Lewiston tattoo artist Nate Howard paints the tail of the LTV A-7D Corsair II jet at Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street in Lewiston on Monday morning. He joins a squad of other volunteers who have restored the fighter jet to what it looked like during the Vietnam War era. The L&A Veterans Council arranged to have the plane brought from Montana last year. Howard and Shayne Benning will repaint the original camouflage pattern. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Volunteers on Monday began painting the fighter jet displayed in Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street after months of assembly and repairs.

The LTV A-7D Corsair II will be painted in black, brown and green camouflage to mirror its original color scheme while in use during the Vietnam War era. This is the latest step by the L&A Veterans Council to restore the jet since the fuselage arrived in Lewiston last July.

Shayne Benning, a mechanic with experience painting cars, and Nate Howard, a tattoo artist, are donating their time in the mornings to paint the Corsair.

Local Lewiston tattoo artist Nate Howard paints the tail section of a fighter jet displayed in Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street in Lewiston. He joins a squad of volunteers who have worked to secure the wings, landing gear and other projects to secure and transform the the former Air National Guard Corsair jet to its look when it was used in the Vietnam War era. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

On Monday morning, they began painting the camouflage pattern, starting with the tail and working toward the nose. Once the camouflage is finished, they’ll go back and retouch it, painting the lettering and insignias by hand. The nose of the plane will be painted to resemble a tiger mouth with sharp teeth.

Benning and Howard estimate the project will take them two weeks to complete. They expected to begin painting earlier, however the final pieces of the plane only arrived last week.

Howard said Vietnam veterans in their 70s helped to affix parts and make repairs to the plane. At least one of the veterans serviced Corsairs decades ago when they were in active use.

While most of the planes used in Vietnam were plain gray, the Corsair fighter jets carried a large payload, which meant the planes were heavier and slower than other aircraft. The camouflage paint scheme was applied to make them more difficult to spot from above.

“A lot of these guys gave up a lot of stuff for our freedoms and our way of life,” Benning said. “It’s nice to give back to them and show them that they’re not alone and they are appreciated.”

The importance of the Corsair fighter jet display is twofold, L&A Veterans Council Chairman Jerry Dewitt said. It allows community members to see a piece of equipment that was used to fight a war, while to veterans the plane serves as a remembrance of their military service and friends who didn’t survive the war.

Lewiston tattoo artist Lewiston tattoo artist Nate Howard paints the tail section of the jet in Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street in Lewiston on Monday morning. He joins a squad of other volunteers who have restored the former Corsair fighter jet to what it looked like when it was in use during the Vietnam War era. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“Soldiers aren’t forgotten in time as long as we remember their service,” he continued.

Last week, the city approved plans to install a pedestal in the park to elevate the plane. The city has allotted $50,000 for the project, which is scheduled to be completed in the fall.

The council is also planning to install a Gold Star Family monument honoring families who have lost loved ones during military service. The L&A Veterans Council had hoped to erect the monument by Veterans Day, however they are still in the process of fundraising the $10,000 needed to complete the project.

The Corsair is on permanent loan by the U.S. Air Force Museum to be displayed in Memorial Park. Before being shipped to Lewiston, the aircraft sat mostly forgotten in an airfield in Helena, Montana.

The first piece of the fighter jet to arrive in Lewiston last July was the fuselage, after two years of planning by the L&A Veterans Council. In February, the wings arrived. Since then, the plane has been repaired and pieced together.


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