MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. — The Freedom Keeper, a 10-foot tall fiberglass replica of the Keeper of the Plains statue, was unveiled at McConnell Air Force Base July 23, 2021.
The Freedom Keeper was donated by the Friends of McConnell, a local support group dedicated to providing social and economic bonds between McConnell and its surrounding communities.
“As I began to notice more and more Keepers, I thought how nice it would be if McConnell AFB could have a Keeper to reflect the wonderful relationship that is ongoing between the base and its host communities of Wichita, Derby and all of Sedgwick County,” said Pat Gallagher, Friends of McConnell director.
The sculpture had been a work in progress since Fall 2020 and was designed by Staff Sgt. Trevor Bjelke, formerly 22nd Communications Squadron network infrastructure technician, and Vincent Fredericksen, 22nd Air Refueling Wing base architect.
“I came up with an original Keeper design and then collaborated with Mr. Fredericksen’s original, merging our two original ideas into one cohesive design,” said Bjelke.
Once the design was selected, Friends of McConnell and Together Wichita worked with local artist Angie Evans to begin the production of the Freedom Keeper.
The Freedom Keeper strengthens the ties between McConnell and its host communities while standing as an ongoing display of the relationship Airmen have with the people of Kansas.
“What makes today so special, so amazing, and frankly so humbling is that these incredible local communities, that represent the absolute best that America has to offer, have made a choice to donate and erect this monument to the Airmen and families of McConnell Air Force Base,” said Col. Nate Vogel, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander. “It’s not just any monument that is being donated, it is a monument that both symbolizes and directly represents the very identity of the local community. My friends, that is powerful, that is kindness, that is inclusiveness and that is community.”