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Thunder Over Dover welcomes guests opening day

Community guests fill the flightline during the Thunder Over Dover Open House Aug. 26, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Saturday was the first day of a free two-day event featuring more than 20 aerial demonstrations, static displays and other events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jared Duhon)

Community guests fill the flightline during the Thunder Over Dover Open House Aug. 26, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Saturday was the first day of a free two-day event featuring more than 20 aerial demonstrations, static displays and other events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jared Duhon)

A member of the Black Daggers adjusts his parachute to land while towing the American flag during the Thunder Over Dover Open House opening ceremony Aug. 26, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del.  The Black Daggers are the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s parachute demonstration team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron J. Jenne)

A member of the Black Daggers adjusts his parachute to land while towing the American flag during the Thunder Over Dover Open House opening ceremony Aug. 26, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. The Black Daggers are the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s parachute demonstration team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron J. Jenne)

Jerry “Jive” Kerby flies “Wild Blue,” an RV-8A, during the Thunder Over Dover Open House Aug. 26, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Kerby, a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, flew the F-15C Eagle and F-4 Phantom during his 23-year active duty military career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mauricio Campino)

Jerry “Jive” Kerby flies “Wild Blue,” an RV-8A, during the Thunder Over Dover Open House Aug. 26, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Kerby, a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, flew the F-15C Eagle and F-4 Phantom during his 23-year active duty military career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mauricio Campino)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Vehicles lined the streets early this morning as their occupants eagerly waited for Team Dover’s gates to open for the opening day of the Thunder Over Dover Open House.

This is the first open house in eight years, and the first time the public has been invited onto the installation since 1994.

Countless Delmarva residents visited the installation for one purpose: to spend some time with the Airmen of Team Dover and to pay homage to the Air Power of the world’s greatest Air Force.

Looking at the crowd, it was easy to spot people proud of their service. Veteran and retiree hats and shirts from all branches of the armed services milled slowly through the masses, stepping into the past as they boarded static aircraft displays of the planes they once worked on, road or flew. Their badge of honor served as a beacon, encouraging questions and admiration from youngsters and mutual respect from all.

One such veteran, Pearl Marshall, a Pennsylvania bridge inspector, drove down with his wife and three grandchildren to show them where he served 40 years ago.

“I was a flightline mechanic on the C-5A Galaxy,” Marshall said. “That was a long time ago. I think they went through a few models since then. I’d go back in a heartbeat. It may have been the most exciting job I’ve ever had in my life.”

Marshall said he wanted his grandchildren to see the place that brought him so many special memories. Two of his grandchildren had been to the Air Mobility Command Museum before, but none had ever been on the base until today.

“I’ve never seen people on the flightline before,” Marshall added. “You weren’t allowed out here unless you were a mechanic. To be out here today is an awesome experience. There are so many people and planes … it’s just awesome. I’m glad we were able to come.”

While many veterans and retirees joined Team Dover in celebrating Air Power and the heritage of the Air Force and Dover AFB, many guests visited to learn more about the military.

Scott Steel, an Amazon data analyst, from Kearny, New Jersey, brought his wife, Christie, and three-year-old son, Brycen, to see behind-the-scenes and watch the planes.

“We’re here because of him,” Scott said pointing to his son. “He loves all this stuff. I really wasn’t expecting as much as we’ve seen so far.”

The family recently moved here so Christie could take a job as a paraeducator at Welsh Elementary School, which she started this past Tuesday.

“We’re really excited to see all the shows,” Christie said. “We’re probably going to have to come back tomorrow. There’s just not enough time to see everything today.”

Turning to her son, she asked him if he wanted to come back.

“Yeah,” Brycen said. “I want to see the blue plane [Wild Blue] again. I liked all the smoke, and the [parachutes] were really cool.”

“This is an experience that probably won’t come again for quite a while,” Scott echoed. “It’s awesome to be able to get so close to all these planes and see what our country does to protect us. I hope everyone takes advantage of this awesome opportunity.”