45th Museum Damage Remains Over a Year Later

Tuesday, August 23rd 2011, 7:12 pm
By: News 9

Darren Brown, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma's National Guard has a storied history, and the 45th Infantry Division Museum is proud to carry on that legacy.  Now the museum is struggling to restore some of its own history thanks to Oklahoma's weather.

Mike Gonzales has been the museum's curator for over 20 years.  He wasn't at the museum last May when the storm swept through, but he saw the devastation later that night.

"Well I guess my initial reaction was shock," said Gonzales.  "I expected some damage, but Lord have mercy."

Gonzales has had to listen to concerns and complaints about the damage for over a year now.

"Many of them will come into my office and y'know, they'll say 'Wow, when did that happen?'" he said.  "Or for the locals they'll say 'Y'know I've been looking at this mess for a year and you haven't done a thing to fix them.'"  

Almost every vehicle on the lot sustained some sort of damage.  The Vietnam-era helicopters are easily the most visibly damaged.  The Plexiglas shells on each of the five helicopters were cracked, and some almost shattered completely.  The museum's airplanes still have broken windows, and many have heavily chipped paint.

"The aluminum on a lot of the aircraft flexed pretty well when it was struck by these hail stones," Gonzales said.  "And in the course of flexing, the paint just came off in sheets."

And the aircraft weren't the only vehicles damaged.  Every canvas covered vehicle had to have its top replaced.  Some are still waiting. 

Glen Bolon and his wife were on vacation when they visited the museum on Tuesday.  Bolon flew helicopters just like the OH-23C "Raven" and the OH-13E "Sioux" in Vietnam. 

"Its an old aircraft, they're not made anymore," Bolon said.  "Parts are probably very difficult to come by and if you had to go and have them made it would be very expensive."

"It's kinda like watching an old friend get hurt and you can't come to his aid," said Gonzales.  "Oklahoma, like the other forty-nine states in the union, we're all suffering financially.  And the money is just not there."