A rare fighter jet was unveiled and dedicated in the memory of a heroic veteran Saturday. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Paul Cohagan flew an F-100 jet, protecting our troops in Vietnam. His story and the history of a jet aircraft has now been restored for you to see right here in East Texas.
Paul Cohagan spent more than 60 years up in the air and the F-100 was his favorite bird. The F-100 Super Sabre jet was the first of a series to break the sound barrier in level flight.
"When he strapped in to that cockpit, he and the airplane were a team," said former Navy pilot Ken Toby. "They could do things, they could do maneuvers no one else could." Cohagan began his flying career at the early age of 12 in 1943.
"On his first flight he flew over his home and dropped a note out the airplane letting his mother know that he was fine," said Toby. That love of flying took off into a long, successful career. Cohagan joined the Air Force, graduating in 1954. He used his passion and piloting skills, protecting our troops on the ground.
"He was kind of a gutsy-pilot," said Cohagan's daughter Anne Coleman. "He always did the right thing, but he liked to push the limits, and he did truly believe in his service. He was completely devoted to the Air Force." His devotion lasted a lifetime. Cohagan completed two combat tours in Vietnam, underwent nuclear training, would join the Air Force Reserves and fly private planes until 2004. His family said his heart never remained grounded.
"A year after he was told he couldn't fly anymore, he passed away," said Coleman. "So, his life was pretty well over as far as he was concerned." Cohagan would "fly home" on Veterans Day, 2005, but as of this Memorial Day Weekend, a big part of his legacy will remain grounded, here for you to see and remember.
The F-100 will be on display at the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum, which is located at the Old Tyler Pounds Airport. It's open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.