Vet still gets 100th birthday party at AF Museum despite Govt shutdown

  • Bonnie Meibers
  • Staff Writer
4:44 p.m Monday, Jan. 22, 2018 Community News

UPDATE @ 4:32 p.m. (Jan. 22)

A government shutdown this weekend made for a shorter-than-planned birthday party for a World War II veteran at the Air Force Museum on Wright Patterson’s base.

On Tuesday, Thomas Eubanks of Springfield turns 100.

His family planned a surprise for him over the weekend at the museum. Eubanks arrived for the noon party, and the family was alerted they only had until 1 p.m., due to the government shutdown, said grandson Kevin Black. 

“The Museum was very accommodating considering what they were up against,” Black said. 

Black said his grandfather, a tail gunner in WWII, was surprised by the 100th birthday party. They were able to get a photo in front of the tail gunner position of the B-17 on display at the Air Force Museum.

World War II Veteran Thomas Eubanks, of Springfield, (seated) with his four children, from left, David Eubanks, Cathy Ferguson, Steve Eubanks and Sandi Black. Contributed
World War II veteran Thomas Eubanks, on right, in front of the tail gunner position of the B-17 on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum. That is the position he flew in in WWII. Eubanks turns 100 on Jan. 23. Contributed

EARLIER REPORT

Kevin Black hadn’t thought about how the possibility of a government shutdown would affect his family.

World War II veteran Thomas Eubanks of Springfield turns 100 on Jan. 23. To celebrate, his grandson, Black, organized a birthday party for him at the Air Force Museum on Saturday.

With the possibility of the government shutting down tonight, the museum may not open, and the outlook of the party is up in the air.

“I don’t like the playing politics on this,” Black said. “They’re just playing games.”

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The possible museum closure hadn’t occurred to Black or his family until this news organization contacted him about the party, which he had asked us to cover.

His family wasn’t the only ones uncertain of what will happen next.

Diana Bachert, spokeswoman for the Air Force Museum, said Friday night in a statement there is currently no order for the museum to shut down.

World War II Veteran Thomas Eubanks, of Springfield, turns 100 on Jan. 23. Contributed

“However, we will follow procedures for an orderly shutdown when and how we are directed to do so,” Bachert said.

If Congress fails to come to an agreement on a continuing resolution (CR), a bill that appropriates money to different federal departments and programs, some federal agencies could come to a standstill.

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Black’s plan is for Congressman Warren Davidson to present Eubanks with a certificate, then Black will present his grandfather with letters from President Donald Trump and Gov. John Kasich.

But if there is no CR passed, Congress plans to stay in Washington and try to come to an agreement, meaning Davidson may have to miss the party.

Black said his grandfather doesn’t know about the planned celebration at the museum.

“He just thinks that a bunch of the grandkids are taking him to the museum,” Black said.

And he probably will continue to keep plans a secret, in case the museum isn’t open.

“(Eubanks) was sick a couple weeks after Christmas, and we didn’t think he was going to be able to go (to the museum). But he wants to go if they don’t shut down,” Black said.

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Eubanks is a widower; his wife Suzanne died in 2000. They were married for 59 years.

In WWII he served as tail gunner in the European theatre, an area of heavy fighting across the continent. He flew 13 combat missions from Knettishall Airfield in England.

“Tail gunner was the worst place to be,” said Black, who is retired from the Air Force.

He worked as a building inspector for Springfield for several years.

He lives in Oakwood Village Retirement Home in Springfield. He has four children, nine grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and four great, great-grandchildren.

“He’s got all his wits about him,” Black said.