The 2018 KU Vets Day 5K run, hosted by the KU Student Veterans of America and the Veterans Alumni Network, was held Sunday, Nov. 11. The 5K began and ended at Memorial Stadium, traveling through the KU campus past five war memorials.
The race included 451 participants, with 53 virtual runners from 17 states. The overall winner, Jacob Bull, finished in 17 minutes, 49 seconds.
This year’s run commemorated the centennial of the World War I armistice.
All proceeds from the Vets Day 5K support KU Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapter, the KU Veterans Alumni Network, and the Lt. Gen. William K. Jones Military-Affiliated Student Center.
A full list of race results is available here. Check out photos from this year’s run below. All photos may be downloaded for personal use.
The University of Kansas Student Veterans of America and the Veterans Alumni Network will host the Vets Day 5K at 9 a.m. Nov. 11 at the David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. The annual event honors our nation’s veterans and highlights the roles service members and veterans play at KU and in our communities.
This year’s run, which weaves through campus and passes the University’s five war memorials, commemorates the centennial of the Great War armistice, Nov. 11, 1918, which ended fighting between the Allies and Germany. Proceeds from the run support KU Veterans of America, the Veterans Alumni Network and the Lt. Gen. William K. Jones Military-Affiliated Student Center. For more information and to register, visit kuvetsday5k.com.
Veterans and community members are also invited to attend the Lawrence Veterans Day Parade, which begins at 11 a.m. on Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence. An opening ceremony, which includes an interfaith devotional by the Rev. Verdell Taylor, a military flyover and an Echo Taps sounding, will commence at 10:30 a.m. at 7th and Massachusetts streets. KU’s World War II Memorial Carillon will ring in conjunction with the community bell to mark the centennial celebration.
The parade will feature military vehicles, the Blue Knights, the American Legion and Patriot Guard Riders, as well as veterans representing all branches of service and a Gold Star float to honor service members killed in action. Special guests include veteran Eric Walther; Margaret Mahoney, World War II British Ally of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command; and Richard Schiefelbusch, a World War II veteran and distinguished professor emeritus of KU’s department of speech-language-hearing, who will serve as grand marshal. Dr. Schiefelbusch served in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a B-24 Liberator navigator and was held as a POW from May 14, 1943 to April 29, 1945. The Schiefelbusch Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic and the Schiefelbusch Life Span Institute at KU are named in his honor.
All veterans are encouraged to participate in the parade at no charge. For more information and to download an entry form, visit LawrenceVeteransDay.org or call 785-393-9099.
In the final minutes before the start of the 2017 Vets Day 5K, Nov. 12 at Memorial Stadium, 24-year Army veteran Scot Bird relished the joy of a rare visit to Mount Oread—“Iowa by birth,” he said. “KU by the grace of God”—and the pleasure he and his wife, 22-year Army veteran Mary Bird, would soon share in their leisurely run down Memorial Drive, Jayhawk Boulevard and Sunnyside Avenue.
“We’re not going for time,” Bird said. Holding up his phone and its camera, he added, “We’re going for this.”
The gray fall morning also brought reflective moods from the Birds, who live in Junction City, where Mary is a community volunteer and Scot works as the civilian transportation officer at nearby Fort Riley. Mary served in operation Desert Storm, Scot deployed to Iraq, and the spirit of Veterans Day weekend was very much on their minds.
“We both lost friends,” Mary Bird said. “It’s been going on for so long, it’s almost inevitable. So, yes, they are in our thoughts today.”
Generations of Jayhawks
As the runners, joggers, walkers, stroller-pushers and a few four-legged companions wound their way around campus—Dan Edidin won the race, in 18 minutes, 16.9 seconds, and Lucy Hardy won the women’s competition in 20:34.5—U.S. Air Force veteran John Forney raced with a rare advantage over the rest of the field: years of practicing and racing a similar 2-mile course around and atop Mount Oread while running cross-country at KU, from 1948 to ’50.
“This is in honor of coach Bill Easton,” said the jubilant Forney, c’51, who won the men’s 75-99 age group.
Forney, a third-generation Jayhawk who is now retired in Denver, was joined in the Vets Day 5K by his son, David, e’88, and grandson Sam, both of Charlottesville, Virginia. Cheering them on was Forney’s wife, Eleanor Kothe Hardy, c’57.
