The Air Force Museum Foundation honored 475 new names on its Legacy Data Plate Wall of Honor Thursday, not only recalling veterans and their families as Memorial Day nears, but setting the stage for the long-term growth of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Anyone can be honored with a plate of honor, purchased for $500. While the Legacy Wall of Honor has plenty of Air Force veterans, plates also honor museum volunteers, Air Force spouses, artists, attorneys, educators, aerospace industry executives and members of other military services.
David Tillotson III, the museum director, said funds raised from the wall will support the museum — and they will help make real long-range plans to protect rare museum artifacts.
Krista Overman, a curator for the museum, recently told the Dayton Daily News that only about 7,000 of the museum’s nearly 140,000 artifacts are on exhibit in a manner accessible to the public. The rest can be found in secure storage on Area B of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and at field museums across the nation.
Ultimately, the need to protect those artifacts may require a new museum building, although Tillotson said it was too soon to attach a price tag or timeline to such a project.
“A new building is on our to-do list, and part of that new building is in fact some of this storage capacity,” he said Thursday. “So it won’t be just the vision we have for it. It wouldn’t be just an exhibit facility. It would also have a conservation component — at least that’s what we have in our thought process.”
Traditionally, all military aircraft have a data plate, which identifies that craft’s builder, model designation, serial number and other information.
Thursday’s ceremony was the Air Force Museum Foundation’s first in-person recognition for new Legacy Wall of Honor names since 2019.
The new names are found on five panels installed since that last ceremony.
There are nearly 1,500 plates total, and each are custom-etched aviation-grade stainless steel, displayed near the entrance to the museum.
Among the new names saluted Thursday: Lt. Col. Alton Yates who volunteered to go to New Mexico to help test space equipment, reaching some 80,000 feet in altitude in early days of the U.S. space program. Tillotson also remembered the Jacksonville, Fla. native for his courage in the fight for civil rights.
Rorie Cartier, foundation chief executive, called the ceremony “a testament to the resilience and unwavering spirit of the brave men and women who have served in the Armed Forces throughout our history as well as brave and indomitable spirit, and continued generosity, of the supporters of the museum.”
“We celebrate the achievements and sacrifices of veterans, volunteers and families alike,” he added.