Story by: Sgt. Michael Vanpool
Posted: Feb 16, 2015
|Sgt. Michael Vanpool
Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, the deputy assistant adjutant general of the Texas Army National Guard, gives a thumbs up after being designated the air marshal of the 2015 Stars and Stripes Spectacular Air Show in Laredo, Texas, Feb. 15. The Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association Stars and Stripes Spectacular Air Show is one of many events for Laredo’s month-long celebration for America’s first president. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
LAREDO, Texas – Texas Guardsmen parachutists flew the American and Texan flags over Laredo to open the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association’s Stars and Stripes Air Show Spectacular at Laredo International Airport, Feb. 15.
Capt. Tim Hanrahan and Staff Sgt. Zachary Bowen lowered the flags onto the flight line. This was the fifth year for Hanrahan, who said he continues to jump because it’s an “opportunity to represent our country and the Texas Army National Guard.”
For those watching, seeing the flags drop down from the sky has a personal attachment.
“I no longer see red, white, and blue on our nation’s colors,” said Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, the air marshal for this year’s show. “What we see now is names and faces of friends and places.”
The air show was first included nearly 20 years ago in the Washington’s Birthday Celebration, a monthlong celebration for the Laredo area. That was when Carlos Garza took the position as the first sergeant for the Texas Army National Guard’s 436th Chemical Company.
Garza knew the importance of the military in the history of the border town, not just from books but his family’s experience. Laredo is where his mother and family sought refuge during the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
When Garza began to drill in Laredo, he felt that the city’s attachment to the military had waned. He said that he could grow the community’s patriotism by showcasing the aircraft that helped win World War II. So he helped put together the Stars and Stripes Air Show.
“It started small with war-birds,” Garza said, “but now it’s the biggest event for Laredo and Washington’s Birthday.”
The spins and rolls captivated the audiences, making the show an integral event for the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association (WBCA). Garza served as a WBCA board member and currently is its military liaison.
This year brought in nearly 40,000 spectators to the airfield, with countless others looking up to the sky.
The air show now features civilian and stunt pilots from across the country, but the event still holds onto its military roots. Every year, one Soldier from the Texas Military Forces is chosen to preside over the show as the air marshal.
This year, Brig. Gen Orlando Salinas, the deputy assistant adjutant general for the Texas Army National Guard, was selected for the honor. Salinas grew up in San Diego, Texas and said that he had fond memories of visiting Laredo.
“To me, personally, it is extremely important to say thank you on behalf of a native south Texan to be invited to be your air marshal,” Salinas said to the crowd. “With all the duties that I have and all the places I have visited there is no place in the world I would rather be than sharing this great day with you.”
This year’s show saw the return of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, which was the only fighter plane produced in America during World War II. The particular plane flown was dug from its grave and completely restored to its original glory, said Garza.
For the city of Laredo, Washington’s Birthday is a month long celebration filled with pageants, parades, and so much more; many of which are reminiscent of the days of George and Martha Washington.
The air show is one of the more grand departures from Washington’s times. However, the airplanes, helicopters and airborne Soldiers are very much a part of today’s military celebrated year after year here in Laredo.