Locals once surprised President Bush with his old Stearman training plane

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. After celebrating our nation's birthday in Marshfield in 1991, President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara returned to the Springfield airport to leave on Air Force One when a group of about 40 members from the Confederate Air Force and the Air and Military Museum of the Ozarks greeted him with a much smaller plane with a much bigger significance to the President.

It was one of only five remaining Stearman biplane's that Bush had trained in when he became a Navy airman during World War II.

Having entered the service at age 18, Bush was one of the youngest aviator's in the war, and he survived being shot down in 1944 when he was rescued from the water by a submarine.

Bush had always been proud of his military service, and the sight of that Stearman on the runway in Springfield got his attention.

Bob Faenger and his wife Jacque were among the locals there to witness the reunion.

"He pretty much ran over to it," Bob recalled with a laugh. "There were some little steps to get in the cockpit and he jumped up and looked in."

"Just seeing the smile on his face, it must have brought back a lot of memories for him," added Jacque. "And he said, 'Barbara, see? I told you I flew this airplane!' And she said, 'I know, I know'. It just seemed funny. They seemed like real people."

The group also included Boxcar Willie, an Air Force veteran, and Dave and Jody Corsaut of Greenfield, who owned the plane.

"Mrs. Corsaut wanted to give Barbara a stuffed rabbit and she handed it out to her," Bob remembered. "But the Secret Service came on pretty fast."

Barbara did keep the gift though and the people who got to meet the president and his wife that day felt they got a gift as well.

"I think he really appreciated the members going through all that to bring it to him," Jacque said. "It was just a fantastic feeling that they would take time for our little group to make us matter."

That group lives on through the Air and Military Museum of the Ozarks located at 2305 East Kearney where history from all branches of the military is on display. The facility includes over 5,000 items from uniforms to jeeps to helicopters and planes. The museum is celebrating its 30th birthday this year and is open from 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday with group trips available by appointment. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-11, and those age 5-and-under get in for free.

"Our motto is education for the public and keeping history alive," Bob said.