More than 200 people attended the opening of the new Norton Air Force Base Museum and Veterans Monument on Wednesday.
More than 200 people attended the opening of the new Norton Air Force Base Museum and Veterans Monument on Wednesday. (LaFonzo Carter, Staff Photographer)

It's official. The heroes of the former Norton Air Force Base now have a museum to help tell their stories.

In the hot sun of Wednesday afternoon, Norton Air Force Base veterans and their families, joined by museum staff and the public celebrated an emotional grand opening of the new Norton Air Force Base Museum and Veterans Monument at the former Norton Air Force Base.

The long-awaited museum houses photos, artifacts and pieces of the lives of those who served at the air force base during its heyday,

At the heart of the event was the Norton Veterans 63-445 Airlift Wing, the Old Crew Dogs who spent the last five years of their lives working to turn their dream of a memorial into reality.

Their mission is accomplished.

Near the entrance of the museum is the monument that honors the military veterans who served aboard C-141 jet cargo airplanes and the civil servants who served and worked at the former base and the countless airmen and soldiers who passed through to meet our country's call to duty.

The monument is built of inscribed memorial bricks, a granite commemoration plaque and crowned by a model of their beloved C-141.

As emcee and museum board president Bob Edwards praised the efforts of the veterans group, he presented a certificate of appreciation for the group to retired Air Force Master Sgt. Ed Jeffries. who later admitted to "crying just a little bit,"

Nearly 500 attended the ceremony, which opened with an invocation by Rabbi Hillel Cohn and the flag salute by Norton Elementary School students and featured a talk by the base's commander, Col. Gary R. Underwood. The program included comments by County Supervisor Josie Gonzales and Mayor Pat Morris, who also presented a resolution to emcee and board president Bob Edwards celebrating the history of the base.

The family of Capt. Leland Norton, the base's namesake, sat in the front row.

Mike Moran, whose mother, Vernice, was Leland Norton's sister. All his life, Moran heard the stories of his uncle, he said.

"That's all my mother ever talked about," said Moran, 64, of Oak Glen.

"We used to cruise through the base in my grandmother's black 1955 Oldsmobile and we would get saluted. That was quite a big deal for a kid of 5 or 6," Moran added.

A ribbon cutting by the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce, coordinated by chamber president Judi Penman and refreshments rounded out the opening.

After the ceremony, the museum was open until 4 p.m. Regular hours will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Museum staff members are still seeking Norton Air Force Base artifacts, photographs and memorabilia to display in the gleaming new cabinets. For more information, call 909-382-7307.

On a curb in the parking lot, in the shade of a tree, Ed Jeffries sat with his son, Charles, had planned a fishing trip to Lake Silverwood.

"I'm hoping to catch some bass, trout or bluegill," the older Jeffries said.

Charles, 44, told his dad he was looking forward to taking the boat out and spending some time with him.


Reach Michel via email, find her on Twitter @michelnolan, or call her at 909-386-3859.