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24 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.

com SALUTE TO VETERANS

S alute to
V eteranS
Veterans Day is November 11

Sunday, November 8, 2020


2 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 23
22 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 3

Richard L. Wilson Robert E. Wilson


Army National Guard
Sergeant Richard L. Wilson, 52,
U.S. Army
Sergeant First Class Robert E. Wil-
To these veterans and the many others
of West Point, served in the Army
National Guard for 13 years during
Desert Storm. He joined for the ex-
son, 59, of West Point, served in the
U.S. Army for 27 years. He joined for
the challenges as well as experience
who have an continue to fight for our
Freedom, we say THANK YOU
perience and is grateful to have met and spent time in Kuwait and Iraq
some good people and got to visit during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Wil-
nice places. son says his time in service taught him
how to operate in combat situations
and the importance of being on time.

Dwight Andrews Percy Gibson Virgil Kimbrell Derrick Underwood


U.S. Army U.S. Army U.S. Navy Reserve U.S. Army

Willie Byrd Jr. Oran (Butch) Hill Thomas McLeod Hubert Ivan (Buddy)
U.S. Army U.S. Navy U.S. Army
Williamson
U.S. Army
Willie T. Byrd III J.B. Hodges Jr. Leavern Pate
Army National Guard
U.S. Army U.S. Army
Dr. John M.
Taroya Hollis Mel Sharpe Williamson
Dr. O.A. Cleveland U.S. Air Force
U.S. Army U.S. Army U.S. Air Force

Howard Ferguson Tracey Shelby Richard L. Wilson


Natasha Johnson Army National Guard
U.S. Air Force U.S. Army
U.S. Army Reserves

Lacy Freeman Bill Taylor Robert E. Wilson


U.S. Navy
Brendon Jones U.S. Navy U.S. Army
U.S. Marines

Devious Gandy Starling Jones Earl J. Thompson


U.S. Army U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force
4 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 21

Band of Brothers member turns 96 repay them.”


CAFB helps him celebrate Freeman helped guide the realism on
the television series on HBO “Band of
By Senior Airman Keith Holcomb Brothers,” using his first-hand experience to Hubert Ivan (Buddy) Dr. John M.
14th Flying Training Wing, Public Affairs make the show emulate the reality of Easy
Companies struggles and successes. Williamson Williamson
B
radford Freeman, a member of the The 43rd FTS was a bombing squadron
famous ‘Band of Brothers,’ assigned in World War II and while Freeman and U.S. Army U.S. Air Force
to E Company, 2nd Battalion of the Easy Company controlled Adolf Hitler’s
506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the famous “Eagles Nest,” the 43rd flew the
101st Airborne Division celebrated his 96th last bombing mission over Japan to end the
birthday with representatives of the 43rd war. Both the 43rd and Freeman’s accom-
Flying Training Squadron and received a plishments helped end the Second World
special gift. War and established themselves in the
Team Blaze Airmen and members of history books forever.
the installation Honor Guard replaced a Freeman was not surprised when the
damaged American Flag with a new one old school Army replica Jeeps showed up
outside of his home alongside many of his with a new flag for him, he joked nothing
friends and family. could surprise him anymore. He expressed
At 19 years old he flew over the beach- his appreciation to the 43rd since he had
es of Normandy and parachuted with his been planning on changing out his flag
brothers in arms towards foreign soil. Brad- “any day now.”
ford remembers his fellow soldiers every “This was an amazing opportunity for
day and said every moment of that jump the men and women around you today,”
will stay with him forever. said Lt. Col. Jason Barlow, 43rd FTS com-
“He was in every major engagement in mander. “We are so honored to be here
Photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb/14th Flying Training Wing, Columbus Air Force Base
Europe during World War II,” said Rufus with you today. This flag was flown in Bradford Freeman, assigned to ‘Easy’ Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute
Ward, local historian and 43rd FTS hon- each aircraft on Columbus AFB in honor of Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, prepares to meet friends on his porch
orary commander. “He’s a true American you, your birthday, and your service to this Sept. 3, 2020, in Miss. At 19 years old he flew over the beaches of Normandy and para-
hero and we need to honor those people country.” chuted with his brothers in arms towards foreign soil. Bradford remembers his fellow
… we owe them more than we could ever soldiers every day and said every moment of that jump will stay with him forever.
Specialist Hubert Williamson, 78, Colonel John Williamson, 46, of
RIGHT: Bradford Freeman, of New Hope, served for three years Dayton (MD), has served in the U.S.
assigned to ‘Easy’ Company, Air Force for the past 24.5 years,
2nd Battalion of the 506th
in the 69 Signal Battalion of the U.S.
Parachute Infantry Regi- Army. He joined to learn how to work including tours in Japan, Germany,
ment of the 101st Airborne on telephones and switch boards. Iraq and Turkey. He joined to serve his
Division, stand with members Williamson had the chance to work at country, gain great experience and to
from the 43rd Flying Train- General Westmoreland’s headquarters further his education. Dr. Williamson
ing Squadron at Freeman’s has had the great honor to provide
residency Sept. 3, 2020 in
in Saigon during his time in Vietnam.
Miss. The 43rd FTS flew an care to our past and present warriors
American Flag in each trainer as well as their families and his career
airframe over Columbus Air allowed him to travel the world and
Force Base, Miss. and raised make friends and colleagues around
the flag outside Freeman’s the globe. He has enjoyed his time in
House in honor of his service
and sacrifice to the U.S. Aeroevac and his current position as
FAR RIGHT: An old American professor the most thus far. Dr. Wil-
Flag gifted to Bradford Free- liamson and his family have enjoyed
man after it was flown over their years in the U.S. Air Force and
Washington D.C. was flown in are now looking to their last few years
his front lawn for many years,
but was retired to make room of Active Duty and then towards the
for a new flag from the 43rd next chapter in their lives and adven-
Flying Training Squadron. tures that God will provide and guide
them in.
Photos by Senior Airman
Keith Holcomb/Columbus Air
Force Base
20 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 5
6 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 19

