DSC_0163SAN ANTONIO – Brooks City Base is beginning work to restore and rehabilitate the historic heart of the campus, the Sidney Brooks gravesite and memorial and the adjacent Hangar 9 building, beginning this month with a $560,000 rehabilitation of the Brooks gravesite. Sidney Brooks is the namesake of the almost 100 year-old former U.S. Air Force Base and was among the first  U.S. Amy aviators in World War I. Work on the gravesite area will provide visitors easier access to the memorial and will create an open air gathering place with seating and lighting that will complement future work on Hangar 9. Construction on the gravesite is expected to be complete in April and work on Hangar 9 will begin later this year.

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. The balance of funds will come from  Brooks City Base capital funds.

The U.S. Air Force left Brooks City Base officially in 2011 and the property is being redeveloped into a thriving mixed-use community. The leadership of Brooks is committed to preserving and honoring the history and the significant work that was done on the campus. “This space is special not just to Brooks and to San Antonio, but really to the entire United States because of its significance with World War I,” said Brooks City Base President & CEO Leo Gomez. “We hope that the investment we are making as a community in the gravesite and in the Hangar 9 building 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.

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