Sentimental sanctuary: Grove offers Airmen place of remembrance

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Airman 1st Class Kirsten Wicker, 62nd Airlift Wing, pays homage to the servicemembers held as prisoners of war and those still missing in action Tuesday at Memorial Grove. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tyler Hemstreet)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Airman 1st Class Kirsten Wicker, 62nd Airlift Wing, pays homage to the servicemembers held as prisoners of war and those still missing in action Tuesday at Memorial Grove. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tyler Hemstreet)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Like a secret garden, many people coming onto McChord drive by Memorial Grove each day without noticing it's even there.

But the grove located near the intersection of Barnes Boulevard and Main Street holds special significance to many people with ties to the base.

Dedicated in 1972, Memorial Grove serves as a place for people to relax while learning about the airlift history of McChord.

"People have held retirement ceremonies and even gotten married in Memorial Grove," said Memorial Grove committee treasurer Tania Otto, 446th Airlift Wing. "It's just a very nice place to come and walk or sit on the grass and enjoy the scenery."

At the start of the red brick path that winds its way through the grove is a plaque honoring the 13 Airmen from McChord who died in a midair collision over Montana November 30, 1992.

Replica models of a C-54 Skymaster, C-124 Globemaster II, C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules, C-141 Starlifter and a C-82 Packet line the main plaza, each perched on its own concrete pillar.

The grove also contains a memorial honoring prisoners of war and those still missing in action. 

The path plays a key role in keeping alive the special memories of those with ties to the base.

Bricks engraved with personal messages recognizing a relationship, retirement or a unit accomplishment make up the path and plaza areas of the grove and give it a personal feel, said committee president Chief Master Sgt. Danny Bass, 446th Maintenance Squadron.

"The bricks are available to anyone who wants to recognize a friend or a relationship," Sergeant Bass said. 

Personalized bricks cost between $25 and $50 and can be purchased through McChord's Clubs and Community Center or Harborstone Credit Union.

Any money leftover from the purchase of the bricks goes right back into the grove, said Chief Bass.

In the past, the grove committee has used funds from the purchase of the bricks to add benches and vibrant flower displays to brighten up the grove, said Ms. Otto.

Possible future plans for Memorial Grove include some kind of display to represent the Western Air Defense Sector's contributions to the base and a monument to honor McChord's Medal of Honor recipients, Chief Bass said.