“When Grandpa called and said, ‘We’ve got to run this Vets Day 5K,’ we signed up immediately,” Sam recalled. “It’s not just my first visit to KU; it’s also my first time in Kansas, and we’re having a great time.”
High-five for the participants
Honoring KU ROTC’s centennial and hosted by KU Student Veterans of America and the Veterans Alumni Network, the Vets Day 5K attracted 391 registered participants, ranging in age from 7 to 88 and hailing from nine states and two countries (the U.S. and Thailand).
All participants received impressive medals, and age-group winners were awarded custom cooler cups as trophies. (A special shout-out to Kansas Alumni photographer Steve Puppe, j’98, winner of the men’s 40-44 age group.) And, a lucky few were also treated to a homestretch high-five from Ryker Butterworth, young son of racer Matt Butterworth, c’15, who served eight years as an Air Force crew chief.
Still riding a wave of euphoria after completing the 5K, Scot Bird explained another level of motivation driving him: He is a cancer survivor who finally forced himself to begin exercising again in February 2016, after months of recuperation following his intensive treatments. After starting with walks of little more than a few dozen yards, Bird rapidly progressed back to something resembling the fitness of his soldier days, and he is now a regular competitor at regional races of all distances.
“She’s really the runner,” Bird said of his wife, Mary, “and I was tired of sitting there watching her go out the door. So, I got up off the couch. I’m vertical because of her.”
On October 27th, 1951, downed pilot James J. McCabe ran “like an injured gazelle” past enemy lines to an approaching rescue copter in North Korea. After three failed pickup attempts, he grabbed the helicopter’s landing skiff and hung on for dear life as the chopper took off under a hailstorm of explosions.
For illustrator Tim McCabe, f’00, his grandfather’s rescue and evasion report read like a Hollywood movie.
“We just knew him as ‘Grandpa Mac.’ Not a World War II and Korean War fighter pilot. I wish I had asked him more about his experiences. But our family was lucky to have a copy of his bailout report that he kept years later.”
Tim decided to bring his grandfather’s narrative to life in the form of a graphic-novel inspired video. Working with his friend Fred O’Neill, a war historian, Tim was able to recreate the scenes using a combination of his grandfather’s testimony, historical research, and his own artistic training.
This month marks the 66th Anniversary of Captain James McCabe flying his F-51 Mustang on that fateful Korean War mission. The United States fought on behalf of the U.N. in what is sometimes referred to as “The Forgotten War.”
Tim McCabe, an artist for CardFool.com, dedicated the six-minute film to his own kids and relatives. “I realized I could do something more than just email a copy of Grandpa’s typewritten report to everyone. By bringing this story to life, I hope our family always remembers that he not only cared about us, but also cared about his country.” Watch Tim McCabe’s latest creation honoring his grandfather who served in the Korean War. McCabe’s art has appeared on our website before: in a video illustrating how he met his wife on campus, and in a fun piece about Jayhawk Jedi he prepared for Star Wars Day.
Randy Masten, assistant director of KU’s Office of Graduate Military Programs and retired Lieutenant Colonel, was honored for his service at a Sporting KC match on October 15. Masten’s career includes 22 years with the US Army, after which he returned to KU. He works with the Department of Defense to develop academic programs for military service members.
After arranging recognitions for nearly all military and veteran honorees at Sporting KC matches throughout the season, including KU alumnus Warren Corman, it was only appropriate for Colonel Masten, g’03, himself to be honored at the last game.
“The recognition itself was humbling and somewhat surreal to see my family on the big screens at SKC,” said Masten. “It was great to have my wife, Kathi, recognized as well for her service to our country as a military spouse. When I deployed, she took care of our home and the families of my soldiers. It is a very important and demanding volunteer job that often goes over looked. The recognition also gave us an opportunity to discuss our lives in the Army with our son, Kanak. I only served for three years after he joined our family, so he has limited memories of my military service.”
Watch the video that Sporting KC showed at the game below:
The first KU Cares Month of Service initiative will take place throughout the month of November. A portion of all KU Alumni Association dues will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund. Join, renew, or upgrade your membership to participate in this initiative! Jayhawks everywhere can also organize service projects and recruit volunteers to serve meals, help with yard work, build homes and more to help improve their communities.
