|File photo by Brenda Ketch
Visitors to the Loring Air Force Base’s Open House back in July of 1991 enjoyed viewing a B-1B Bomber among the other static aircraft displays. Thousands of visitors attended the annual open houses, and members of the Loring Heritage Museum are hoping that the community will also get behind their annual Loring Reunion.
LIMESTONE — Military brats, Airmen, civilian personnel — all interested parties are invited to Loring’s base-wide reunion on August 24, 25 and 26 to celebrate the historic legacy left by the Loring Air Force. While many of the base’s tangible mementos have been carefully preserved at the Loring Heritage Museum by dedicated volunteers, the Loring Reunion features events that bring memories of the base alive — like the dinner dance at the former NCO Club, featuring the same DJ from back in the day.
Aside from a hot dog here or a T-shirt there, the only scheduled event that comes with a price tag is the Dinner Dance, the event co-organizer and Loring Military Heritage Center Secretary Cuppy Johndro is most excited about.
Held just like old times, the dinner dance replicates past events at the NCO Club — Johndro and other organizers are even hoping that an airman or two will even don their dress blues for the event, complete with their ribbons and medals. For non-military personnel (and military personnel who elect not to sport their Air Force attire) the dress code is an informal business casual; Johndro mentioned that attendance is the important part, not attire.
Planned attendance is steadily increasing for the reunion, as organizers have already received word from many airmen and their families who are planning their first trip back to Aroostook County for the reunion; co-organizer and Vice President of the Loring Heritage Museum Matt Cole is excited for the first time returning individuals to tour the old bases’ buildings to see what’s changed, and what hasn’t.
For instance, well before the “Blue Goose” housed the Maine Military Authority, it was an Air Force maintenance building; the buildings MMA currently uses to refurbish vehicles used to be the old base supply buildings — and they’ve changed a lot since the base closed.
Even the building occupied by the Loring Heritage Museum was once itself the bank.
Cole is also excited for returning individuals to finally get their first look at the Caribou Air Force Base — the small weapons storage area adjacent to Loring which housed the nuclear weapon components.
“Even military personnel stationed at Loring weren’t allowed out there,” Cole said. “People coming back to Loring will be able to see it for the first time.”
Nearly twenty years has passed since the base has closed, but iconic structures like the Arch Hanger have maintained their massive and impressive air, as prevalent now as it was during Loring’s glory days.
“Loring was a show base,” explained Johndro as she described how meticulously the grounds and buildings were cared for — a topic she has first-hand experience with.
Johndro is currently an x-ray technician at TAMC, just like she was when stationed at the base hospital. But her medical expertise didn’t stop a ranking officer from instructing her and her co-workers to trim the grass along the sidewalk — handing them all a pair of scissors and a ruler.
“‘Cut it to an inch, and don’t let it get over!’” she recalled being told, and the specifications were accompanied by the hawk-like watch of a supervisor, ruler in hand, double-checking the scissor pruned grass’ blade lengths.
Johndro smiled as she told the story and even smiled as she described how airmen, newly stationed at Loring, could never get any sleep while first living on the base because of all the planes constantly flying overhead.
The skies about Loring were consistently speckled with aircraft and the towns were always bustling with airmen and their families — as such, the Loring Air Force Base left its mark on many more than just enlisted personnel even after it closed.
Anyone who lived, worked or existed in proximity to the base has their own Loring stories, and LMHC volunteers are hoping that all those storytellers will gather at the base for the August reunion.
“We’d like to see a lot of locals come out and meet up with old friends,” Johndro said.
Though the base is closed, its historic significance is too poignant to ever be forgotten.
“This was the second largest SAC base, period,” emphasized Matt Cole, LMHC Vice President. “It was the only base with two active runways, it had the largest munitions depot and it had the second largest arch hanger on the east coast.”
As far as cold-war significance, Loring has earned its place in the history books.
Cole, Johndro and the other LHM volunteers have worked to preserve Loring’s history while bringing pieces of the base back to life.
Scheduled for July, museum volunteers will be mounting a (deactivated) Hound Dog missile on a permanent display in front of the museum — a visual reminder of Loring’s powerful history.
Around that same time, the museum will be opening their second showroom.
Though the Loring Development Authority has increased the number of civilian jobs held at the Loring Commerce Centre since the days of the base, there’s no replacing the Loring Air Force Base in Aroostook County’s hearts (or ledgers).
The museum will be open for the summer on Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and on Sundays from noon until 3 p.m. Additional information about the reunion and the museum can be found by visiting www.LoringMilitaryHeritageCenter.com, or visiting their at Facebook page.