New Imagery At Virginia Beach Park Helps Honor Naval Heritage

VIRGINIA BEACH — The Naval Aviation Monument Park underwent big changes that will help people who visit learn a lot more about the history of flight with the Navy.

The Hampton Roads Squadron of the Association of Naval Aviation launched the Naval Aviation Monument Project back in 1997 with the goal of creating a lasting tribute to their profession.

The former fliers wanted the civilian public to get a better feel for the sacrifice and the dedication required to launch flying machines into combat from ships at sea.

The Naval Aviation Monument Park on 25th and Atlantic avenues opened in 2006, and was commissioned and paid for by the Hampton Roads Squadron of the Association of Naval Aviation. Now, the imagery at the park brings the story of Hampton Roads’ rich naval aviation heritage into even sharper focus.

Etched into new marble panels are both the glories and tragedies of what it means to return from war.

“To me, it’s a look back from when my family greeted me,” said retired naval aviator Maury Unger. “So, just wonderful.”

Also new is a salute to Prisoners of War and to those still missing in action. Plus, there is a giant, new mural with a modern-day Super Hornet blasting off the deck of an aircraft carrier, surrounded by Navy planes and helos, old and new.

“When someone asks or commissions us to do a piece of artwork to memorialize this type of work, it’s a real honor,” said artist Jim Smith.

“I just hope there’s a ‘wow’ factor that makes them want to tell other people about it and have other people to come and see the whole memorial and get the whole feeling for what it’s all for,” added artist Sean Donahue.

Retired naval aviator Fred Mitz said the project was “world class” while retired naval aviator Jim Joyner added his opinion that it “exceeded any of our expectations.”

“It just makes me extremely proud of the volunteers that we’ve had,” added retired naval aviator Pete Koch.

To date, the cost of the Naval Aviation Monument Park has been $2 million.  The ANA says the next phase of the project will involve paying tribute to Navy SEALs.

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