Taking on a legacy
Graham talks coming to Columbus, importance of base’s mission
By Isabelle Altman
ialtman@cdispatch.com

W
hen Col. Seth Graham took command of Co-
lumbus Air Force Base in July, he said, it was a
wildly different command from where he’d been
before.
An active Air Force service member since 1998 who
trained as a pilot at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas and
has flown B-1 bombers for most of his career, Graham’s
most recent assignment had been as vice wing command-
er at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Missouri.
Going from Whiteman — a strategic bomber base re-
sponsible for the Air Force’s inventory of B-2s — to CAFB
with its nearly 3,000 employees and 676 students current-
ly — was something of an adjustment.
“We had 20 airplanes at Whiteman, 20 B-2s,” Graham
said. “We have like 300 airplanes here. We would fly five
or six missions a day at Whiteman. We’re flying nearly 300
a day here. So just the scale of the operation, the tempo of
the operation is just different.”
But Graham said he was excited to take on the chal-
lenge. CAFB is one of only four bases dedicated to training
student pilots in the country, and it attracts pilots not just
from the United States but from Air Forces all over the
world that send their students here for training. The scope
of the mission hasn’t slowed even due to the COVID-19
pandemic, he said.
“When you think about what it is we’re doing here, we
are the bedrock of everything the Air Force does, and if we
pause even for a second, there is no make-up capability,”
Photo by Isabelle Altman/Dispatch Staff
Graham said. “Every student that we don’t train because of
Staff Sgt. Derrick Larmar, Col. Seth Graham and Tech. Sgt. Federico de Vera chat outside Graham’s office at Columbus
a pandemic, we don’t make that up somewhere else. We
Air Force Base on Oct. 14. Graham became commander of the base in July, coming from the much smaller Whiteman
are operating essentially at max capacity as it is, so there Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Missouri. He said he has spent his time since arriving getting to know Columbus, his
was no room for stopping.” officers and the base’s mission to train more than 600 student pilots.
He said the base kept the number of COVID-19 cases
at a manageable level by implementing virtual classroom “Most of our airmen don’t even live on base,” Graham
work, limiting contact between airmen and temporarily said. “They’re not part of your community, they are your
restricting cross-country weekend flying and sticking to community. We are still there and engaged with Columbus
local training. and the local area. Sometimes it may just not be obvious
On a personal level, one of Graham’s first goals coming because they’re not wearing their uniform. Our kids go
in was to explore the base, visiting each of the units, get- to the same schools, (we) worship at the same houses of
ting to know the officers under him and checking out the worship, we shop in the same stores — we are you.”
facilities, which he found to be in good shape. He also had a message for veterans and for those who
“When I look at what the Air Force needs as far as pilot remember them on Nov. 11 and throughout the year.
production, how can we do our part?” he said. “There’s “On behalf of veterans, I would just say thank you for
really only four bases in the Air Force that produce pilots the treatment that we get,” he said. “I can’t tell you how
for the Air Force, so we’re a big piece of that, and making many times I’m out and about and hear, ‘Thank you for
sure that we’re doing our part to produce some pilots that your service.’ It is appreciated when we hear that.
the Air Force needs — from a numbers standpoint, but “To veterans, I want to tell them thank you for your
more importantly from a quality standpoint.” service,” he continued. “Thank you for the heritage and
Graham is a self-described homebody who, when not the legacy that you’ve left us, and I want them to know Photo by Isabelle Altman/Dispatch Staff
working, enjoys woodworking and being outdoors. He’s that we think about that a lot. I think it motivates us to go Col. Seth Graham, commander of Columbus Air Force
never been to Mississippi before and said he is looking for- about doing what we do with the level of excellence that Base since July, poses in his office on base on Oct. 14.
ward to exploring more of the Golden Triangle and north we do it, knowing that we are part of a long line and they Graham gave a message to veterans, thanking them for
Mississippi and Alabama once quarantine begins to ease paved the way for us.” service and for the legacy they’ve left the Air Force and
up. Officers and airmen being involved in the community armed forces, which he said motivates him and the other
is something that’s important to him, he said. airmen to continue their work.
18 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 7

Photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb/Columbus Air Force Base


Senior Airman Nico Buonsanto, 14th Operations Support Squadron Air Traffic Control-
ler, moves flight strips while in the new Tower Coordinator position August 4, 2020, on
Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.

ATC tower gains new position


AFB tower and have become experts in
First two airmen earn ratings their craft. The tower leadership said it
By Senior Airman Keith Holcomb was hard to decide who would receive the
14th Flying Training Wing, Public Affairs ratings first, but were confident in the two
Airmen chosen because of their experience

