In 1988, Master Sgt. John Salazar, a former aircraft crew chief now retired, realized there were retired and current members who had passed on, but there was no place on base where current unit members could honor their memory.
With the help of members of the retirees group, he formed a small committee that made his dream a reality, and in the fall of 1989, Salazar and the newly formed Memorial Committee revealed the 162nd Fighter Wing’s granite memorial.
The original memorial location was on the south side of the perimeter road, midway between Building 1 and the main gate. The memorial was built with donated materials and labor provided by unit members. A concrete block structure was created to showcase the memorial and a finished granite slab was purchased, appropriately engraved, and installed.
On Dec. 2, 1989, the memorial was dedicated in a ceremony attended by unit members, the Memorial Committee and honored guests that included Maj. Gen. Donald Owens, the Adjutant General of Arizona; then Col. Glen W. “Bill” Van Dyke, 162nd Commander; Colonel Kurth, and unit chaplains Maj. Brian Bell and Capt. Robert Norton. At the time of the dedication ceremony 59 names were engraved on the memorial.
With the expansion of the base and several structural changes, the wing realized the memorial needed a new location. Eventually, the wing selected an ideal spot south of the main gate, centrally located in an area where unit members and visitors pass by every day. Once again, dedicated 162nd members donated materials and labor and a new, expanded memorial was on the horizon.
Construction started and the original engraved slab was gently relocated to the new area and an additional slab was installed to accommodate the expanding list of names being engraved in the stones. The finished memorial, with a new look and location, was rededicated in a ceremony Nov. 2, 1997. At this dedication, there were 96 names engraved on the memorial.
Today, the memorial has 232 names engraved on it and Salazar is seeking funds to continue the support. Raising funds continues to be a challenge; Salazar and the committee always welcome financial contributions for name engraving and expansion.
Eligibility for names inscribed on the memorial is limited to deceased, retired unit members, those who died while assigned to the unit, or other deceased individuals whose prior exemplary contributions to the 162nd’s mission warrant them recognition in the memorial.
The inscription costs about $85, but the family does not have to pay this cost; it is paid for by the 162nd Fighter Wing memorial fund. Those wanting to donate should make checks payable to the Tucson Air National Guard Memorial Fund located at the Arizona State Credit Union, 777 S. Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85726.
Members can also mail checks payable out to:
Tucson Air National Guard Memorial Fund
Attention: 162nd FW Retirees Office
1650 E. Perimeter Way
Tucson, AZ 85706-6052
“We would like to thank everyone for their donations and support as we don’t want to forget our friends, co-workers and wingmen,” said Salazar.