Grumman Memorial Park & Aerospace Museum is up the road from the cemetery. It is situated due east of the 10,000 foot runway on the former Grumman Aerospace Flight Test Facility (Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant).
Although the placques and interactive features at the park make the fighter jets accessible to civilians and landlubbers, the military veterans in attendance really enhanced my appreciation. One was an Air Force veteran I met by the F14, who once flew super sonic jets.
My other unofficial guide was my friend, who had served in the U.S. Navy during the 1980s as an aircraft electrician both on land and on an aircraft carrier. The stories he shared were alternatively enlightening, informative and shocking.
I especially enjoyed hearing highlights of conversations my nautical pal had with my father (who as a U.S. Marine during the Korean War and later, on special assignment as a civilian, served as an aircraft electrician in the Pacific Basin). His primer on the features on the fighter planes on display was also interesting.
My friend told some shocking stories, too. One was about an incident when he watched, horrified and helpless, when a sailor who stood on deck next to him one minute was, an instant later, sucked into a jet's intake tube. The gory story (and others like these) renewed my gratitude to the servicepeople who lay their lives on the line daily. Moreover, after that tragic true-life tale, I'll never take the term "swab the deck" lightly again.###