The University of Kansas’ Office of Graduate Military Programs has announced that eight students have received the university’s Wounded Warrior Scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year. Recipients of the scholarships receive up to $10,000 per year and are renewable for up to four academic years.
The scholarships assist injured veterans and affected family members in meeting the financial challenges associated with pursuing a college degree. The many donations made to the KU Endowment to benefit the KU Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund make these scholarships possible.
This year’s Wounded Warrior Scholarship (WWS) recipients:
Joshua Blake received the KU Keener Foundation WWS. Blake is a native of Larned and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps days after the 9/11 attacks. He served four years as an infantryman, including two deployments to Iraq. In 2004, while serving on his second combat tour, Blake was wounded by an IED while on a dismounted patrol in Ramadi, for which he received the Purple Heart. Josh Blake and his wife, Lacey live in Baldwin City and have five children. He is currently a junior in architectural studies.
Luke Dercher is a KU WWS recipient. Dercher is a native of Bonner Springs and served in the U.S. Navy as a Seabee for five years, attaining the rank of E-5, second class petty officer. While in training as a Navy diver candidate, Dercher received injuries that resulted in him being medically discharged from the Navy. He subsequently returned to the Lawrence area to be close to family, rehabilitate from his injuries and attend KU. Dercher is a currently a junior in computer science and has already worked for the Navy, Garmin and NASA as a software engineer.
Arnold Dinh is a Vietnamese-American who grew up in Liberal. Dinh is the recipient of the Heart of America Patriot Foundation WWS and the Delbert Moore Family WWS. He served two combat tours of duty with the 1st Division, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines in Afghanistan as an infantryman and sniper team member. Following his second tour, Dinh was honorably discharged from the USMC but still suffers the physical and psychological injuries he sustained in war. Dinh is a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology and following graduation plans to attend dental school.
Jimmy Gentile is a native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and the recipient of a KU WWS. Gentile served with the 2ndBattalion, 4th Marines in Ramadi, Iraq, as part of the 31stMarine Expeditionary Unit. On April 6, 2004, during the Battle of Ramadi, Gentile was shot in the face by an AK-47 round that severed a carotid artery. He evacuated off the battlefield for lifesaving surgery in Iraq, then to Germany and eventually to Bethesda Naval Hospital. The combat wounds have resulted in 41 surgeries and caused him to speak openly about his injury and his faith. Gentile is a second-year graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in information technology. He and his wife, Megan, have four children and currently live in Lee’s Summit.
Timothy Hornik is the recipient of the Bill and Shanthi Eckert WWS at KU. Hornik is a native of Chicago, a retired U.S. Army captain and the CEO of Blind Not Alone LLC. In 2004, while serving in Iraq as an Air Defense Artillery platoon leader, he was shot in the head and consequently blinded. Despite his injuries, Hornik obtained a master’s degree in social work from KU in 2010 and is currently pursuing a doctorate in therapeutic science at the KU Medical Center. He plans to use his degree, along with his considerable social work case management experience, to assist and advocate for disabled veterans. Hornik, his wife, Cate, and their two daughters live in Lawrence.
Mackenzie Istook received the Heart of America Patriot Foundation WWS at KU. Istook is a third-generation Jayhawk, with her mother and two grandparents attending KU before her. She is a self-described “Army brat” and has lived in seven different states, three foreign countries and attended nine different K-12 schools. Istook’s stepfather, Sgt. First Class Jonathan Tessar, a Green Beret, was killed Oct. 31, 2005, by an IED, along with three other soldiers, on a mission southwest of Baghdad, Iraq. Her mother has since remarried, and her stepfather and two older siblings currently serve in the military. Istook is a junior at KU majoring in visual arts with a minor in business. She remains active in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and with her coursework.
Corey Leach is the recipient of the KAMO Adventures WWS and the Paul & Donna Peters WWS. Leach grew up in Olathe and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2011. While on a foot patrol in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, he stepped into an IED blast zone and suffered severe injuries to his neck, vocal cords, left eye, shoulders and left leg. After completing extensive rehabilitation, Leach was medically retired from the Army in 2014 and entered KU. He is majoring in exercise science and is determined to reach his goal of becoming a physical therapist and working with veterans and athletes.
