Family visits F-104 memorial

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Susan Gladstein
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
For one family member, visiting the memorial dedicated to his father and 11 other Arizona Air National Guard members who lost their lives in the line of duty was an opportunity to share a piece of history.

Norman M. Atkin Jr., was just 9 years old when his father, Norman M. Atkin Sr., died in a plane crash while on a mission in Idaho.

The F-104 Starfighter on display here was originally dedicated Nov. 14, 1982. At the ceremony, Norman Atkin Sr., was posthumously awarded the Arizona Medal of Valor, which was presented to Mr. Atkin's wife, Madge H. Atkin, by Governor Bruce Babbitt.

"I didn't really know my father because I was very young," said Norman Atkin Jr. "So I feel as though the F-104 "Starfighter" Memorial, with my Father's Name on the plaque, is a vital piece of my family history that I would like to pass along to upcoming generations."

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the F-104 memorial dedication and in a fitting tribute, Norman Atkin Jr., along with his wife, Lois; daughter, Kelly McClure; and granddaughter, Sage Johnson, traveled to the base Nov. 11, 2012, to view and visit the memorial.

"It was a wonderful opportunity for my family to share the history of our American heroes and their sacrifices and to honor their grandfather and great grandfather," said the junior Atkin. "It was especially heartwarming to myself and my family that this very special day was dedicated to the memory of my father. As I did not have the opportunity to know my father or share our lives together, our visit helped me to feel a closeness to him. It also helped his granddaughter and great granddaughter get to know him also."

The Atkin family has wanted to visit the memorial for several years.

"November 14, 2012 was the 30th Anniversary of the F-104 'Starfighter' Memorial and I decided that we would attempt again to honor the memory of my father and have the opportunity for my family to pay tribute to their grandfather and great grandfather and other American heroes," Mr. Atkin said.

Coincidently, the 161st ARW historian, Gary Duncan, worked with Mr. Atkin's uncle as a teenager at his crop dusting business in Peoria.

"Gary brought some pictures from when he worked for Uncle Wes and we reminisced about my family and his experiences in the crop dusting business," Mr. Atkin said. "I believe that these events happened for a reason and that is to keep my father's memory alive with each generation and a special way to continue to honor his name."

Mr. Atkin thanked the 161st ARW for coordinating his family's visit to the memorial.
"Our sincere gratitude to Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre, Master Sgt. Kelly Deitloff and Historian Gary Duncan and the Air National Guard for their generosity and kindness in sharing our joy, sadness of loss and the opportunity to honor my father."