My dad, Donald Jr. a veteran of the Air Force, served for 30 and retired a colonel from the Pentagon. He is my hero.
How did you get interested in the military?
“When I was younger, my father was in the military and would travel a lot in the Air Force. He encrouraged me to look at the Air Force Academy for college so I began researching. In 8th grade, my interest grew and I decided that is where I wanted to go. So I attended the Air Force Academy and then after got my law degree from the University of Texas.”
How long did you serve & what branch?
“I served 30 years in the Air Force. 5 active duty years and 25 years in the Air Force reserves.”
What did you first do and what were the living conditions?
“ I was a security police shift commander. I was in charge of around 50 security policemen during my 8-hour shift. I was the only on duty person in charge. We provided police protection and security for the Air Force base”
What places did you visit & what was your favorite one?
“ I was stationed in United Arab Emirates, Nebraska, Colorado, Forts Worth, Germany (2x) Austin and the Pentagon. My favorite was Germany because I got to travel around and have fun on the weekends exploring cathedrals and castles.”
Which wars were you involved in and what did you do in them?
“ I was in Desert Storm (1990-1991), a war against Iraq. THe leader invaded Kuwait so we set up an air base in UAE and I was directly in charge of 2 bases. We had fighter planes in Abu Dhabi (the capital on the Persian Gulf). We made sure people did not attack our planes. The next war I was in Germany during the Balkan Crisis (1996-1999). The former country of Yugoslavia disposed communism and a civil war arose between the ethnic factions. The US joined other United Nations and forced them to stop the genocide. The country was divided into other countries including Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia… Our mission was to control the border between the countries and keep peace. We sent out wounded people to get assistance. The next conflict was 9-11. I was stationed in Germany and we attacked Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden had camps there that we attacked. We had an air supply line from Germany to Afghanistan. We supplied, directed and supported that Operation after the terrorist attack. I was gone 3 ½ months until Christmas and then would go back for a couple months at a time. Then in 2003, we became involved in another war with Iraq and we supported the mission with supplies and ammunition. We helped airvac people that were wounded to get treated. In 2004-2010 I was stationed at the Pentagon where I provided budgets and supplies for wars going on to fight terrorism.”
What was your most frightening experience?
“The most frightening was when I got chased by terrorists….. I was in security forces. The commanders wore civilian clothes to blend in. The troops wore uniforms and had guns. But I checked in on other bases by myself. They were 20-30 miles away. I went to visit a base in Dubai and as I was coming back to Abu Dhabi, I noticed I was being followed by 2 arabs. I kept turning off different directions and they kept following me. They came up next to me and tried to get me to stop. There was no way that I would stop. They would kill me. I sped up and they tailed me. They chased me down a desert road until I went to a checkpoint where there were military men with machine guns. Immediately, they fled.”
Was there any part of your job that you especially enjoyed? Or did not enjoy?
“I really enjoyed being assigned in Germany and I was in the US command center. We were in charge of a joint (Army, Navy, Air Force). I was in charge of all American soldiers in Africa and Europe (93 countries). Whenever there was conflict, we had to deal with it and plan operations. During one of our operations, in 1996 in Germany there was genocide in Uganda and Rwanda between the tootsies and the hootoos. Clinton was president. There was chaos everywhere. The United Nations provided care for refugees and the war lords kept stealing the supplies. Clinton ordered security for the aid. During this, I had the opportunity to have conference calls with the White House everyday. A few years later, I won the Outstanding Security Police Officer of the Year for the entire Air Force as a Lieutenant. In 1984, they flew me to Washington DC to receive the award and we had dinner on Air Force One and walked around the White House.”
Did you ever meet or see anyone famous? Tell me about that experience.
“At the end of the war, the sheik of the United Arab Emirates held a huge party in celebration and invited the American Commanders. I was only a major and the youngest officer there. I worked with Moroccan police and learned a few Arabic phrases: “Marhaba” - welcome; “Keef halak” - how are you . When I met the sheek I talked in Arabic with simple greetings and he was astounded that I tried to his language. Later that week, I received a letter from the Sheik inviting me to go fishing on his enormous yacht on the Persian Gulf. We fished and traveled to a secluded island where the servants cooked the fish for us on the beach. The only other Americans were the US ambassador and his wife.”
What was the most valuable lesson you learned from the military?
“The most telling experience was that when you're in a foreign country, it's important to learn some of the language and culture so you get to know the people and their stories. People appreciate if you try to learn about their culture and get to know them.”
What was it like retiring from the Pentagon?
“You were there. I had a ceremony in the Hall of Heros. There were friends, family, and other people in the military. It was nice to see my hard work honored. I remember, you would lead us on the subway as we travelled Washington DC.”
My dad is so selfless and a great example of a man after God's heart. He serves others in the military, but also at home and to strangers. He has lived a great life and I am so thankful he is my dad.