Maria Santiago is originally from Puerto Rico and the recipient of a KU WWS, the Kansas Military Scholarship and KU Nontraditional Student Scholarship. Santiago served as a Marine in 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California. In June of 2008, Santiago deployed to Iraq when her daughter was 9 months old. Santiago served as a member of a female search team based out of Al-Taqaddum, Iraq. During her deployment, she witnessed and experienced the tragedies of the war across Iraq, and they left lasting scars. Following her honorable discharge from the USMC, Maria decided to attend KU where she is currently a pre-aerospace engineering student with a minor in Spanish. Santiago and her daughter Ashley, age 9, currently reside in Shawnee.
The Office of Graduate Military Programs established the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund in 2012 through KU Endowment. The first two scholarships were awarded for the 2013-2014 academic year.
“The ability to offer eight scholarships this year clearly demonstrates the dedication the university, its alumni and our local community to our military veterans,” said Randy Masten, the assistant director of Graduate Military Programs.
The scholarships honor the unique sacrifices that service members and their families make while securing our freedoms, according to Mike Denning, director of the Office of Graduate Military Programs.
“We are grateful to our donors who continue to invest in these extraordinary young men and women,” he said. “And we are proud of a university that continues to distinguish itself by its unparalleled support to our service members, veterans and their families.”
Photo, from left: Josh Blake, Mackenzie Istook, Corey Leach, Arnold Dinh, Jimmy Gentile, Tim Hornik, Maria Santiago and Luke Dercher.
The first KU Cares Month of Service initiative will take place throughout the month of November. Jayhawks everywhere can organize service projects and recruit volunteers to serve meals, help with yard work, build homes and more to help improve their communities. In addition, a portion of all KU Alumni Association dues paid in November will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund. Join, renew, or upgrade your membership to participate in this initiative!
Retired University Architect and former U.S. Navy Seabee Warren Corman, e’50, on Sunday was honored during a “Salute to Service” ceremony during Sporting Kansas City’s 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
Corman, 91, was among the combat construction engineers thrust in April 1945 into the Battle of Okinawa, the bloodiest battle of the Pacific campaign, and he has since carried the Seabees’ motto with him in every facet of his life’s work: “If it’s difficult, we do it immediately; if it’s impossible, we take several days.”
Only 18 at the time, with no wife or children waiting for him back home, Corman remained in Okinawa for another year after the end of the war. Upon his return, Corman hustled through his coursework with trademark energy, completing five years of coursework in four and graduating in 1950 with a degree in architectural engineering.
Corman’s early career
Shortly after joining the state architect’s office, Corman assisted with the design and construction of Allen Field House. He worked for the state of Kansas until 1957, when he was lured to Delaware when DuPont promised him a big boost in pay and lifetime employment; a depression hit the East Coast six months later, DuPont closed its architecture office, and Corman then spent two years with a small Wilmington firm.
Once he and his family made their way back to Kansas, Corman spent seven years with two Topeka firms before joining the Board of Regents in 1966.
A return to KU
Chancellor Robert E. Hemenway in 1997 convinced Corman to return to his alma mater as University architect and special assistant to the chancellor, posts he held until his December 2010 retirement—an unlikely event that, in fact, did not last long, as Corman joined the School of Engineering as the dean’s construction adviser, a position he held until 2015.
Now fully retired, Corman maintains close ties with the University as an executive committee member serving the Association’s KU Veterans Alumni Network.
Salute to service
Veterans Network secretary Randy Masten, g’03, a retired Army officer and assistant director of KU’s Office of Graduate Military Programs, nominated Corman for the Sporting KC honor, and was on hand to cheer both his beloved Sporting KC as well as a distinguished Jayhawk who has done so much in service to his alma mater, his home state and his country.
“Randy goes to all the games, and he told me afterward that when I was introduced as a veteran of the last battle of World War II, a guy sitting next to him said, ‘That guy must be lying about his age. He can’t be World War II. He must be Vietnam.’”
Corman chuckles as he shares the anecdote—which he usually does when telling his stories—but he also fights back a sudden well of emotion. For more than 40 years, Corman remained silent about his Okinawa experiences even with his family; now, though still blessed with a nimble step and youthful spirit, Corman knows that he is among the last survivors of his great and brave generation, and so he accepts salutes such as the one he received Sunday in memory of all of his combat comrades.
“They were really so nice,” Corman says of staff and fans at the Sporting KC match, as he regains his voice after a brief moment of reflection. “Everything about the day was nice. Really a wonderful honor.”
