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Fighter jet to get makeover

For those Marshalltown drivers that frequent South 6th Street, a conspicuous F4 Phantom fighter jet painted in camouflage has become part of the trip to work or home.

That jet has been under the care of local Iraq War veteran and F4 Project Director Jeff Heiden for the last 23 years, and is set for a cleaning and re-painting this week.

“The whole idea was to bring something here to honor the Marshalltown veterans,” Heiden said of the jet’s arrival in 1993.

The Phantom was donated as a museum piece by the National Museum of the United States Air Force, he added. It has not seen a paint job since it moved to its current home outside the American Legion Golf Course and Lounge, and Heiden plans to change that.

“It’s important that we keep the paint looking nice,” the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Post #46 member said. “It’ll be the same color and same design, but it will look much better.”

Right now, cleaning and prep for the paint job is scheduled for Monday. Weather permitting, painting will occur Tuesday with Wednesday if the weather doesn’t hold.

The jet is currently colored a mottled brown and green color, the same coloration it had when it saw combat over North Vietnam. With paint chipping, moss and a general fading affecting the jet, Heiden put together a team to give the Phantom a makeover.

“Strand’s has partnered with PPG Pittsburgh Paints to donate all of the coatings for the aircraft,” said U.S. Navy veteran Carter Strand of Strand’s Inc. in Marshalltown. “We’re using industrial epoxies and urethanes, so this coating system should last a very long time.”

Garry Brandenburg, Experimental Aircraft Association member and Vietnam War veteran who inspected the same type of jet in the 1960s will be in charge of prepping the Phantom for it’s new paint and gloss.

Finally, veteran John Worden of auto body shop John Worden Garage in Green Mountain will give the jet a professional paint job.

“It will look nice and sharp,” Heiden said. “We are asking people or businesses if they would care to donate.”

The paint job itself is not donated, and Heiden said he’s looking to raise $3,000 to pay for the painting and continue upkeep.

“The money is going to the paint, as well as maintenance, repairs and lighting,” Heiden said.

Strand said he is happy to donate paint for the Phantom.

“Helping with this project is not a burden, it’s an honor,” he said. “This is a great way to give back to the community that supports our business while we thank our veterans for their service.”

To donate to the project, send checks to American Legion Post #46, P.O. Box 157 Marshalltown, Iowa and mark “donation” for F4 Phantom jet.

Heiden said many Marshalltown residents see the jet on a daily basis and that it holds nostalgic value as a part of the town’s culture.

“A lot of people grew up with the plane,” he said. “It’s not just for Marshalltown, it’s not just for the (U.S.) Air Force branch, it’s for all veterans of Iowa.”