T
he first two Airmen ever in the Co- in Flight Data.
lumbus AFB Air Traffic Control Tower “At first I didn’t think it was a necessary
are now certified in position and I think most other Airmen
the Tower Coordinator (CT) who never controlled in a control tower
position. with the CT position didn’t think it was
Columbus Air Force necessary,” Fisher continued, “but once
Base, Mississippi Air Traffic Nico and I controlled in CT it was obvious
Control Tower leadership how much better it worked.”
developed the training plan The new CT position is vital in ensuring
and implemented the new even safer and overall improved commu-
CT position, effective June Fisher nication between controllers and from the
1, 2020, splitting the duties tower to the pilots.
and responsibilities of the overtasked Flight “Flight Data is like a secretary of the
Data (FD) position. tower, calling for weather, maintenance
“Senior Airman Nico Buonsanto and I control, updating weather conditions, and
are both on the more experienced side of more,” said Buonsanto. “Before the split
controllers in the Columbus AFB tower,” it got overwhelming to coordinate traffic
said Senior Airman Miranda Fisher, 14th with the other controllers and accomplish
Operations Support Squadron Air Traffic Flight Data’s responsibilities. The CT will
Controller. “It was exciting to be chosen to alleviate that stress on FD and allow us to
be the first ones rated in the CT position.” really execute our mission more safely and
Air traffic controllers are responsible for effectively.”
the safe and expeditious flow of air traffic. Fisher and Buonsanto accomplished
The tower visually controls the flow of their training July 17, 2020 and July 29,
aircraft from the taxiways, runways, and in 2020 respectively.
local flight patterns. “It was really cool to be the first airman
Both controllers began their U.S. Air to go through CT training, it’s something I’ll
Force air traffic journeys in the Columbus always have,” Fisher said.
8 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 17

Mel Sharpe Tracey Shelby Earl J. Thompson Derrick Underwood


U.S. Air Force U.S. Army U.S. Air Force U.S. Army
Corporal Tracey Shelby, 66, served
in the U.S. Army from 1973 through
1983. He joined to get his education
and some job experience. Shelby’s
favorite memories include traveling
through the country.

Bill Taylor
Photo courtesy of the Buena family Photo courtesy of the Fulcher family
Staff Sergeant Thomas Buena, a con- First Lieutenant G. Ben Fulcher, a first U.S. Navy
tracting officer with the 14th contracting assignment instructor pilot with the 41st
squadron on CAFB, with his wife Laura and “Buzzsaws” flight training wing, with his Petty Officer Third Class Bill Taylor,
Photo by Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff their two children Maverick (7) and Colt wife Hannah and their three children on 72, of Columbus, served in the U.S.
Laura Buena taking a walk in the park with her sons Maverick (7) and Colt (4). (4). Christmas 2019. Navy for 4 years after he got drafted.
He spent two years on shore duty in

Military families embrace challenges and adventures


Norfolk Virginia and two years on the
USS Inchon (LPH-12), which was a
helicopter carrier. Taylor is grateful for
and 4-year-old Colt are “resilient” and have seen each appreciate these sacrifices and many more for the cost of the friends he made and the places he
Two Air Force families discuss move as a new adventure. preserving freedom,” Hannah said. saw around the world.
“As long as they have friends, they’re happy,” she said. When Hannah was a new mother during active duty,
balancing raising their children Both boys were born on the Ramstein Air Base, and she had to balance parenthood with getting back into Master Sergeant Mel Sharpe, 81, of Senior Master Sergeant Earl Thomp- Specialist Derrick Underwood, 33,
parenting is more “hands-free” in Germany than in Amer- shape so she could be “an example for my subordinates Columbus, joined the U.S. Air Force in son, 71, of Columbus, served in the of Louisville, served in the U.S. Army
with serving their country ica, Laura said, so being new parents in a foreign country and a responsible team member,” she said, and Ben was 1958 to serve his country and have the U.S. Air Force for 26 years as a fighter for six years. He says those six years
was an educational experience for her and Thomas. the partner she needed during that time. opportunity to work on an aircraft car- and an aircraft mechanic, including were some of the best years of his life,
By Tess Vrbin The Buenas have been back in the U.S. for three years “During drills, he was so wonderful working with our rier. He served for 21 years and retired tours to Thailand, England, Germa- meeting comrades that became life-
tvrbin@dispatch.com but still consider Germany home. nursing son to ensure he would take a bottle prior to me in 1979 after tours in Panama and ny and Japan. He joined to serve his long friends and learning many skills
“We moved there with basically nothing, and we left leaving, and then (he would) be a super awesome dad

L
aura and Thomas Buena were initially excited to be Vietnam, which was an experience country and have a rewarding as well that he still applies to everyday life.
there with two kids and a house full of stuff,” Laura said. while I was gone,” Hannah said.
transferred to Columbus. They were less excited to Thomas was deployed three times during his more than Now their roles have reversed, with Ben serving and he will never forget. Sharpe is grateful as successful career. Thompson says Underwood was proud to wear the
hear it was the Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi 13 years of service: first to Iraq, then to Oman and finally Hannah holding down the fort. She’s homeschooling their his family and him had the chance to joining the United States Air Force was uniform and serve his country, which
rather than their hometown of Columbus, Ohio, after more to the United Arab Emirates. Maverick was 2 years old and 6-year-old due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coaching the go to places he otherwise would have the greatest decision he ever made, he included maneuvers in Afghanistan in
than a decade away. Thomas is a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Laura was pregnant with Colt during Thomas’ third deploy- two older kids’ soccer teams and leading Sunday school never had the opportunity to and he served his country for 26 years with 2011 and a tour to South Korea.
Air Force, and his service moved him, Laura and their two ment. The Buenas did not let time differences, sometimes classes at church. made lifelong friends he will always no regrets. He and his family enjoyed
sons to the Golden Triangle in 2018. as large as a full work day, keep them from communicating Ben and Hannah are also teaching their children the be thankful for. seeing the world.
Being away from their extended family has been a chal- regularly. value of agriculture with Fulcher Farm, where they keep
lenge, but “on the positive side, you learn to make family “It was Skype calls at the time, or sometimes we would chickens, bees and several herb and vegetable gardens.
from military friends,” Laura said. only be able to email, but we always tried to contact each Their harvest is mostly for their family, but they sell the
In addition to a sense of community, Columbus Air other at least once a day,” Laura said. excess to people in the community.
Force Base also provides child care, sports, and events like Being apart for extended periods is what military cou- The farm is a lesson in discipline, diligence and “caring
school supply giveaways and Easter egg hunts, said Andre ples sign up for. Hannah Fulcher separated from the Army for things and others outside of ourselves,” Hannah said.
Logan, force support squadron operations. last year after nine and a half years. Her husband, Ben, Being both a military spouse and a married member of HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
“It can be very difficult (for kids in military families),” joined the Air Force a few years ago after his career as an the military have taught Hannah and Ben some valuable
said Logan, whose two children have gone to four different accountant left him feeling “like God was calling him to lessons, including how to face issues head-on instead of
schools due to his service. “Because of the unique chal-
lenges that our families face, there’s a strong connection
something different,” Hannah said. Their children are 1, 3
and 6 years old.
avoiding confrontation.
“It has brought us to communicate better, try to under- H THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE H
amongst our personnel as well as our (families).” Active duty means Ben sometimes misses a birthday, stand more, love harder, give more patience and kindness
The Buenas have lived on bases in Charleston, South an anniversary or another milestone, like their 3-year-old for the betterment of the family or marriage and lay aside
Carolina; Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany; Fairfield, Cali- scoring his first soccer goal. ourselves,” she said. HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
fornia and now Columbus. Laura said 7-year-old Maverick “It is always a balance scale, and we both know and
16 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 9

