The FASF sold out of all of its FASF T-Shirts, Patches and Decals and recruited many new members from across the country. However, our real success is probably best measured by how the First Aero Squadron presentation at the Pancho Villa State Park’s (“PVSP”) Camp Furlong Recreation Hall was a complete sell out – standing room only.
Because the Rec Hall so quickly filled up and exceeded its seating capacity, many visitors had to be turned away . . . and didn’t get to see or hear the FASF show. (Not anticipating such a huge crowd, no audio speaker or closed circuit TV equipment had been installed outside of the presentation building.)
Please remember to click on any of these higher resolution photos to see them full size!
The surrounding atmosphere all around Columbus was colorfully festive, with the hundreds of horsemen and lady equestrians astride brightly decked out steeds from both Mexico and from the U.S. side of the border. Folkloric dancers added their own vibrant cultural distinction to the celebratory thousands who gathered in – and almost overwhelmed tiny Columbus – to honor the heroes – as well as the 18 innocent American victims – of the infamous 1916 Pancho Villa massacre.
Meantime, surrounded by a few hundred fully uniformed 1916 era Infantry re-enactor members from all across the country, in addition to the appropriately uniformed present day members of the Army’s 13 Cavalry from nearby Ft. Bliss in El Paso, TX, the FASF crew readied itself for its memorial presentation. As previously, our own active FASF member and Chief Ranger at the Pancho Villa State Park (“PVSP”), John Read, helped bring the entire complex Centennial event at the Park to fruition. As he has done so reliably before, John also took the time out to operate the projector and audio setup during the FASF presentation.
The FASF Show was appropriately kicked off with a special address by Helen Patton (at left), granddaughter of the renown General George S. Patton of WWII fame, who had already recently orchestrated, directed and performed in a big extravaganza in Europe, which had commemorated the 70th Anniversary of WWII’s D-Day throughout Europe. Ms. Patton was personally escorted into the Hall by Congressman Steve Pearce, who also guided her by the large contingent of 13th Cavalry re-enactor Soldiers, who presented arms in her and her grandfather’s honor. After this impressive honor reviewing ceremony, Ms. Patton, who lives in Europe, gave both an address to the crowded hall and even demonstrated her professional vocal talent with a specially written memorial song. She closed by reading a poignant message to those assembled from General “Black Jack” Pershing’s grandson’s widow. Helen’s grandfather had served in Columbus 100 years ago as a junior officer under General Pershing, who you likely remember, lead the Punitive Expedition into Mexico from Columbus a century ago – and who first used airplanes, those of the First Aero Squadron, in active combat for the United States.
Next on the program (above and below photos) was an inspiring address by our local SW New Mexico Congressman, Steve Pearce, himself a Vietnam era Air Force pilot and active member of the FASF. The Congressman opened his address by reading the bill he has authored and has presented before Congress to Memorialize the First Aero Squadron’s uniqueness in American History. After this, he next presented the U.S. Flag he had arranged to have flown over the Capitol in Washington (see 3rd photo below on left), to the FASF president, Ric Lambart, who then took over (4th photo below on right) to present the FASF historical program.
Amazingly enough, we managed to successfully fit all of this activity into the scheduled gala opening presentation time that was set aside to kick off the crowded Park’s Centennial Events.
We humbly apologize to the many visitors who had to be turned away, but we assure you that there will soon be other opportunities to see and experience similar FASF presentations. In fact, only a week after the Centennial Memorial extravaganza, we were called back to the state park for another repeat performance, one attended by a smaller, but very impressive group of 75 cross-country marathon bicyclists and their crew, all on their way from California’s Pacific Ocean to Florida’s Atlantic Coast. As with the Centennial Program, we also had a number of these hardy bicyclists join the ranks as new FASF members. One even calling Great Britain his home! As an expression of their gratitude to the FASF for having presented the First Aero show to them, the bicyclist group gave an engraved appreciation plaque, along with their group photo, to the FASF.
