Gateway aerial display dedicated

One day before the 65th anniversary of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, members from the military and civilian communities gathered at the Gateway display Thursday, physically dwarfed by the two formidable aircraft mounted on poles.

The Navy’s Gateway display project, the product of countless volunteer hours and intense perseverance, was completed last Thursday when the EA-6B Prowler was mounted alongside the A-6 Intruder.

A dedication ceremony at the corner of Highway 20 and Ault Field Road served as the culmination of the lofty project, which effectively represents the symbiotic relationship between NAS Whidbey and the city of Oak Harbor.

“For all its beauty and power, a plane is just metal, plastic and glass, until someone steps into the cockpit, at which point it becomes what legends are made of,” said Oak Harbor Mayor Patty Cohen. “For the greater Oak Harbor community, this Gateway display will be a lasting tribute to all the men and women in uniform and their families.”

Capt. Gerral David, NAS Whidbey Commanding Officer, graciously thanked all of the project contributors. The Navy intentionally employed local contractors to carry out the work, lending a feeling of ownership to the display.

“I am grateful that we, NAS Whidbey Island, are such an integral part of the local community,“ the captain said. “This strong and powerful relationship is evident in just about everything that happens, both inside and outside our gates. We owe much of that to the integration between the city of Oak Harbor and Island County, who joined us in this cooperative effort to transform a vision into reality.”

Capt. Thomas Tack, Electronic Attack Wing Commander, shared anecdotes with the audience that reinforced the uniquely welcoming Oak Harbor community and its close ties to the naval base.

Tack poignantly added that sailors bring life to what would otherwise be faceless facilities.

“This base would be nothing but a shell of brick, mortar and cement, with a smattering of idle aircraft if it were not for the enlisted sailor’s heart and soul,” Tack said. “We will be forever indebted to their devotion to duty and unending ‘can do’ spirit ... This is a fitting display and I will enjoy looking at it for many years.”

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