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Airmen Honor Hometown Heroes For ‘Air Force Week’

U.S. Airmen and Air Force ROTC college students descended on Memorial Grove in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx to help out during Air Force Week in New York.

U.S. Airmen and Air Force ROTC college students descended on Memorial Grove in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx to help out during Air Force Week in New York.

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NEW YORK (CBS 2) – Air Force Week is in full swing in New York. As part of the celebration, airmen are taking up public service projects that represent the week’s theme: “honoring hometown heroes.”

In the Bronx on Thursday, that’s exactly what they did by getting to work at Memorial Grove.

Memorial Grove in Van Cortlandt Park was getting spruced up, as airmen and Air Force ROTC college students pitched in. For hours, they picked up trash or put up fence, just happy to help.

“It feels great,” Giovanni Scharon said. “There’s nothing I’d rather be doing today.”

The Grove honors 37 soldiers from the Bronx killed during World War II, with a plaque for each placed near each tree. The work there on Thursday fit nicely with the Air Force Week theme.

“It’s important we remember our past, remember our history, remember where we can from as the Air Force,” Airman Marlin Williams said. “We just can’t forget.”

Three years ago, Memorial Grove was filled with trash, and plaques were stolen or buried under rubble. CBS 2 reported how two local veterans, Herb Barret and Don Tannen, were outraged, and began to fight to improve conditions.

They said they welcomed Thursday’s help, and that it was a fitting tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“They are being paid a great honor today by these service people coming here to work and to help out their brethren. It’s terrific,” Barret said.

Some have said that Barret and Tannen are themselves local heroes for restoring the Grove, but they won’t hear of it.

“It’s something that Herb and I have a strong feeling about, the boys in the grove, so we feel it’s a civic duty on our part,” said Tannen.

Much has improved at Memorial Grove, but more remains to be done. Some attendees on Thursday were upset by conditions.

“It’s unacceptable. It just breaks my heart,” ___ said.

Barret and Tannen said they will continue the fight, long after Thursday’s clean-up was over. The boys of the Grove, they say, deserve no less.

“They deserve to have this memorial spit and polish, as the military says, spit and polish,” Barret said.

Air Force Weeks take place in different cities each year, but an Air Force official told CBS 2 that the week in New York was such a success, they might return again next year.