Mississippi ‘offers quite a lot’ for


Starling Jones
U.S. Air Force
Virgil Kimbrell
U.S. Navy Reserve
Thomas McLeod
U.S. Army
Leavern Pate
U.S. Army
veterans looking to own businesses
By Theo DeRosa
tderosa@cdispatch.com

O
n July 30, Sammy Sullivan signed
the paperwork to officially pur-
chase the Ranch House Diner on
Alabama Street.
At 5:30 a.m. the next day — Sullivan’s
first as the restaurant’s new owner — he
went in to set up the first table.
Known as a “missing man table,” the
commemorative display Sullivan set up is
designed to pay homage to military mem-
bers who are deployed, prisoners of war,
missing in action or killed in action. Every
element of the table represents part of their
sacrifice, Sullivan said — an empty chair
to signify their absence; a lemon wedge to
remind of their bitter fate.
“I want people to know that our veter-
ans need to be honored,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan, who served six years in the Air
Force and nearly 16 years in the Mississip-
pi Army National Guard, is just one of a
Tech Sergeant Starling Jones, 75. Virgil Kimbrell, 70 (deceased), of Specialist Thomas McLeod, 71, of Specialist Leavern Pate, 78, of plethora of veterans who own businesses
of Columbus, served 22 years in the Columbus, served 19 years in the Columbus, served in the 4th Infantry Ethelsville, served from 1962 through in the Golden Triangle area.
U.S. Air Force. He joined in 1966, U.S. Navy Reserves, which included Division of the U.S. Army from 1969 1964 in the U.S. Army. He volun- According to a study by Zippia.com,
because he wanted a better life for a tour to Iraq. Kimbrell loved serving through 1971. He got drafted and teered for the draft during the Cold Mississippi ranks as the third most support-
ive state for veteran-owned businesses,
himself. To his surprise, he received his country, he was thankful that God spent time in Vietnam. McLeod keeps War as a duty to his country and behind only New Hampshire and South
a football scholarship for college, but allowed him to serve. those in memory who made the ulti- served in Germany. Carolina. The study found that 11.4 percent
some of his family were in the military mate sacrifice. of businesses in Mississippi are owned by
and after a visit from his cousin during veterans and that 5 percent of state-based
the summer, he learned that he could sales go toward veterans.
learn mechanical knowledge and at “Mississippi offers quite a lot to the vet-
Photo by Theo DeRosa/Dispatch Staff
the same time earn an income. Jones eran,” said Shannon Arick, an 18-year U.S.
Bits N Pieces, LLC, owner Shannon Arick poses with an Uncle Sam doll Monday, Nov. 2, at her store on Commerce Street in West
had ambition to become an automo- Army veteran who bought Bits N Pieces Point. Arick, a U.S. Army veteran, bought the antiques store from Connie Hudson in August.
bile mechanic, so he decided to join on Commerce Street in West Point in late
the U.S. Air Force instead. The Air August. plan. Then she happened upon the website the VBOC. The program offers assistance the loan she needed to get going.
Force gave him the opportunity to live Arick began to think about owning her of the Veterans Business Outreach Cen- for veterans transitioning out of service, “I knew there were resources out there,”
own business when she left the military in ter at Mississippi State University, a Small including market research, information on Arick said. “I didn’t realize how amazing
in Germany for 2.5 years as well as in 2008, but she had no leads until she ran Business Administration program focused financing a business venture and a demon- those resources were until I met Mark and
Okinawa for two years and one year in into former Bits N Pieces owner Connie on small business growth of veterans and stration of developing a business plan. Deborah.”
Thailand. He also had two tours to Ko- Hudson in June. Hudson, busy running military spouses. The VBOC at Mississippi The VBOC’s Boots to Business “Re- Mark Scott, himself a 7-year Army
rea and spent time in Hawaii, Holland, Rose Drug Company, told Arick she was State serves veterans in Mississippi, Ala- boot,” meanwhile, extends that to veterans veteran, said that while the VBOC can
Paris, Azores and the Philippines. His looking to sell. bama and Louisiana. of all eras, members of the Reserve and offer help, it’s ultimately up to the veterans
military career allowed him to reside “‘What? Why would you want to sell “If you’re ready to start a business, we’re National Guard and military spouses. themselves whether they end up finding
in Nevada, Texas, Illinois, California, this place? I love this place!’” Arick re- going to be there from the start all the way Arick took the two-day Reboot course success in their business ventures.
Nevada and Louisiana. The Air Force called. “And then I thought, ‘Why should through,” VBOC Director Mark L. Scott via Zoom along with roughly 30 other vet- “We provide guidance, we provide
gave Jones the opportunity to trav- the person who buys it not be me?’” said. erans. She was able to ask questions and some expertise, but they’ve got the pas-
el the world while serving this great She decided to purchase Bits N Pieces, Scott’s wife, Deborah, runs the Boots to gain insight into other types of businesses. sion, they’ve got the drive to do it,” Scott
country he lives in and on most of his but she needed help with the financial side Business entrepreneurial training program, Mark Scott said he and Deborah helped said.
of things and with formulating her business which is also affiliated with the SBA and Arick finalize her business plan to secure
tours, his family was even with him.
10 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 15

