Tulsa Air National Guard Base, Okla. --
Looking around our everyday environment, there may be some type of artwork displayed, with us never really knowing who created it or why. Whether it’s a digital or traditional hand painted skill-set utilized, most art seems to display a sort of pride, with the artist sharing a hidden piece of themselves that can last well into the future, sparking the same emotion as the day it was created.
Utilizing those traditional skill-sets almost 30 years ago, Ret. Master Sgt. Ray Parker created several works of art that have stood the test of time and can still be presently viewed around the 138th Fighter Wing.
At the time, Parker was a Staff Sgt. and a maintenance crew chief when he took on the unofficial title of Wing artist and hand painted all the lettering and numbers on the A-7 aircraft, with unit pride and the support of his co-workers, driving his artistic talents. Some of Parker's artwork however, have not stood the test of time due to the transition from the bygone A-7 Corsair II to the more modern F-16 aircraft that we still fly today, leaving his artwork to a memory or an old photograph to reflect on those long hours spent with nothing more than a couple colors and paint brush.
“Makes me proud to know that I hand painted all the lettering and numbers on all our A-7’s,” said Parker. “Painting is the same as working on a jet, you can’t do it without your co-workers, everyone compliments each other.”
Parker’s skill of painting letters and numbers were put to the extreme when he was asked to brush a sign in bold white lettering that reads “Oklahoma Air National Guard” that is still visible today on the west side of the Main Hangar. The massive sign came with challenges Parker would have to overcome to complete, with the most important being, gathering wood large enough to be viewed at a good distance and a location to paint the individual sections. Combating these challenges, Parker decided to create his sign on 12 sheets of 4-by-8 foot Medium Density Overlay, an exterior-grade plywood that’s made to withstand the outdoor elements and chose to paint them by individual sections in his home garage. With a good plan of attack underway, Parker began his biggest project to date and completed painting the individual boards and lettering in under a week. Once all the individual sign pieces were installed, Parker's accomplishment would span an astonishing distance of 96 feet, and would be highly visible to all incoming and outgoing aircraft for years to come.
“The pride of my unit is why I painted and I enjoyed it,” said Parker. “I am honored to be part of the 138th history.”
The iconic sign Ray Parker hand painted many years ago still represents the pride of the 138th Fighter Wing and the mission we support, for as long as the “Oklahoma Air National Guard” sign stands, it will always represent “The Tulsa Standard”.