General Douglas MacArthur is due to land at his namesake airport.
A bust of the famous soldier atop an interactive informational kiosk will be installed at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma. The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation granted the town of Islip $30,000 for the exhibit, which will be permanently installed in the airport’s atrium.
Former town councilman Chris Bodkin said he has had the idea for the exhibit for 20 years, driven in part by a sense that history was being lost on generations who didn’t live through World War II, when MacArthur was a five-star general.
“One of the most important things I think people should know is their own history,” Bodkin said in a news conference at the airport Thursday. “It pains me and many others who come into contact with particularly young people who don’t seem to know much of anything about how we got here and how this great nation was saved several times in world wars and sacrifices that men and women made to keep us free and great.”
Given how frequently military personnel fly through the Islip-town owned airport, town councilman John Cochrane said it was fitting to have MacArthur’s visage greeting them.
“Where we’re standing is where we honor our veterans that come back from the war and we welcome them back to the Town of Islip on Long Island in this area,” Cochrane said during the news conference. “So how appropriate to have a kiosk with General MacArthur on it here.”
Suffolk County historian Peter Fox Cohalan, a former Suffolk County executive, Islip town supervisor and State Supreme Court Justice, represented the Gardiner Foundation as a board member. He said the project was a good fit for the foundation’s mission to support the study of New York State history, with an emphasis on Suffolk County.
“I greatly favor remembering the memory of Douglas MacArthur, one of America’s greatest generals,” Cohalan said at the news conference.
While MacArthur was not from Long Island, the Ronkonkoma airport was finished in 1943 and named by the federal government in honor of MacArthur.
The bust will be made of a plaster composite and the kiosk made of a heavy synthetic material, Bodkin said. The town hopes to unveil the bust in time for Memorial Day.