Museum Welcomes EA-6B Prowler, Honors Military

Dallas — The Frontiers of Flight Museum hosted a Prowler Party to welcome their newest aircraft, the EA-6B Prowler, on Saturday, April 13. The party featured speakers, crafts and a question and answer session with some of the aircraft’s former pilots and crew.

“We are so excited to have the Prowler here,” said Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones, president and CEO of the Frontiers of Flight Museum. “That brings our aircraft number up to 31. We don’t get aircrafts every day. We got our last one in 2015. It’s a big deal, and we wanted to do something special to welcome this aircraft to our collection.

“We have the only EA-6B in Texas, and it’s the only Marine aircraft we have. Now that it’s retired, it’s going to become an important piece of our education program, so it’s still going to be working hard, but in a different capacity.”

Doug Swoish, president of the Prowler Association, spoke about aircraft.

“This is an all-weather machine and there’s no better day to have it inducted into this great museum than on an all-weather day,” Swoish said. “For over 51 years, from it’s first test flight, this airplane has served its nation. It was able to match or precede threats. This airplane has been relevant, and it’s been there.

“But nothing comes for free. There is a cost, the cost known by the youngsters who didn’t see their moms and dads while they were overseas. Over this plane’s 51 years of service, 46 men and two women did not come home while serving their country. So as much as I see this as an inauguration, as a dedication, it’s also a ‘thanks’ to remember those who have served and didn’t come home. Instead of sending this to the boneyard, it’s here it has a home.”

“This aircraft was a major improvement in technology, and it became the mothership of electronic warfare in the Navy and the Marine Corps,” Wayne Qualkinbush, president and CEO of VMAQ Monument Foundation, said. “The VMAQ Monument foundation was started about 10 months ago with the mission to honor all of those who served in the Marine technical electronic warfare squadrons. Our all-volunteer foundation is accomplishing this by building a monument that will be placed at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. The monument will be sculpted by Oklahoma artist Sandra Van Zandt and will include three heroic scale figures approximately 12 feet tall wearing the flight gear from 2019.”

Current and former military personnel were honored during the induction of the Prowler into the museum. Shelly Kirkland, CEO of the Boot Campaign, spoke about how her program helps rehabilitate veterans.

“Ten years ago, Boot Campaign was born,” Kirkland said. “Five patriotic, Texas women read a book by Marcus Luttrell called ‘Lone Survivor’ and they were so moved by his story that they wanted to do something to give back. They started by getting combat boots on celebrities and influencers as a way of saying ‘Thank you for your service.’

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve raised over $20,000,000, and I’m proud to say that last year $0.88 of every single dollar went directly back to military families. Two years ago, we honed our efforts to focus on invisible wounds of war and get after brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, addiction and insomnia. Those are the hallmark occurrences in our post-9-11 veterans, so we wanted to find a way to individualize and holistically treat them.” 

Spec. Ricky Raley, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, is one of the veterans who successfully completed the Boot Campaign program.

“The invisible wounds of war that many veterans suffer from aren’t identified, because you can’t see them,” Raley said. “It wasn’t until I was in a wheelchair, until I had a physical disability, that people started treating me differently than when I first came home walking. It’s very important to me to get the message out there that many veterans are suffering from traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, and insomnia. It greatly impacts not just their lives, but the lives of the people around them. We consume everyone around us with our pain.

“By allowing the Boot Campaign’s health and wellness program to flourish like it has for the past few years, we will hopefully be able to help many more veterans and let them come home to their families just like I was able to after I completed the program.”

Written by Brianna Roney