Field of Dreams

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
  • 142 FW Public Affairs
July 27, 2010 -- The Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing's Civil Engineer Squadron, while working alongside Corbett community members, constructed on a new 400-seat Corbett High School stadium grandstand and football sports complex in honor of Jeff Lucas, a fallen warrior from the State of Oregon.

Jeffrey A. Lucas graduated from Corbett High School in 1989 and then followed his dream to become a Navy SEAL. The helicopter his was aboard with 15 other soldiers and sailors were shot down in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. There were no survivors of the attack but after his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., former-classmate James Sorenson became inspired to honor his high school friend.

As one of the lead organizers of the Jeff Lucas Memorial Stadium project, Sorenson's efforts over the past five years have brought together friends, community members, former teammates and the services of the Oregon Air National Guard.

"We wanted to build a lasting memorial to his sacrifice," Sorensen said.

Larry McDougall, a former Marine Corps Lance Cpl. , and childhood friend of Lucas, took on the challenge of help bring the stadium project to life. He helped organize the construction of the stadium, working nearly full time on the assemble stage of the project, which was designed by Group Mackenzie, a Portland, Oregon-based architectural firm.

"This project has been a roller coaster of emotions, but I wanted to do this for Jeff and the community", said McDougall.

During the two weeks of construction, the Air National Guard civil engineers came together to enhance their skills as they poured concrete footings, assembled the steel structures and wove the electrical wires together as they erected the new stadium and memorial complex.

"Just another day at the office", said Senior Airman Christopher Black as he bolted together sections of the new grandstands.

The picturesque landscape of the new stadium is a fitting memorial to honor Lucas, who played and lettered in four sports at Corbett High School, and was named to the 1988 Class A all-state football team as a running back.

"The location and purpose of this stadium made choosing this project that was honoring a fallen warrior, really drew us to the project," said Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Roy.

The Innovative Readiness Training program helps enhance unit training and readiness, while assisting communities with needs that are not currently being fulfilled.

The project represented a win-win partnership between the Corbett community and the Air National Guard, according to Roy. Corbett emerged with a new football stadium and badly needed sports complex; the 142nd Fighter Wing's Civil Engineers received unique training opportunities and provide their labor, expertise and equipment to construct the new facility, he said.

During the project, members of the 142nd Fighter Wing's Civil Engineer Squadron committed over 500 hours to the construction of the project overall. The Airmen gained real world training opportunities to prepare them for wartime deployments will supporting a deserving and under served community.

The Jeff Lucas Memorial Veterans Stadium now seats just over 400 and has a special memorial area behind the grandstands as part of the overall design. Donations to the project help raise over $175,000 with another $125,000 in donated materials and services.

"The Air Guard helped saved the project's organizers thousands in labor costs", said McDougall.

"Building a lasting memorial and working with such dynamic people... I could not think of anything better to work on," said Master Sergeant Gordon Cavanaugh.

When not in uniform for the Oregon Air National Guard, Cavanaugh works full time for Pacific Power, in Tacoma, Wash.

"It is not every day when you can do something like this; there are no words to describe it," said Cavanaugh.

The Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Civil Engineers Squadron has worked on military construction projects in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world during the global war on terror. Many members of the unit recently returned from six-month deployments tours and put those skills to use on the stadium project.

"We worked a pretty straight format with 8 to 10 hour days during our part of the construction phase of the project and felt like a full partner with the community," said Roy.

Safety was a critical part of the project as well and only a few cuts and scrapes from the hundreds of pieces of aluminum seat, bolts and fittings that went into the building of the grandstands, said Roy.

Getting the stadium finished for the Corbett High School's first football home game on September 4, 2010 was also a challenge for everyone involved. The guard provided many of the professional skills needed with masons, carpenters, electricians and steel workers who assembling and installed the stands from the first poured footings to the finished stadium.

"We've been playing in an away game for well over 20 years," said Roy. "It's nice to finally play a home game."