Warren Corman was the subject of a cover feature in Kansas Alumni magazine, issue no. 5, 2011, as he closed the books on his long career. You can read the full article online. Photos by Steve Puppe.
Find out what fellow Jayhawks are up to in our biweekly edition of “In the News.” It’s like an online version of Class Notes.If you’ve seen Jayhawks in the news who should be featured, email us at email@example.com.
Katie Barnett runs an animal law practice out of her home outside of Lawrence. The lifelong animal lover was inspired to attend law school after an incident with the police and a pit bull ban in Shawnee. She graduated from the KU School of Law in 2011. Read full article.
New York native and KU alumnus Joe Kieltyka, d’69, is bringing New York style pizza to Lawrence. His restaurant, Stonewall Restaurant and Pizzeria, will feature pizza, fried chicken, and other sandwiches and salads. Read full article.
Without the help of Topeka West High School teacher Corey Wilson, Brian Hanni might not be “The Voice of the Kansas Jayhawks.” Back in the mid-1990s when Hanni was a student at Topeka West, he wanted to explore sports broadcasting, but the school’s TV program didn’t offer the option. Wilson “moved mountains” to help Hanni learn how to call plays. Read full article.
The Prairie Band, LLC Board of Directors are proud to announce Jacob “Tug” Wamego will serve as the company’s President and CEO, a position he has held in the interim since May. Wamego, l’14, is a licensed attorney in the state of Kansas and Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. Read full article.
A tradition is building at the University of Kansas. A group of student veterans — many of whom are VFW members — are using their smarts, logistical know-how and passion for running to help their fellow vets. The run in November 2016 was the “biggest one so far,” according to the event’s co-director Randy Masten, g’03, assistant director of KU’s Office of Graduate Military Programs. Read full article.
Max Falkenstien started his radio broadcasting career in 1946. The first game he ever called was Kansas versus Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) in the NCAA tournament that year. His career spanned 60 years, and he retired in 2006. Read full article.
With a diverse background of academic and professional work in interiors, architecture, and planning, Christina Hoxie, g’08, g’09, looks for opportunities to develop richly interdisciplinary teams and collaborate with the people of each community to design places, strategize programs and create policies that will help to fulfill their shared vision. Read full article.
Kip Reiserer has no ties to World War II, but the 28-year-old Lakeview resident is obsessed with the topic. Reiserer, j’10, is the creator of wildly popular Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages devoted to World War II history, facts and photos. Read full article.
Brian McClendon, e’86, is leaving Uber after two years to return to his home state of Kansas. McClendon previously worked for Google for more than a decade and was instrumental in creating Google Earth. He indicated that he wants to explore politics. Read full article.
One of the University of Kansas’ more well-known — and most tech savvy — alumni is moving back to Lawrence from the Silicon Valley area, and it appears he may be eyeing a political run. Here’s another article about Brian McClendon’s pending return to Kansas. Read full article.
Ten months after learning about the sly and sweet story of a set of twins being named in his honor, Kansas senior Landen Lucas got the chance to meet them Saturday in the lobby of the team hotel before the Jayhawks’ practice. The twins’ parents are Ian, d’11, and Meredith Sadler, who live in Tulsa. Read full article.
The law firm of Hampton & Royce announced its elevation of Lee Legleiter from associate attorney to a member of the firm. Legleiter received his juris doctorate from the KU School of Law in 2011 and has practiced with the firm since 2011. Read full article.
Beau Jackson has been promoted to partner at Adduci, Mastriani & Schaumberg, LLP, effective January 1. He graduated from the KU School of Law in 2009. Read full article.
Have you heard news about a fellow Jayhawk, or maybe you have news of your own to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out our Class Notes form to be included in a future issue of Kansas Alumni magazine. Read more about newsworthy Jayhawks.
More than 100 faculty, staff, students and guests attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony March 9 at the newly named Lt. Gen. William K. Jones Military-Affiliated Student Center at the University of Kansas.
The nearly 3,000-square-foot center, located in Summerfield Hall, honors Jones, c’37, a highly decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran whose 33-year military career included tours in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
“We’re honored to name the center after a distinguished KU alumnus and Marine Corps veteran who served for more than three decades,” said Director April Blackmon Strange. “This center provides us with an inviting space to better serve our growing number of military-affiliated students—from the first time they express interest in KU to Commencement and beyond.”
