A Santa Monica resident is helping a piece of history travel cross-country as a moving tribute to a group of WWII pilots, including his father.

Santa Monica resident Christopher Wilkinson is not a veteran but his father, who died in 1994, flew in the 384th Bomb Group during WWII.

Wilkinson wanted to give back to the men who served the country and he became involved in the project to ship a piece of a B-17 plane around the country allowing the now dispersed veterans to provide their signatures before the wing panel is ultimately displaced at the Hill Aerospace Museum Near Hill Air Force Base at Salt Lake City, Utah.

Volunteer members of the organization, including children of the veterans, have been moving the tribute around the country for the past six years after securing the part as a donation from a California based restorer.

Wilkinson said he has gathered information from military resources and museums and started off with 150 names of veterans who served under 384th Bomb Group in WWII. He started shipping the wing panel from veteran to veteran asking for their signature and if they had any information on fellow soldiers.

Wilkinson makes it clear to the veterans and their families that the purpose is to recognize the legacy and sacrifice of all the members of the bomb group.

“The project has grown and taken off on its own wings beyond my original contributions to be embraced by the members and veterans of the 384th Bomb Group,” said Wilkinson. “I am very grateful to everyone, but especially to the veterans and their families.”

The project relies on the efforts of volunteers for the simple fact of transporting the panel from one veteran to the next.

Volunteers have shipped the panel across the U.S. about six times already, as far east as New Hampshire, south to Florida, Michigan, Texas, Arizona and to Washington and many states in between.

Veterans across the nation host a party and celebrate with family as each veteran gets to sign and hang on to the wing panel for a week.

The 384th Bombardment Group was activated on December 1, 1942 in Idaho. Between the years of 1943 and 1945 they flew 316 missions, dropped 22,415 tons of bombs on targets in Germany, France, Poland, and many more becoming one of the most heavily decorated Air Force Groups during WWII. Unfortunately the group lost 159 B-17s and 1,625 men were killed.

Of the 4,300 or so combat crew who served in the 384th Bomb Group, only a few hundred are probably still alive. Over 135 WWII veterans of the 384th Bombardment Group have signed the B-17 wing panel.

Any person who served in the 384th Bomb Group during the years of 1943 to 1946 is encouraged to sign the panel.

“I am truly thankful for the people who have donated their time and financial support, physically transporting the B-17 wing panel themselves to the veterans,” said Wilkinson. “The volunteers have made it possible for the project to be shipped to veterans in California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Texas.”

The wing panel just left Santa Monica, last week to be shipped to the next volunteer in Nebraska who will carry the panel in the back of his car and have the next veteran sign the panel and relive the memories of serving the country.

For more information, visit http://384thbgveteranssigningproject.blogspot.com or email christopherwilkinson99@gmail.com.

By Marina Andalon