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Grissom Air Museum building new exhibit with help from Gold Star kids

PERU, Ind. – A B-58 Hustler was one of the fastest aircraft used to drop nuclear weapons in the 1960s. Only eight still exist and one of them is at Grissom Air Museum.

Two Gold Star children whose parents died after accidents in the rare bomber are teaming up to build an exhibit to preserve this history. Shamaine Pleczko’s dad, Air Force Capt. “Rocky” Cervantes, was killed at Bunker Hill Air Base in a B-58 Hustler in 1964.

“It was kind of one of these stories told between the gentlemen and the women who served there,” said Pleczko, who now lives in Houston.

About 14,000 gallons of burning jet fuel surrounded Capt. Cervantes. He tried to escape in an ejection pod but he did not survive. The explosion made newspaper headlines and old photographs document the charred remains of the plane. Pleczko was born at the base and she was 6-month-old when her father died.

She’s working with another Gold Star child, Rob Blakeslee, to build the structure. Rob’s father, Major Richard Blakeslee, was flying his supersonic B-58 on a low level training run over McKinney, Kentucky when he crashed, killing all three onboard. Major Blakeslee was assigned to then Bunker Hill Air Force Base where his family lived. Rob said they were able to recover his father’s wallet after the crash. He plans to put it on display at the museum.

Rob used his skills to come up with a design of the exhibit. He said he’s doing what he can to keep the Cold War legacy alive.

They have already started fundraising because the project will cost roughly $80,000. Pleczko pledges to match any donation up to $50,000.

“They have sacrificed so much with the loss of their fathers and for them to want to be part of the program to preserve that history and that legacy it just means a lot,” said Tom Jennings, Executive Director of Grissom Air Museum.

Jennings said the Bunker Hill Air Base housed several of these bombers. The plane could travel 1,400 miles per hour.

“They were able to show the world especially the Russians that we could move our troops and our aircraft at a moment’s notice,” Jennings said.

He hopes to open the exhibit next summer. If you would like to donate, you can go to the museum’s Facebook page or you can contact Jennings at 765-689-8011 or director@grissomairmuseum.com. On Giving Tuesday, Facebook and PayPal will match donations up to a total of $7,000,000.

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