Last month I had the privilege to attend a luncheon of the South Texas Chapter of the Friends of the American Fighter Aces Association at the invitation of my long time friend, Chris Mann.
Chris, a fighter pilot enthusiast, is a member of the group. He, Pleasanton High School senior Ryan Tudyk (also a member) and I met at the Petroleum Club in San Antonio.
The room was filled with veterans of all ages, but most were well seasoned men with a multitude of experience, service and stories.
Colonel Ed Garland (USAF Ret) and president of the group made each guest feel welcomed.
The guest speaker, CMSGT Juliet Gudgel, is the Command Chief Master Sergeant, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.
She spoke about the future of the Air Force – specifically on recruiting and keeping pilots. So many are leaving the service to fly commercial. “We want to keep them in the grey tails,” she said. There are incentives being offered to keep the best fighter pilots active. To hear her speak so passionately about the Air Force programs and recruitment and then to hear the former pilots share their experiences – especially that of Col. Dean Caswell USMC (Ret) who flew combat in three wars – WWII, Korean and Vietnam – was so inspiring. He also serves as the president of the American Fighter Aces Association.
These fine veterans made for a special time, especially so close to Veterans Day.
The way I see it, we are losing many of these WWII vets each day and have lost many other veterans over the years. I give my gratitude to all of our veterans and active military. Thank you for your service.
SUE BROWN is the editor of the Pleasanton Express. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or write at P.O. Drawer 880, Pleasanton, TX 78064.