Mission Summary

USAF ARIA 328 MEMORIAL
WALKERSVILLE SITE MARKER
June 1, 2017

MISSION
To honor the 21 Souls lost aboard the USAF Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA), Tail Number 61-0328 which crashed near Walkersville, Maryland on May 6, 1981.

GOAL
To establish and dedicate a fitting Memorial Site Marker near the crash site, which will become a permanent tribute both to those lost, and to the entire Walkersville Community, which provided the “First Responders” and still retains a lasting memory to this tragic loss.

 

Granite pedestal with bronze plaque and granite meditation bench in foreground
The existing Memorial near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

BACKGROUND
In the 2003 to 2006 time frame, the concept of an appropriate Memorial Site Marker was recognized. A group consisting of surviving family members, closely associated ARIA crew members, and a few dedicated citizens from Walkersville, volunteered to assume lead on the above Mission and Goal.

A design of a proposed site memorial was drafted and then presented to the Walkersville City Commission.

The plan included a budget estimate of One Hundred Thousand Dollars, $100,000.

A major fund raising program was launched, including the registration of an ARIA 328 Memorial Foundation, and the application for tax exempt status with the IRS.

Friends proposed an ARIA 328 Memorial Coin. Personal loans funded the creation of the proper stamping dies for the coins, followed by a short term loan for the production and delivery. Initial sales were brisk, resulting in the full payment of all production costs, a significant contribution into the Foundation and a balance of fully funded but still unsold coins with all future sales returning 100% to the Foundation.

An opportunity to order and dedicate specially engraved memorial bricks for use in paving within the Memorial area was published. This resulted in many additional contributions into the Foundation.

In the first few years, the Memorial Foundation reported that approximately 30 percent of the one hundred thousand dollar goal had been received.

Most unfortunately and at this point, contributions to the Foundation slowed down and then ceased.

 

NEW/REVISED APPROACH
During the month of April 2017, a happy resurgence of interest in the Mission and Goal of a Walkersville Site Marker came back to life.
The first commitment was to not fail in the creation of a memorial and to maintain our focus upon honoring those lost on that fateful day.
Initial discussions focused upon the unfortunate reality that a goal of raising one hundred thousand dollars for a Memorial Site Marker, at this late date—now some 36 years after the crash, simply will never happen.

With this conclusion, it is clear that the initial Memorial design will not be adequately funded and will not happen.

 

NEW/REVISED SITE MEMORIAL
While contemplating the first Walkersville Site Marker proposal, its budget requirements, and the follow-on loss of support—all in the spirit of ‘lessons learned,’ it has become clear that an honorable new approach is needed.
A visit to the ARIA 328 Memorial which is located at the National Museum of the US Air Force, at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and which was the home/departure base for ARIA 328 on that fateful day in 1981; provided an excellent vision for the original Mission and Goal.
The ‘home base’ Memorial includes a granite meditation bench, a granite pedestal with an inscribed bronze plaque, and a grove of twenty one trees. One tree for each of the 21 souls lost. A reality is that the 21 trees require perpetual care and expense—another ‘lesson learned’.
The new vision for our Mission and Goal is to closely ‘mirror’ the ‘home base’ Memorial by including a ten foot square, concrete base upon which we erect a granite meditation bench along with a granite pedestal including a bronze plaque which has the wording only slightly amended to reflect the Walkersville crash site.
This approach would result in the two Memorials being direct compliments of each other, with the exception of the twenty one live trees. The result would mean a zero, long term additional maintenance budget for the Walkersville Parks Commission.

Requests have been initiated for the approximate costs of the following:

    1. A granite bench
    2. A granite pedestal
    3. An engraved bronze plaque
    4. Two cubic feet of concrete, including forms for a 10×10 ft slab, pouring, finishing, and for mounting the two pieces of granite following curing of the concrete.

These estimates should be available within the next 30 days.

Once the estimates are in hand, a reasonable budget is expected to validate a ROM guess in the order of only twenty thousand dollars for the timely completion of this Mission and Goal.

 

IN SUMMARY
There is a widespread and growing enthusiasm for this Revised Approach. It is elegant and humble, while maintaining a direct link with the ARIA 328 Memorial in Ohio. Add that it has a budget which can be met in the short term.

It is our hope and plea that all surviving ARIA 328 family members, all fellow ARIA Alumni, and the loving citizens of Walkersville, Maryland will quickly refocus upon the Mission and Goal which was conceived over a decade ago, and help this project to completion.

A ‘soft goal’ of dedication on May 6, 2018 is an absolute possibility. But only if sufficient funding can be quickly achieved.

 

PROGRESS

    1. Two Memorial Gatherings happened on May 6, 2017. The yearly Gathering at the ARIA 328 Memorial at W-PAFB, Oh; and a special ARIA Reunion held Kissimmee, FL. There were about 50 persons at each event with Honors to those Lost and great fellowship.
      In addition, the Mission and Goal from above were briefed and followed with a brief discussion on the “New/Revised Site Memorial”. Discussion included views of the current memorial bench and pedestal at the Museum Memorial Site along with a draft of the proposed format of the new plaque for the Walkersville site.The response was immediate and enthusiastic! The concept of a mirror image sites and the more austere budget received endorsement and a renewed commitment to completion.
    2. Two of the New Team members attended a Walkersville, MD “Town Meeting” on the evening of May 24, 2017. We went on to express that our first memorial design and budget simply did not happen. And that we were pondering ‘learning lessons’ while re-committing to complete our Mission and Goal.
      A print of the ARIA 328 Memorial at WPAFB, with a clear view of the bench, the pedestal and plaque was then presented along with an explanation of our proposed ‘mirror reflection’ of this site at Walkersville. Then a print of the proposed format of the Walkersville plaque was presented.The amazing response was immediate! One member on the board stated: ‘Now doesn’t that make sense!’ And several members joined the endorsements. There was a motion for acceptance of the New Team briefing, Site Marker design and for the acceptance of a new, lead ARIA Team Leader for all follow-on Walkersville arrangements. The vote was immediate and enthusiastic.
      This was followed with the kind offer that the park staff would pour the concrete base for the memorial.Further discussion revealed that the site that had been set aside for a memorial, back in 2005 has now been configured as a new sports venue in the park. And so, another site will need to be selected for the new 10×10 foot concrete base and memorial.