Our chief volunteer FASF Photographer for the event unfortunately experienced serious mechanical problems with his camera, which resulted in our only getting a few of his many photographs of the event that proved acceptable enough to publish. This lack of usable photographs is what caused this story to be so tardy in finding its way to the FASF Website News.
We desperately sent out queries to many of the guests and distant FASF members who attended, to see if they had any usable photos for the story. While it took quite a while to get them in, we did locate enough pictures to help illustrate this release. For this kind of unexpected help we are forever grateful. Some of our loyal members from as far away as Kansas came through with some truly fine photos.
You’ll find each photo’s contributor noted in the credited red initials by their shots. This is all detailed at the bottom of this story.
Although the sudden increase in tempo of the conflict in the Mideast prevented the planned participation in the Centennial Program by the Ft. Bliss Army Airfield’s proud Combat Aviation Brigade (“CAB”), it nevertheless exceeded our wildest expectations in terms of both attendance and success at spreading the historic message about the First Aero Squadron – – – and it helped us gain many new members – – – and in turn helped us raise more funds for FASF Airfield development goals.
FASF Photographer members and their name abbreviations, who contributed to this story are:
Florian L. Waitl, USNR, Military Historian, of Kansas City, Kansas (Name Abbreviation: (FW);
David Donchess, Dept. of Homeland Security’s Aviation Operations, of Deming, NM (DD);
Doc Edwards of Deming, NM (DE);
Also a big help was Peter Ibarbo, of Las Cruces, NM, Outreach Director for Congressman Steve Pearce (PI). It was Peter who provided this story’s lead photograph.
A surprise and early arriving attendee to the honor us at the FASF event was none other than the actual great grandson of Pancho Villa: Antonio Villa Alcazar, seen at left. “Tony” lives and works as a Real Estate Developer in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, the sister city of El Paso, Texas. Tony said he appreciated the bi-national cooperative philosophy and two-nation composition of the FASF Board of Trustees. Accordingly, Tony volunteered to help the FASF meet its objectives.
Another fascinating guest at the event is seen below. Florian L. Waitl, was actually born and raised in Germany, but is a U.S. Naval Intelligence Officer and a professional military historian, who lives and works for the U.S. Army near Kansas City, Kansas. When contacted to see if he had any photos we might use, Florian eagerly volunteered some of the fine pictures you’ve seen above.
The FASF deeply appreciates the many hard working people who helped make the entire Centennial Event program such a smashing success. While we can’t list everyone who volunteered to help bring this exciting program to so many new attendees and visitors, we would especially like to thank the following dedicated FASF members without whom this would surely not have taken place: John Read, Chief Ranger, who orchestrated all the activities and programs at the NM state park; Norma Gomez, Executive Director of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce who did so much to help plan the entire Centennial and helped guide all the numerous event planning sessions and the Cabalgata Committee; July McClure, Aerodrome Editor and indefatigable itinerant musician and entertainer; Congressman Steve Pearce and his aide, Peter Ibarbo; Armando “Junior” Martinez (Who also so smoothly operated the projector for the FASF show for the following March 19th Bicyclist Event), and Martín Nuñez, both PVSP Rangers, whose help and support were indispensable; Dr. Kathleen Martín, 1st VP of the FASF Board whose help in planning was crucial; Alma Villezcas, FASF Treasurer, whose post event support and event attendance and videotaping was vital; David Donchess, who helped contribute some much needed photos of the event; Doc Edwards, whose photographic assistance was a great help; Florian Waitl, whose many good photos helped save the day and make this story printable; Bill Wallace III, FASF Trustee, who came all the way up from his ranch in Casas Grandes, Mexico, to proudly bring along his father; Mayor Philip Skinner, of Columbus, who helped plan many of the off Park Events; and last but not least; Bob Dunbar, whose help as Chief Volunteer for the PVSP Friends Group, enabled the Park’s Exhibition Hall to remain open and active during the Centennial festivities. Bob’s work at selling so many FASF T Shirts and other memorabilia helped make the event such an outstanding financial success.