Volunteers repainting Island Lake's Cobra helicopter
One of the more eye-catching landmarks in Island Lake, the AH-1 Cobra helicopter on display in Veterans Memorial Park will get a new coat of paint this summer.
Volunteers will even replace the colorful snake decal on the starboard side of the gunship, which saw combat during the Vietnam War, and re-stencil various military markings on its fuselage and tail.
"We're going to try and make it look like it did back in its heyday," said Mayor Charles Amrich, a Vietnam veteran who's leading the effort that began Wednesday morning.
Island Lake acquired the Cobra in 2002 from the U.S. Army. Before being decommissioned, it saw combat in Vietnam and flew training missions.
The helicopter sits on a concrete pad on the west side of Veterans Memorial Park, 432 W. State Road. Its mechanical and weapons systems have been deactivated, but rocket tubes still hang from its stub wings and a three-barreled cannon at the nose remains in place.
Since the Cobra's installation, its paint has faded from dark green to almost a light gray. The paint has peeled in spots, too, and mildew patches have developed -- but there's little rust.
"For 16 years being out here, it's weathered it pretty well," Amrich said.
Assisted by village public works employees, Amrich's small work crew began its task Wednesday morning. They sanded the aluminum and fiberglass fuselage, scraped away peeled paint and used a power-washing machine to blast away dirt and debris.
Team member Bob Carpenter called the work "a labor of love."
"A lot of our veterans served in Vietnam," said Carpenter, a part-time Island Lake resident who served in the U.S. Air Force in Japan and Taiwan in the 1960s. "(This work) recognizes the veterans for their service."
The crew expects to finish the sanding and scraping Thursday. Sometime after Independence Day, the Cobra will be covered by a protective tarp until it's painted in July.
Amrich said the Cobra is a monument to the members of all the U.S. armed forces. Refurbishing the helicopter, he said, "feels good."
Donations will cover the cost of the paint and other materials, Amrich said.
Decommissioned military aircraft, vehicles and weapons systems are on display throughout the suburbs.
Retired tanks are can be found in Wheeling, Arlington Heights, Gurnee and other towns. An M47 Patton tank and an F-84 jet stand guard outside the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 6791 in West Chicago.