SAN ANTONIO – Brooks City Base has completed a $560,000 rehabilitation project on the Sidney Brooks gravesite and memorial. Sidney Brooks is the namesake of the former U.S. Air Force Base and was among the first U.S. Army aviators in World War I.

San Antonio City Councilwoman Rebecca J. Viagran, representatives from the South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and other local civic and business leaders joined Brooks City Base Chairman Manuel Villa and President & CEO Leo Gomez for a ribbon cutting to celebrate the completed project. The rehabilitated space provides visitors easier access to the memorial and creates an open air gathering place with seating and lighting that will complement future work on Hangar 9. Together, the gravesite, memorial and adjacent Hangar 9 building comprise the historic heart of the almost 100 year-old campus.

The former Brooks Heritage Foundation contributed $6,000 to clean and restore the headstone and gravesite and the City of San Antonio also contributed $250,000 from the 2012-2017 bond program. Brooks City Base funded the remainder of the project through its capital funds.

“Today is an example of how we can honor and celebrate our history and carry it with us into the future,” said Councilwoman Viagran. “By preserving the memorial and gravesite, making it accessible to all of our citizens and visitors, and connecting it to the new developments here at Brooks, we do exactly that. Once the Hangar 9 building is restored and reopened, this will be one of the most sought after event venues in the city and a catalyst for a brighter future for the Southside.”

The U.S. Air Force left Brooks City Base officially in 2011 and the property is being redeveloped into a mixed-use community with multi-family residential housing, big and small businesses, hotels, schools and retail. The leadership of Brooks is committed to preserving and honoring the history and the significant work that was done on the campus.

“Although Brooks City Base is transforming from the military base that it once was into this thriving community that you see today, we take the responsibility of preserving our history very seriously,” said Brooks City Base Chairman Manuel Villa. “We hold the greatest respect for Sidney Brooks and his comrades in World War I and we hope that the effort to preserve and celebrate this history will give people reason to return here, to reflect and remember, and also to create new memories with their friends and family.”

Sidney J. Brooks, Jr. was born in 1895 and grew up in the King William District of San Antonio. He worked as a reporter for the San Antonio Light newspaper and was engaged to Lottie Jean Steele of Terrell Hills when he died on November 13, 1917 in a tragic accident while making his final solo training flight near San Antonio. Although he never saw combat, he was the first San Antonio native military aviator to die during the country’s involvement in World War I.

Earlier in the summer of 1917, the Chamber of Commerce helped secure 873 acres of land so that the Army could establish another aviation training facility in San Antonio to support the work started at Kelly Field. Originally named Kelly Field No. 5, the Chamber of Commerce was granted permission by The Department of the Army to rename the property in honor of Sidney Brooks after his death. The name was formally changed to Brooks Field on February 4, 1918.

On November 11, 1993 Sidney Brooks was reinterred at Brooks Air Force Base. His remains and his original headstone were moved from the Alamo Masonic Cemetery to a commemorative garden and memorial area that had been dedicated six years earlier as part of the 70th anniversary of Brooks Field. His gravesite at Brooks is believed to be the only instance in the U.S. military where the grave of an installation’s namesake is on the property.