The following veteran profiles were submitted by readers who used a form printed in The Dispatch.
Oran (Butch) Hill J.B. Hodges Jr. Taroya Hollis Natasha Johnson
Dwight Andrews Willie Byrd Jr. Willie T. Byrd III Dr. O.A. Cleveland U.S. Navy Army National Guard U.S. Army U.S. Army Reserves
U.S. Army U.S. Army U.S. Army U.S. Army Specialist Natasha Johnson, 38, of
Columbus served in the U.S. Army
Reserves from 2000 through 2008,
including two deployments to Kuwait
in 2003 and Iraq in 2007. She joined
to travel and see the world as well as
meet many diverse people of differ-
ent cultures. Johnson appreciates the
friends she made during her time in
service, who she still talks to until this
day and the bond she made with total
strangers.

Brendon Jones
U.S. Marines

Petty Officer Third Class Oran Hills, Sergeant J.B. Hodges, 58 of West Corporal Taroya Hollis, 33, of
Staff Sergeant Dwight Andrews, 85, Master Sergeant Willie Byrd Jr., Specialist Willie Todd Byrd III, 33, Lieutenant O. A. Cleveland, 75, of 73, of Columbus, served as a gunner Point, served in the Army National Columbus, served in the U.S. Army
of Columbus, served three years in the 78, of Columbus, served 24 years in served four years in the U.S. Army. Starkville, served in the U.S. Army on a minesweeper in Vietnam from Guard for 27 years. He joined to serve from 2009 through 2017 as a 42
U.S. Army to fulfill his military obliga- the U.S. Army. He served 12 years in He served a tour in Cuba with combat from 1970 through 1972. He joined 1965 through 1971 in the U.S. Navy. his country and protect his fellow Alpha which is a Human resource
tion. He was stationed at the Seneca Germany and had two years combat experience in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. to serve his country and spent time in He joined as a boy of 17 years and men. Hodges says his best memories info specialist. She joined because she
Army Ordnance Depot at Romulus experience in Vietnam. Byrd joined He is a post 9/11 veteran who joined Pleiku, Phuoc Loc and Bien Hoa in got to see the world from the ship. Six are of coming home to his family and wants a fulfilling life. The U.S. Army
New York and was in a Military Police the military to help support his moth- the armed forces to serve our nation Vietnam. Dr. Cleveland appreciates years later Hills got back to Ameri- friends. gave Hollis the opportunity to at-
Special Services unit. Ordnance for er and family. His memories include during Operation Enduring Freedom. the lifelong friends he made and got can soil as a man, battling PTSD and tend college and live comfortably, all
the Army was being manufactured at going to the Oktober Fest in Germany, He was honored to be on a team of awarded an Army Commendation Agent Orange. He is now considered while serving her country and making
the depot, the Special Services con- visiting Paris and Spain. His second 193rd Military Police Company in the Medal as well as a Bronze Star. He is a 100% disabeled veteran and feels herself as well as her family proud.
ducted security for the post 24/7. daughter was born while he was vital security mission at Guantanamo a 100% disabled U.S. Army veteran. blessed to be alive. During her 8 years of service, Taroya
stationed in Colorado Springs. He was Bay, Cuba. “When I returned from my deployed to Kuwait, made many new
also stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, last mission to a conflict zone, I was friends and got to meet great mentors
Fort Benning, Georgia and Fort Polk, relieved to get assigned to U.S. Disci- in the military, whom she will forever
Louisiana. His third daughter was born plinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, cherish. She is grateful to God that
while he was stationed in Wurzburg, Kansas, where I served the remainder her family got to attend her bootcamp
Germany. of my enlistment with an honorable graduation.
Corporal Brendon Jones, 26, of
discharge,” he recalled. Columbus, has served in the U.S.
Marines from 2016 through 2020. He
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH joined, because he wanted to be part
of something larger than himself and
H THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE H to serve his country. Jones appreciates
the comradery, that feeling of belong-
ing, knowing at all times that someone
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH has his back and he has theirs.
14 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 11

Devious Gandy Percy Gibson


U.S. Army U.S. Army

Sergeant Devious Gandy, 21, of Sergeant First Class Percy Gibson,


Starkville, served for four years in 81, of Steens, served in the U.S. Army
the U.S. Army. He joined to chal- from 1959 through 1982, including 13
lenge himself both mentally as well months in Vietnam and three overseas
as physically, to do something noble tours to Germany, Thailand and Korea.
and meaningful and to finish school. He initially joined to develop a profes-
Gandy enjoyed meeting many people sional skill and got to experience how
of different races and ethnicities in the enlightening it is to work and spe-
melting pot. cialize with people of different races
and cultures. Gibson thinks that every
young male and female should spend
at least two years in one branch of our
armed forces.
12 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 13

