181005 79th Fighter Bomber reunion 8

Norm Tumlinson and Lenny Erickson, veterans of the 79th Fighter Bomber Squadron, talk with Susan Rutland, whose husband Kerny was also a member, during their 2018 reunion at the Coldwater Inn in Tuscumbia. This year's reunion is scheduled for later this month at the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa in Florence. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

The Ray Gautreaux 79th Fighter Bomber Squadron reunion group will meet Sept. 26-29 in Florence in what may be the group's final get together.

It's the 27th consecutive reunion for the American Air Force Patriots who made history with their Republic F-84G Thunderjet. They were stationed at RAF Woodbridge, England, from 1952 to 1956.

The group that once numbered around 400 now has 39 members living and all of them are in their 80s and 90s.

The reunion is held in a different location each year. Last year it was in the Shoals for the first time at Coldwater Inn in Tuscumbia. This year, the group will assemble at the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa in Florence.

"We did a good bit of going and touring last year in the Shoals and it was great," said Sarah Christmas, an organizer and daughter of deceased squadron member Kerney Rutland of Cherokee. "This year, the community is coming to them, including (Florence) Mayor Steve Holt and members of the local VFW."

As always there will be a special memorial service for those who've died throughout the reunion years. Two members died last year.

"We just really want to go all out for these amazing people this year as it will likely be our last reunion," Christmas said. "They deserve to be honored. They served their country well."


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