LIMESTONE, Maine — For more than five decades the former Loring Air Force Base was a city unto itself with a population close to 10,000 and its own hospital, stores, recreational facilities and power generators.
Now, 18 years after the last KC-135 refueling jet took off from the milelong flight line, some of those who once called the base home think it’s high time to get together again.
Loring Reunion 2012 Aug. 24-26 is open to “All Loring veterans, civilians, friends and military brats,” according to Cuppy Johndro, event co-chairwoman. “Anyone who ever served, worked, was affiliated or is just interested in the base is welcome.”
The August reunion marks the first time since the base closed in 1994 a gathering has been planned, according to Johndro who was stationed at the base from 1987-1990.
Her husband, Terry Johndro, also served at Loring from 1987 to 1994.
Loring was a Strategic Air Command military base and crucial to the country’s defense due to its proximity to the European continent.
Over the years bombers, fighters and supply planes came and went through Loring in support of the country’s actions throughout the Cold War era, the Vietnam War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
In 1991 Loring was among six strategic air bases slated for closure by the Secretary of Defense.
“A lot of people have been asking about a reunion over the years,” Johndro said. “We figured it was time since a lot of the old buildings have come down.”
To date there is no formal schedule of reunion events except for a dinner and dance Saturday night, Aug. 25, and a BBQ lunch the next day.
Preregistration is required for the dinner dance, catered by Amato’s in Presque Isle, to provide organizers with an accurate head-count.
“We have some other events and things in the works,” Johndro said. “We will be announcing them as they are confirmed.”
The Loring Military Heritage Center will be open for visitors along with the flight line, weapons storage area and hangers.
“A lot of the areas the police and security used to shoo you away from will be open,” Johndro said.
So far Johndro said she has received registrations from former Loring personnel now in Colorado, Texas, South Carolina, Ohio, Missouri, Canada and around New England.
With the closing of Loring, the surrounding area lost not only the 10,000 people stationed there, but the additional 10,000 civilians with jobs supported by the base.
“That had a huge economic impact,” Johndro said. “It was like a boomtown going bust.”
Beyond economics, she said, were the personal connections at Loring.
“It was really a family-oriented base,” she said. “Everyone watched out for each other and whenever someone was deployed we watched out for the families left on the base.”
In nearly two decades Johndro said a lot has been lost on the base and those who have not been back for a number of years may be surprised by what is gone.
“There is not a lot to see that you used to see,” she said. “But there is still that connection we have to the place and to each other and that’s why we want to have this reunion.”
The Loring Reunion 2012 committee has set up an online registration form in addition to a presence on Facebook.
For information Johndro said she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 207-551-3439.