David Vargo of Abilene seemed too weary to feel elated Monday afternoon at the Brownwood airport. He seemed too weary to want to celebrate his 60th birthday — also Monday.
    Seven months after starting the job, working off-and-on as weather permitted, Vargo and other Abilene volunteers have completed the job of repainting the two Air Force fighter jets parked on static display near the Brownwood airport. Late Monday afternoon, Vargo and Mike Smith, owner of Sign and Crane Service of Brownwood, finished putting the decals on the tails of the two jets, and airport employees helped Smith and Vargo tidy up the work site.
    The job was finished, Vargo said.
    Vargo spent most of Monday at the airport, determined to finally finish the job. Vargo started off with another Abilene volunteer, Army veteran Tom Stone, helping him put the finishing paint on the jets’ tails. Vargo reached the top sections of the tails thanks to the lifts he received from Smith's crane.
    Stone had to leave before the day was over, and Smith climbed up on the tails and helped Vargo finish installing the decals.
    “If the Air Force is happy and Brownwood gets to keep their planes, then we’re happy,” Vargo said. “That’s the big thing. That’s the bottom line.”
    Vargo and the other volunteers — many of them members of the 12th Armored Division Museum in Abilene — saved the City of Brownwood more than $40,000 by stepping up to repaint the two jets.
    The Air Force earlier notified the city that the jets’ weathered, faded paint did not meet Air Force standards. It would have cost the city more than $40,000 to hire professional aircraft painters. The Abilene volunteers said they’d do the job if the city would pay their travel and material expenses.
    Volunteers started the job in September, and a total of about 20 participated at various times as volunteers made numerous trips to Brownwood.
    “I think it’s beautiful. Gorgeous,  and I’m glad they’re through,” said airport employee Jenetta Toepich as she stood near the F-4 and admired its gleaming new camouflaged paint job.   
    Toepich said the airport has had some visitors who said they’d learned about the jets being repainted from media reports and stopped by to see the old warriors.
    Brownwood City Manager Emily Crawford said the city is proud of the work the museum volunteers provided and is excited about showing off the new paint job.