The power which was Pappy'
By DEVIN HEILMANemail@example.com | Posted: Sunday, June 14, 2015 12:00 am
HAYDEN - The evening twilight cast an orange glow on Gregory "Pappy" Boyington's statue as the fading sun seeped through lavender-gray clouds on its way into the horizon.
Pappy's son, Gregory Boyington Jr., turned to look at the bronze figure for a moment, then he turned to the audience.
"When I look at the statue of my daddy, I see the jaw, the lips, the bull neck, the poise," Greg Jr. said, his voice slightly trembling. "The artists got it right. I feel the power which was Pappy."
Greg Jr., 80, of Oakland, and other members of the Boyington family attended Saturday's statue dedication ceremony at the Coeur d'Alene Airport-Pappy Boyington Field.
Pappy was born in Coeur d'Alene in 1912, raised in the Northwest and graduated from the University of Washington in 1934. He became famous for volunteering with the Flying Tigers and leading the legendary VMF-214 Black Sheep Squadron in the Pacific. He is known for shooting down 26 enemy planes and was taken captive by the Japanese as a prisoner of war for 20 months. Pappy was awarded the prestigious Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor. He died in 1988.
Well more than 100 people attended to recognize Pappy's aviation and military accomplishments, honor local veterans and hear from a few speakers.
Greg Jr. gave a heartfelt Marine Corps "semper fi" to the Pappy Boyington Marine Corps League Detachment 966 for organizing the event as well as to sculptors Bryan Ross and Richard Le Francis.
"On the surface, it would seem like such a simple thing to name an airport after one of America's great aviators, especially since he was born in that city, but we know that was not to be the case," Greg Jr. said. "The Marine Corps League, however, was not to be deterred. The struggle and thus we are spending this beautiful evening at Pappy Boyington Field. Semper fi, Marine Corps League."
Greg Jr. spoke of growing up in a household with a decorated war hero, about his dad giving him a hard time about school and about what his dad meant to him.
"I've always considered my dad a national treasure," he said. "He has meant so much to me and to the nation."
He said he feels his father would be happy to know he has a permanent place in North Idaho.
"I am sure that he would be absolutely delighted, you better believe it," Greg Jr. said. "He used to fantasize that when he retired he was going to come back to Coeur d'Alene and he was going to raise (what) he called 'nags,' horses, you know, but it was a fantasy and he never got back. He loved it up here."
The ceremony included a prayer, an update on the Black Sheep Squadron that Pappy once led and a touching sunset retiring of the colors in honor of today's National Flag Day. Greg Jr. also read a poem titled "High Flight," which was written by a 19-year-old World War II fighter pilot just weeks before he was killed.
"I grew up in a patriotic time, and my neighbor just happens to be Pappy's niece," said Rosanna Sugalski of Spokane. "It was just an honor to be here and share this with them."
Le Francis, who was instrumental in each phase of the statue and dedication process and is active with the Pappy Boyington Field Museum, took the Boyington family on a museum tour earlier in the day. He said it was incredibly rewarding to have the family present for the ceremony after all the efforts that had been made to have the statue created and installed.
He said the statue finally being in place and properly dedicated is a "full circle for the community."
"It's a real positive thing for the community," he said. "It's almost impossible to describe. It really is just a highlight of my life, to say the least."