SAN BERNARDINO - For the Old Crew Dogs of Norton's 63 -445 Airlift Wing, the mission is accomplished.
Their quest to create a memorial to honor both the service members and civilians who served aboard C-141 jet cargo airplanes and at the former Norton Air Force Base in its heyday has been realized.
The long road to achieve their dream has been filled with hurdles, twists and turns but on Wednesday, the Norton Veterans Monument will be officially dedicated at the opening of the new Norton Air Force Base Museum.
Leading the "crew dogs" is retired Air Force Master Sgt. Ed Jeffries, 85, who has spent the last five years of his life working fulltime on the project.
"We've done what we started out to do "" something many people would not have attempted," said Jeffries, a 25-year veteran who served in three wars "" under seven presidents "" logging 16,000 flying hours as a flight engineer.
"I've put so much of my heart into it," he said. "When a woman told me the other day I've done a wonderful job, it almost made me cry. "
The monument, which sits at the entrance to the museum's entrance, is built of inscribed memorial bricks, crowned by a model of their beloved C-141.
When the mission began in 2008, the plan was to get the first 40 feet of an actual aircraft from an Arizona air force base and transport it to Norton for renovation as a museum.
Numerous roadblocks and miles of red tape sabotaged the effort.
In the end, the nonprofit group of 50 Air Force retirees decided on a brick and mortar alternative as the tribute.
Harry Sechrist, 84 of Redlands, is a retired senior master sergeant, a flight engineer who served at Norton Air Force Base between 1967 and 1975, logging 18,000 hours in flight.
"This memorial we have now really worked out for the best," he said. "Ed and I went out to see the airplane at Davis-Monthan and it was really a mess. Birds had used it as their home for a long time. "
Sechrist said he was proud of this memorial and would probably get a litte emotional at the ceremony.
"This is really a great and important deal. "
Fellow crew dog Master Sgt. Mike "Ozzy" Osburn is glad the memorial is finally done.
The project got off to a slow start but gained momentum when more veterans got involved, said Osburn, who served at Norton from 1974 to 1993, four of those years in civil service.
It's good that the airplane gets some recognition, Osburn added.
"It was the first aircraft into Hanoi to bring the POWs home and became known as the Hanoi Taxi. "
Wednesday will be an emotional day as the veterans and their families join the public and museum staff to celebrate the joint efforts of the Norton Air Force Base project.
Even tough old crew dogs are allowed to cry.
The ceremony is at 2 p.m. After the ceremony, the museum will be open until 4 p.m. Regular hours will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
The RSVP seated attendance is up to 200 but there is plenty of standing room, Edwards said.
Admission is free. The museum is at 1601 E. Third St. For more information, call 909-382-7307 or visit nafbmuseum.org.