RUSSELL — Like many people in Russell and other communities, Perry Ramsey displays an American flag from his porch on Memorial Day. But Ramsey wanted to do more to show his appreciation for those who sacrificed for their country.
Ramsey has built and flown radio-controlled airplanes since he was 12, and about six years ago, he began displaying his military models on his lawn on Memorial Day. On Monday, he added a new piece to his display — a 12-foot-long replica of the USS Missouri.
Commissioned during World War II, the Missouri fought in in the Pacific Theater, including the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. It fought in the Korean War and was modernized and reactivated in 1984, and provided fire support during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The Missouri was decommissioned in 1992 and is now a museum at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Ramsey is modeling his ship how it appeared at the historical event it is best known for.
“I always liked the Missouri because it was the ship the Japanese surrendered on. You always hear about ‘Mighty Mo,’ ” he said, referring to the ship’s nickname.
The ship is still in the works, but Ramsey wanted to include it in the display in his yard this year. The fiberglass hull arrived in January, after he purchased it from an RC builder in Florida who didn’t have time to finish the project.
“That’s how short a time span I’ve had to put this thing together,” Ramsey said Monday.
Since then, he’s repainted the hull, constructed the superstructure and installed the guns, including small plastic ones that friends Heath Dinkel, La Crosse, and Jay Scott, Olmitz, created for him on 3D printers.
When his USS Missouri is complete, it will include turning radar dishes and gun turrets that can turn and fire, all by remote control, Ramsey said. He estimated it will take another three months of work to finish.
Monday, it sat as the centerpiece among his collection of radio-controlled planes that includes a P-61 Black Widow, a P-51 Mustang, a Navy Corsair and an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane.
He’s also got a WWII-era B-17 bomber “Flying Fortress” that he’s refurbishing. It crashed and its owner was going to destroy it, but Ramsey talked him into letting him have it. When it’s complete, he’ll paint it to replicate the Memphis Belle, one of the first B-17s to complete 25 combat missions, inspiring the 1990 film.
Each branch of the military is represented from World War II to modern warfare.
As Ramsey set his display in his yard Monday, cars slowed and more than one person yelled to him “That’s awesome!”
Mike Smith, Russell, a U.S. Air Force veteran, returned after driving by to get pictures.
“It makes me feel good that somebody takes the time to do something like this,” Smith said.
Smith mentioned his favorite aircraft is the A-10 Warthog, a single-seat jet used to support ground troops in Desert Storm as well as Afghanistan and Iraq.
As soon as he heard that, Ramsey bounded off to his garage, returning moments later with an A-10 to add to his display.
Ramsey said he’s done all this just to show his appreciation for those who serve in military. He’s not a veteran himself, however. He said he wanted to sign up during the Vietnam War, but his father, a WWII veteran, talked him out of it, telling Ramsey he didn’t want to see what he himself had seen in war.
“Out of respect for him, I didn’t,” he said.
“I don’t advertise it, because it’s not about me,” he said of his display.
“It just hit me one day, anybody can buy a flag at Walmart and hang it out, but I got all this stuff in my garage. Why not do something different?”
Many of the veterans who have come by for a look over the years have expressed their appreciation, he said, taking pictures and sharing stories.
One of those was Mickey Zorn, wife of Ramsey’s employer, Mark Zorn, at Precision Collision in Russell. A Navy veteran, she was a jet mechanic and has been commander of the Russell VFW and helps organize the community’s Freedom Fest Independence Day celebration. She was eager to see Ramsey’s replica of the Missouri after he brought his plans for the project to work.
Zorn said she and Ramsey are working with the Russell city manager to plan a debut of his Missouri on the water at the city golf course.
“He’ll have a slew of people out there, because as far as active VFW members, the Navy outnumbers in Russell,” Zorn said.
Zorn got choked up when talking about what it means for her and other veterans to see Ramsey’s work.
“It’s just neat,” she said, pausing to compose herself, “to have someone show that much appreciation.”