More than 1,100 military-affiliated students on campus have access to the center, which includes a lounge with computers and televisions; quiet spaces for tutoring and studying; meeting and conference rooms; free printing and copying services; and assistance from an onsite Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs representative.
For the past two years, the University has been named a top-10 school for veterans by the Military Times and has also been recognized by other organizations that rate schools on their military student services.
Several of Jones’ family members attended the ceremony, including his son, William K. Jones Jr., who also served in the Marine Corps; his daughter; his nephew, Jim Jones Jr., a retired Marine Corps general and the former U.S. National Security Adviser for President Barack Obama; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“We’re all really excited about this honor to my father,” said Bill Jones Jr., c’81. “He loved KU, and he loved being a Kansas Jayhawk.”
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little praised Jayhawks for their persistence in making the center a reality for military-affiliated students and noted its critical role in the University’s mission to build strong, healthy communities.
“This center represents another commitment to our veterans and military-affiliated students,” she said. “I am proud that our University recognizes and addresses the unique needs of this population of students.”
JR Cadwallader, a Marine Corps veteran and president of KU’s Student Veterans of America, noted that the organization’s new home on campus was “well worth the wait.”
“The Lt. Gen. William K Jones Military-Affiliated Center is here to leverage the unique strengths and talents we bring to the University of Kansas,” he said. “We now have a center to help us create better students, a better campus, better communities and a better nation for the next generation of successful veterans.”
More than 50 years after his first mission as a flight navigator in the U.S. Air Force, Lt. Col. Jim Williams boarded another flight, this time as an honored guest. The 23-year veteran was one of 22 retired military servicemen selected for the Nov. 10 Honor Flight from Kansas City to Washington, D.C.—an opportunity, Williams says, “I could not have done on my own.”
The Honor Flight Network honors America’s veterans with an all-expense-paid trip to our nation’s capital to visit the war memorials. The program was conceived in 2005, and since then, more than 159,000 veterans have made the trip. Williams, b’60, applied at the urging of his niece.
“I don’t know how I got to go on this, because they have about 90 people on the waiting list,” he says. “I suspect they saw some of the diseases I’m dealing with and figured that should bump me up a little bit on the priority list. That, and maybe my age.” Williams, who is undergoing treatment for Type 2 diabetes and multiple myeloma, turns 80 in January.
Williams joined the Air Force and applied for navigator training in November 1960, just months after graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in business. “My theory was, if I was gonna have to go to war, I was gonna ride,” he recalls. “I wasn’t gonna walk.”
Williams began his career as a navigator on the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II and spent more than five years and 3,000 hours on the cargo plane, which was affectionately dubbed “Old Shaky.” From 1963 to ’72, during the Vietnam War, Williams and his crew carried out several missions over Southeast Asia in Lockheed C-141 Starlifters and AC-130 gunships.
“I flew 155 combat missions and accumulated 750 combat flying hours in the AC-130 gunship,” Williams says, recalling a yearlong deployment. “I felt very fortunate, as there were 40 men who didn’t come home when I was assigned over there. We started with 18 airplanes, and we had four airplanes shot down and several more that were shot up bad enough that they didn’t really fly again.”
Williams retired from the Air Force in 1984, but his passion for flying kept him in the air: He was a flight test engineer for the B-2 bomber project at Northrup Grumman and also worked at Hughes Aircraft Company, where he retired in 1997.
Given his long history with the Air Force, it was only fitting that Williams was one of three veterans on his Honor Flight selected to place the wreath at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. “It was emotional, as well as gratifying, to be able to do that,” he says. “It was an awesome event. To me, it was one of the highlights of the trip.”
Another highlight, Williams explains, was the warm welcome he received at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where nearly 150 military personnel were lined up to shake hands with the veterans and thank them for their service. Another reception line of schoolchildren awaited the veterans at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
“They all wanted to shake your hand, and they were on both sides of the sidewalk,” Williams says. “I wound up with my left hand out the left side and my right hand out the right side of the wheelchair as my guardian took me down the line.”
Although Williams wasn’t able to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial due to a special event, his tour included stops at the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery for the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
“It was just really an inspiring trip,” Williams says. “We had a lot of fun, shared a lot of stories. It was just a phenomenal trip.”