Combat Memorial.

“It was extremely well received, and I think Lena is going to be proud of it,” said Yount.

Yount said concrete will be poured at the site later this week, which will pave the way for the construction of a pylon to contain the F-4 Phantom Jet.

“It’s very close to the hearts of the people who do it, because a lot of them have first-hand experience with the airplane,” Yount said.

The jet still needs to be repainted before it can be transported and ridden, according to Yount, but he’s optimistic all of that could happen by next summer.

“It will not only be for Lena and the committee members, but for a lot of the older people who were on duty when the jet was active, they are going to have a great appreciation, a love for the plane,” Yount said.

Hops is the memorial that will eventually draw veterans and other tourists to Lena.

“Once the word gets out, there are some old warbirds out there that will look for it. It will be an attraction, you won’t need to send out invitations, ”Yount said.

Yount said Monday’s excavation was done free of charge by Oppold Backhoe Service as an in-kind donation to the memorial project.

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