Howard Ferguson Lacy Freeman


U.S. Air Force U.S. Navy

Senior Master Sergeant Howard Chief Petty Officer Lacy Freeman,


Ferguson, 80, of Columbus, served 23 83, of Steens, served in the U.S. Navy
years in the U.S. Air Force, including 4 from 1955 through 1974. He origi-
tours to England, France, Greece and nally joined to escape the fields and
Thailand. He joined for a better life experienced three years of combat
and appreciates the many nice peo- in Vietnam. CPO Freeman had many
ple he met in every country he was impressive experiences during his time
stationed in as well as wonderful sites in service.
with good food at every place he got
to visit. Ferguson thanks the United
States for the freedom he enjoys.
12 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 13

Howard Ferguson Lacy Freeman


U.S. Air Force U.S. Navy

Senior Master Sergeant Howard Chief Petty Officer Lacy Freeman,


Ferguson, 80, of Columbus, served 23 83, of Steens, served in the U.S. Navy
years in the U.S. Air Force, including 4 from 1955 through 1974. He origi-
tours to England, France, Greece and nally joined to escape the fields and
Thailand. He joined for a better life experienced three years of combat
and appreciates the many nice peo- in Vietnam. CPO Freeman had many
ple he met in every country he was impressive experiences during his time
stationed in as well as wonderful sites in service.
with good food at every place he got
to visit. Ferguson thanks the United
States for the freedom he enjoys.
14 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 11

Devious Gandy Percy Gibson


U.S. Army U.S. Army

Sergeant Devious Gandy, 21, of Sergeant First Class Percy Gibson,


Starkville, served for four years in 81, of Steens, served in the U.S. Army
the U.S. Army. He joined to chal- from 1959 through 1982, including 13
lenge himself both mentally as well months in Vietnam and three overseas
as physically, to do something noble tours to Germany, Thailand and Korea.
and meaningful and to finish school. He initially joined to develop a profes-
Gandy enjoyed meeting many people sional skill and got to experience how
of different races and ethnicities in the enlightening it is to work and spe-
melting pot. cialize with people of different races
and cultures. Gibson thinks that every
young male and female should spend
at least two years in one branch of our
armed forces.
10 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 15

The following veteran profiles were submitted by readers who used a form printed in The Dispatch.
Oran (Butch) Hill J.B. Hodges Jr. Taroya Hollis Natasha Johnson
Dwight Andrews Willie Byrd Jr. Willie T. Byrd III Dr. O.A. Cleveland U.S. Navy Army National Guard U.S. Army U.S. Army Reserves
U.S. Army U.S. Army U.S. Army U.S. Army Specialist Natasha Johnson, 38, of
Columbus served in the U.S. Army
Reserves from 2000 through 2008,
including two deployments to Kuwait
in 2003 and Iraq in 2007. She joined
to travel and see the world as well as
meet many diverse people of differ-
ent cultures. Johnson appreciates the
friends she made during her time in
service, who she still talks to until this
day and the bond she made with total
strangers.

Brendon Jones
U.S. Marines

Petty Officer Third Class Oran Hills, Sergeant J.B. Hodges, 58 of West Corporal Taroya Hollis, 33, of
Staff Sergeant Dwight Andrews, 85, Master Sergeant Willie Byrd Jr., Specialist Willie Todd Byrd III, 33, Lieutenant O. A. Cleveland, 75, of 73, of Columbus, served as a gunner Point, served in the Army National Columbus, served in the U.S. Army
of Columbus, served three years in the 78, of Columbus, served 24 years in served four years in the U.S. Army. Starkville, served in the U.S. Army on a minesweeper in Vietnam from Guard for 27 years. He joined to serve from 2009 through 2017 as a 42
U.S. Army to fulfill his military obliga- the U.S. Army. He served 12 years in He served a tour in Cuba with combat from 1970 through 1972. He joined 1965 through 1971 in the U.S. Navy. his country and protect his fellow Alpha which is a Human resource
tion. He was stationed at the Seneca Germany and had two years combat experience in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. to serve his country and spent time in He joined as a boy of 17 years and men. Hodges says his best memories info specialist. She joined because she
Army Ordnance Depot at Romulus experience in Vietnam. Byrd joined He is a post 9/11 veteran who joined Pleiku, Phuoc Loc and Bien Hoa in got to see the world from the ship. Six are of coming home to his family and wants a fulfilling life. The U.S. Army
New York and was in a Military Police the military to help support his moth- the armed forces to serve our nation Vietnam. Dr. Cleveland appreciates years later Hills got back to Ameri- friends. gave Hollis the opportunity to at-
Special Services unit. Ordnance for er and family. His memories include during Operation Enduring Freedom. the lifelong friends he made and got can soil as a man, battling PTSD and tend college and live comfortably, all
the Army was being manufactured at going to the Oktober Fest in Germany, He was honored to be on a team of awarded an Army Commendation Agent Orange. He is now considered while serving her country and making
the depot, the Special Services con- visiting Paris and Spain. His second 193rd Military Police Company in the Medal as well as a Bronze Star. He is a 100% disabeled veteran and feels herself as well as her family proud.
ducted security for the post 24/7. daughter was born while he was vital security mission at Guantanamo a 100% disabled U.S. Army veteran. blessed to be alive. During her 8 years of service, Taroya
stationed in Colorado Springs. He was Bay, Cuba. “When I returned from my deployed to Kuwait, made many new
also stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, last mission to a conflict zone, I was friends and got to meet great mentors
Fort Benning, Georgia and Fort Polk, relieved to get assigned to U.S. Disci- in the military, whom she will forever
Louisiana. His third daughter was born plinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, cherish. She is grateful to God that
while he was stationed in Wurzburg, Kansas, where I served the remainder her family got to attend her bootcamp
Germany. of my enlistment with an honorable graduation.
Corporal Brendon Jones, 26, of
discharge,” he recalled. Columbus, has served in the U.S.
Marines from 2016 through 2020. He
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH joined, because he wanted to be part
of something larger than himself and
H THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE H to serve his country. Jones appreciates
the comradery, that feeling of belong-
ing, knowing at all times that someone
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH has his back and he has theirs.
16 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 9

