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From Germany to Georgia: Veterans reconnect at the Museum of Aviation, share stories with visitors

They served at Hahn Air Base in Germany in 1971 and retired at Robins Air Force Base. After retirement, they became museum volunteers, reconnecting 45 years later.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — At the Warner Robins' Museum of Aviation, two veterans spent the day greeting visitors and sharing stories.

The rain didn't stop families from honoring those who served to protect us.

"It's been neat and it's really neat to see the veterans and being able to learn stuff personally from them," Lovelady said.

Derek Lovelady and his wife are from Griffin. They visited the museum by chance Friday, and didn't know they'd get to learn about "what planes can fly where or the amount of weight each can carry" from the veterans who maintained them overseas. Veterans were stationed in each hangar Friday afternoon and that's where the couple met retired Tech Sergeant John Kerns.

"Pick a spot on the map and it's probably a good bet I've been there, or over it or through it," Kerns said.

Kerns served in the United States Air Force in 1967 to 1992.

"It was going to be my vocation and my profession. I knew that. When I was wee little," Kerns said.

He served in the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and more.

"My partners and I we are still living history. We were there. We did it. We walked the talk. We talked the talk. And, it's an education process," Kerns said.

An education he is proud to share at the museum with an unexpected war buddy from the past.

"So, like most military guys started asking where you from, where you at. We had been talking about where we'd been stationed; and we both struck up on the word Hahn. He says, 'When were you there?' And we found out we were both there at the same time," Coulter said.

They went from Hahn Air Base in Germany to Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Now, the two are inseparable.

"We adopt a new family, and sometimes, that family is much much closer than the blood family that you left behind," Kerns said.

"I've got a dear friend here in John. I know I can call him in day or night and he would respond, and I thank the Lord for him; and I thank the Lord for Veterans Day that all these veterans are coming out and seeing us. We enjoy meeting them," Coulter said.

"Just appreciate their service that this group here today has given and then thank the ones that are serving today, because we need them and we appreciate the things they have done," Lovelady said.

So, on this Veterans Day they work to keep the history alive, together, with or without the rain.

Kerns retired at Robins Air Force Base and immediately became a volunteer at the Museum of Aviation. It's his 6th year there and he says he is very proud of what it represents.

"It sounds prideful to say, but I was really good at what I did and I enjoyed what I did. Sometimes patriotism is such a big word you don't know how to get your arms around it, but you've got your teammates. You've got your pilots that you are working for to support them. You've got your battle buddies. Whether you are an admin troop, whether you are a combat line grunt, you know, it's all part of the family," Kerns said.

Coulter has been with the museum for 10 years now. He served in the United State Air Force from 1968 to 1972 and was in Germany from 1971 to 1972. Coulter retired from civil service at Robins Air Force Base.

"A lot of people don't have to go into the military now, because we don't have the draft. I was drafted, not drafted into the Air Force. I was drafted by the Army, but I didn't want to go to the Army, so I volunteered for the Air Force first. A lot of people don't go into the military, so John and I tell our stories and the the story of the history. I love talking the technical par to the airplanes and telling people how the airplane really works," Coulter said.

This event was free and open to the public from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. The Museum of Aviation is located at 1942 Heritage Blvd, Robins AFB, GA 31098.

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