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Vernon Hills recognizes historical US Navy airfield

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Six veterans pose next to the new historical marker outside of Rust-Oleum Field.

Six veterans pose next to the new historical marker outside of Rust-Oleum Field.

Sam Polisky

Sam Polisky

Six veterans pose next to the new historical marker outside of Rust-Oleum Field.

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 On Friday, Sept. 7, an Illinois Historical Marker was dedicated outside Rust-Oleum Field.

The commemoration was held to honor a U.S. Navy airfield that existed during World War II, located where the Vernon Hills Athletic Complex (VHAC) stands today. Those in attendance included veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, along with the veterans of American Legion Post 1247, who led the ceremony.

Mr. Bellito, a social studies teacher who regularly announces for the Cougar Football team, read a halftime speech honoring those who served at the airfield.

“The veterans of Post 1247 firmly believe that the pilots who flew here and sacrificed their lives and youth for our freedom would be very happy today to see their descendants compete in sports on this athletic field and not have the specter of a World War looming in their lives,” Bellito said.

Tyler Kading (12) was among the students who attended the ceremony.

“It was really cool to see,” Kading said. “I think it’s important that students and the community get knowledge of what went on at this site and how it quite literally changed the course of history.”

Kading also noted a personal connection that can be honored through the marker.

“Virtually every family member in my family, from my grandparents and older, served in some capacity,” Kading said. “Had they been around to see [the ceremony], they would have been insanely proud of what this site meant to the world. This isn’t a Vernon Hills landmark, this is a world landmark, and I think it’s great that we get to honor it in this way.”

After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, young and inexperienced pilots participated in flight training on airfields such as the one honored outside of the VHAC. The training prepared the pilots to land on aircraft carriers in combat.

Todd Renihan, commander of American Legion Post 1247, previously served in the Army. Although he had no personal connection with the airfield, Renihan believes that the new landmark highlights the importance of Vernon Hills on the outcome of World War II.

Renihan also believes that while the marker may not persuade someone to serve our country, it will certainly educate those on how the small, suburban town of Vernon Hills changed the course of history.

The Historical Marker is a reminder of how pilots were trained to land on aircraft carriers in Lake Michigan. In addition, the marker also recognizes the pilots who sacrificed their lives for the United States during World War II.

Dr. Prentiss Lea, Superintendent of District 128, gave a statement during the dedication.

“[The Historical Marker] not only recognizes the important role that this property played in ensuring that the United States had the best aircraft carrier-based combat pilots in the world during World War II, but it is also a greater recognition of the many sacrifices that so many young men, young women, and their families made to ensure and protect the freedom that we have today,” Dr. Lea said.

 

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