Mississippi ‘offers quite a lot’ for


Starling Jones
U.S. Air Force
Virgil Kimbrell
U.S. Navy Reserve
Thomas McLeod
U.S. Army
Leavern Pate
U.S. Army
veterans looking to own businesses
By Theo DeRosa
tderosa@cdispatch.com

O
n July 30, Sammy Sullivan signed
the paperwork to officially pur-
chase the Ranch House Diner on
Alabama Street.
At 5:30 a.m. the next day — Sullivan’s
first as the restaurant’s new owner — he
went in to set up the first table.
Known as a “missing man table,” the
commemorative display Sullivan set up is
designed to pay homage to military mem-
bers who are deployed, prisoners of war,
missing in action or killed in action. Every
element of the table represents part of their
sacrifice, Sullivan said — an empty chair
to signify their absence; a lemon wedge to
remind of their bitter fate.
“I want people to know that our veter-
ans need to be honored,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan, who served six years in the Air
Force and nearly 16 years in the Mississip-
pi Army National Guard, is just one of a
Tech Sergeant Starling Jones, 75. Virgil Kimbrell, 70 (deceased), of Specialist Thomas McLeod, 71, of Specialist Leavern Pate, 78, of plethora of veterans who own businesses
of Columbus, served 22 years in the Columbus, served 19 years in the Columbus, served in the 4th Infantry Ethelsville, served from 1962 through in the Golden Triangle area.
U.S. Air Force. He joined in 1966, U.S. Navy Reserves, which included Division of the U.S. Army from 1969 1964 in the U.S. Army. He volun- According to a study by Zippia.com,
because he wanted a better life for a tour to Iraq. Kimbrell loved serving through 1971. He got drafted and teered for the draft during the Cold Mississippi ranks as the third most support-
ive state for veteran-owned businesses,
himself. To his surprise, he received his country, he was thankful that God spent time in Vietnam. McLeod keeps War as a duty to his country and behind only New Hampshire and South
a football scholarship for college, but allowed him to serve. those in memory who made the ulti- served in Germany. Carolina. The study found that 11.4 percent
some of his family were in the military mate sacrifice. of businesses in Mississippi are owned by
and after a visit from his cousin during veterans and that 5 percent of state-based
the summer, he learned that he could sales go toward veterans.
learn mechanical knowledge and at “Mississippi offers quite a lot to the vet-
Photo by Theo DeRosa/Dispatch Staff
the same time earn an income. Jones eran,” said Shannon Arick, an 18-year U.S.
Bits N Pieces, LLC, owner Shannon Arick poses with an Uncle Sam doll Monday, Nov. 2, at her store on Commerce Street in West
had ambition to become an automo- Army veteran who bought Bits N Pieces Point. Arick, a U.S. Army veteran, bought the antiques store from Connie Hudson in August.
bile mechanic, so he decided to join on Commerce Street in West Point in late
the U.S. Air Force instead. The Air August. plan. Then she happened upon the website the VBOC. The program offers assistance the loan she needed to get going.
Force gave him the opportunity to live Arick began to think about owning her of the Veterans Business Outreach Cen- for veterans transitioning out of service, “I knew there were resources out there,”
own business when she left the military in ter at Mississippi State University, a Small including market research, information on Arick said. “I didn’t realize how amazing
in Germany for 2.5 years as well as in 2008, but she had no leads until she ran Business Administration program focused financing a business venture and a demon- those resources were until I met Mark and
Okinawa for two years and one year in into former Bits N Pieces owner Connie on small business growth of veterans and stration of developing a business plan. Deborah.”
Thailand. He also had two tours to Ko- Hudson in June. Hudson, busy running military spouses. The VBOC at Mississippi The VBOC’s Boots to Business “Re- Mark Scott, himself a 7-year Army
rea and spent time in Hawaii, Holland, Rose Drug Company, told Arick she was State serves veterans in Mississippi, Ala- boot,” meanwhile, extends that to veterans veteran, said that while the VBOC can
Paris, Azores and the Philippines. His looking to sell. bama and Louisiana. of all eras, members of the Reserve and offer help, it’s ultimately up to the veterans
military career allowed him to reside “‘What? Why would you want to sell “If you’re ready to start a business, we’re National Guard and military spouses. themselves whether they end up finding
in Nevada, Texas, Illinois, California, this place? I love this place!’” Arick re- going to be there from the start all the way Arick took the two-day Reboot course success in their business ventures.
Nevada and Louisiana. The Air Force called. “And then I thought, ‘Why should through,” VBOC Director Mark L. Scott via Zoom along with roughly 30 other vet- “We provide guidance, we provide
gave Jones the opportunity to trav- the person who buys it not be me?’” said. erans. She was able to ask questions and some expertise, but they’ve got the pas-
el the world while serving this great She decided to purchase Bits N Pieces, Scott’s wife, Deborah, runs the Boots to gain insight into other types of businesses. sion, they’ve got the drive to do it,” Scott
country he lives in and on most of his but she needed help with the financial side Business entrepreneurial training program, Mark Scott said he and Deborah helped said.
of things and with formulating her business which is also affiliated with the SBA and Arick finalize her business plan to secure
tours, his family was even with him.
8 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 17

Mel Sharpe Tracey Shelby Earl J. Thompson Derrick Underwood


U.S. Air Force U.S. Army U.S. Air Force U.S. Army
Corporal Tracey Shelby, 66, served
in the U.S. Army from 1973 through
1983. He joined to get his education
and some job experience. Shelby’s
favorite memories include traveling
through the country.

