Hometown Heroes - Chennault veterans

Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 3:45 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - When Lane Buckels graduated from Barbe High School, he joined the Navy.

“I was on the USS Ronald Reagan, which is an aircraft carrier. I worked on the electronics systems on EA 18 Gulf Growlers, which is an electronic warfare jet.”

Four years later, Buckels was at McNeese State University, fulfilling his dream to become a teacher. As part of his senior thesis, Buckels is now documenting the historical and economical impact of Chennault.

“I hope to see just exactly what kinds of services and what kind of growth that Chennault has brought to Lake Charles.”

He plans to talk with former Chennault personnel, like Harry Sommers of Moss Bluff.

“At that time, it was Cold War time, and Chennault had a team out on the flight line,” Sommers told me in 2016. “I don’t remember the number on the flight line, but there were 7 or 8 of them all loaded, all fueled up, all ready to go. The crews stayed out there and all they had to do, when the word came, boom they would go.”

Buckels said he’d love to hear from anyone affiliated with the former air base.

“That goes for current or past civilian or military. Anything, any family stories about moving to the area. I would love to hear about anything.”

Even with the base’s closing in the early 1960s, Chennault came back in the 1980s as an industrial airport.

“When Chennault was closed down from a military perspective, I’m still trying to verify this, there may have been a little bit of a recession or a little bump in town because of the loss of jobs. I’m hoping to use the archives at McNeese or some oral interviews would be nice.”

Buckels plans to graduate from McNeese this spring.

You can email Buckels at msu-lbuckels@mcneese.edu