The sun shone bright Friday, May 19. Perfect weather for those who looked to the skies in admiration of the F4U Corsair fighter plane that flew overhead Lincoln High School in honor of the unveiling of the Pappy Boyington, Perpetual Garden Memorial monument. The festivities led by Master of Ceremonies, Charley Land of KLAY Radio boasted a hearty turnout. People of all ages filled the seats, sidewalks and grassy knolls to celebrate a bit of Tacoma history in Gregory “Pappy” Boyington. A child, his mother’s fingers interlaced with his own in one hand, a blue toy plane in the other stood among history enthusiasts and a bevy of military veterans awaiting the unveiling of the marble monument who had at last found its permanent home on the grounds of Lincoln High School.
Though the F4U Corsair, flown by pilot Jim Martinelli was a highlight for many, the festivities as a whole, encompassed the spirit of the gathering. During the National Anthem, the performer faltered for just a moment, a brief pause, the start of the line again and another pause, invited the entire audience to join in unison and support to finish the song to its end. Perpetual Garden Memorial Board Chair, and former Lincoln Vice Principal Connie Rickman began with an untraditional invocation reciting a passage written by Jim Curtis about eagles and a former military colleague of his. The words, “His spirit lives in my heart and I often think of him when I see an eagle,” seemed to resonate as we were witnessing the placement of a permanent tribute to the sacrifice and hard work of another American hero.
Many took the stage including Rickman, Land, Dick Muri and Trish Holmes. Each remembering Pappy’s legacy, telling stories of the hard partying, gruff Boyington. They spoke about his days as a football player and wrestler at Lincoln, known then as Greg Hallenbeck, his step-father’s surname. He later discovered his original given name was Boyington and adopted that to join the military. Humor was sprinkled throughout these stories as one joked that Boyington’s experience as a wrestler later served him well throughout bars in Pierce County. Many giggled at the fact that Greg was given the moniker of “Pappy” at a mere 31 years of age, being a decade older than his cohorts.
During the war, Pappy was shot down and held prisoner in a Japanese prison for over a year. He survived the experience and returned home to a hero’s welcome and the Medal of Honor. Later at a dinner, Boyington saw the pilot that shot him down and approached him a smile on his face. When asked why he wasn’t angry with the pilot that led to his imprisonment, Pappy was reported as saying, “Pilots never hold grudges. It’s a worldwide brotherhood.” Another famous quote from Pappy that gives us just a glimmer of why the man was such a character, was in regards to his love of flying. He said, “Flying is hours of boredom sprinkled with a few seconds of sheer terror.”
Tacoma City Council Member, Marty Campbell spoke more about the importance of this memorial speaking of Boyington’s time as an engineer and his ability to look at things from a unique perspective. A perspective of innovation, something he hoped would serve as an inspiration to the students who walked past the Perpetual Garden Memorial, through the doors of Lincoln High School. Campbell thanked the veterans and police force in attendance for their service and brought the point home when speaking on honoring the veterans and their stories before doing the honor of lifting the veil and exposing the marble piece at last. You can visit the Perpetual Garden Memorial yourself by visiting the 37th Street side of Lincoln High School.