NEWNAN – Model airplanes are flying high at the Coweta Veterans Club.
Richard Gaysowski, a local veteran in Sharpsburg, hung approximately 20 planes from the club’s ceiling to honor his friend, James Newport, another veteran, who passed away in September 2016 and collected the models.
The models include aircraft from World War II, the Korean War and recent conflicts.
“This was a perfect place to park them for a couple of years,” Gaysowski said. “I promised his mother and family that I’d get his stuff out on display.”
Newport was from Texas and met Gaysowski through their shared interest in military memorabilia.
Gaysowski said he collects ordinances and owns some armored vehicles. Newport also owned armored vehicles and kept a collection of model vehicles.
Carolyn Vecchio, Newport’s mother, said when her son returned from his deployment, his hands trembled and he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
While Newport was at Fort Hood, he was tasked with making models as a part of his post-deployment recovery. The model-making helped him with the tremors in his hands, according to Vecchio.
“There are so many veterans that are stuck and the models help them with steadiness,” she said. “It helped them steady the tremors.”
Vecchio said the planes and memorabilia were kept in a workshop that belonged to her son. The family cleared the workshop out in December 2019.
Gaysowski flew to Dallas on Dec. 7 to retrieve the models after his promise to the family three years ago.
He loaded the models into a rented truck and returned to Georgia. “I drove 18 hours from Texas, non-stop,” Gaysowski said.
Gaysowski said he hopes the model planes will bring more people to the CVC. The club doesn’t have many veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan.
The planes could be the start of the CVC serving as a museum of artifacts from local veterans, said Gaysowski, rather than just a social center for veterans.
Gaysowski said he’d like older veterans, if they flew or worked on the aircraft, to use the planes as a way to tell stories of their time serving to their children or grandchildren.
“Hopefully they can get more people in here,” he said.
To make the CVC more like a museum, Gaysowski recommended other veterans donate their old memorabilia from their time serving.
“I’d encourage a lot of veterans around here to go ahead and see what they have that’s sitting in a duffle bag,” he said. “One uniform is OK, but when you have a World War II uniform, a Korean War Uniform and an Iraq War uniform, that’s when it really stands out.”
Ryan Pulley, junior vice commander at VFW Post 2667, coordinated the display of the planes with Gaysowski.
“Now you come in and you see planes and we have all these ideas of making dogfights out of them,” he said. “When you’re looking at all the stuff we have on the walls, it brings our individual history between every veteran and family member together.”
“The more stuff we do and the more reinvigoration of the club, the better it’ll get and the bigger it’ll get and we’ll starting bringing these Desert Storm and Global War on Terrorism guys,” Pulley added. “They need a place.”
At 33, Pulley is one of the youngest members of the VFW. He said he wishes the younger veterans would join the CVC and discover the same support that he did.
Pulley said he thought he would make a career out of military service but was medically discharged.
In the two years after leaving the military, Pulley said he was in a dark place and a little aimless until he joined the VFW.
“I mean it when I say this place saved my life,” he said.
“I feel more comfortable here than I do anywhere else because we have shared experiences. They aren’t necessarily the same, but they’re in the same realm,” Pulley added. “You hear all these stories and talking to some of the Vietnam guys, when they’re talking about being in the bush, sound really similar to things that I did in Iraq in the sand.”
The Coweta Veterans Club is located at 130 Veterans Club Road in Newnan, off of Highway 29 North.