Bill Taylor
Photo courtesy of the Buena family Photo courtesy of the Fulcher family
Staff Sergeant Thomas Buena, a con- First Lieutenant G. Ben Fulcher, a first U.S. Navy
tracting officer with the 14th contracting assignment instructor pilot with the 41st
squadron on CAFB, with his wife Laura and “Buzzsaws” flight training wing, with his Petty Officer Third Class Bill Taylor,
Photo by Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff their two children Maverick (7) and Colt wife Hannah and their three children on 72, of Columbus, served in the U.S.
Laura Buena taking a walk in the park with her sons Maverick (7) and Colt (4). (4). Christmas 2019. Navy for 4 years after he got drafted.
He spent two years on shore duty in

Military families embrace challenges and adventures


Norfolk Virginia and two years on the
USS Inchon (LPH-12), which was a
helicopter carrier. Taylor is grateful for
and 4-year-old Colt are “resilient” and have seen each appreciate these sacrifices and many more for the cost of the friends he made and the places he
Two Air Force families discuss move as a new adventure. preserving freedom,” Hannah said. saw around the world.
“As long as they have friends, they’re happy,” she said. When Hannah was a new mother during active duty,
balancing raising their children Both boys were born on the Ramstein Air Base, and she had to balance parenthood with getting back into Master Sergeant Mel Sharpe, 81, of Senior Master Sergeant Earl Thomp- Specialist Derrick Underwood, 33,
parenting is more “hands-free” in Germany than in Amer- shape so she could be “an example for my subordinates Columbus, joined the U.S. Air Force in son, 71, of Columbus, served in the of Louisville, served in the U.S. Army
with serving their country ica, Laura said, so being new parents in a foreign country and a responsible team member,” she said, and Ben was 1958 to serve his country and have the U.S. Air Force for 26 years as a fighter for six years. He says those six years
was an educational experience for her and Thomas. the partner she needed during that time. opportunity to work on an aircraft car- and an aircraft mechanic, including were some of the best years of his life,
By Tess Vrbin The Buenas have been back in the U.S. for three years “During drills, he was so wonderful working with our rier. He served for 21 years and retired tours to Thailand, England, Germa- meeting comrades that became life-
tvrbin@dispatch.com but still consider Germany home. nursing son to ensure he would take a bottle prior to me in 1979 after tours in Panama and ny and Japan. He joined to serve his long friends and learning many skills
“We moved there with basically nothing, and we left leaving, and then (he would) be a super awesome dad

L
aura and Thomas Buena were initially excited to be Vietnam, which was an experience country and have a rewarding as well that he still applies to everyday life.
there with two kids and a house full of stuff,” Laura said. while I was gone,” Hannah said.
transferred to Columbus. They were less excited to Thomas was deployed three times during his more than Now their roles have reversed, with Ben serving and he will never forget. Sharpe is grateful as successful career. Thompson says Underwood was proud to wear the
hear it was the Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi 13 years of service: first to Iraq, then to Oman and finally Hannah holding down the fort. She’s homeschooling their his family and him had the chance to joining the United States Air Force was uniform and serve his country, which
rather than their hometown of Columbus, Ohio, after more to the United Arab Emirates. Maverick was 2 years old and 6-year-old due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coaching the go to places he otherwise would have the greatest decision he ever made, he included maneuvers in Afghanistan in
than a decade away. Thomas is a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Laura was pregnant with Colt during Thomas’ third deploy- two older kids’ soccer teams and leading Sunday school never had the opportunity to and he served his country for 26 years with 2011 and a tour to South Korea.
Air Force, and his service moved him, Laura and their two ment. The Buenas did not let time differences, sometimes classes at church. made lifelong friends he will always no regrets. He and his family enjoyed
sons to the Golden Triangle in 2018. as large as a full work day, keep them from communicating Ben and Hannah are also teaching their children the be thankful for. seeing the world.
Being away from their extended family has been a chal- regularly. value of agriculture with Fulcher Farm, where they keep
lenge, but “on the positive side, you learn to make family “It was Skype calls at the time, or sometimes we would chickens, bees and several herb and vegetable gardens.
from military friends,” Laura said. only be able to email, but we always tried to contact each Their harvest is mostly for their family, but they sell the
In addition to a sense of community, Columbus Air other at least once a day,” Laura said. excess to people in the community.
Force Base also provides child care, sports, and events like Being apart for extended periods is what military cou- The farm is a lesson in discipline, diligence and “caring
school supply giveaways and Easter egg hunts, said Andre ples sign up for. Hannah Fulcher separated from the Army for things and others outside of ourselves,” Hannah said.
Logan, force support squadron operations. last year after nine and a half years. Her husband, Ben, Being both a military spouse and a married member of HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
“It can be very difficult (for kids in military families),” joined the Air Force a few years ago after his career as an the military have taught Hannah and Ben some valuable
said Logan, whose two children have gone to four different accountant left him feeling “like God was calling him to lessons, including how to face issues head-on instead of
schools due to his service. “Because of the unique chal-
lenges that our families face, there’s a strong connection
something different,” Hannah said. Their children are 1, 3
and 6 years old.
avoiding confrontation.
“It has brought us to communicate better, try to under- H THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE H
amongst our personnel as well as our (families).” Active duty means Ben sometimes misses a birthday, stand more, love harder, give more patience and kindness
The Buenas have lived on bases in Charleston, South an anniversary or another milestone, like their 3-year-old for the betterment of the family or marriage and lay aside
Carolina; Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany; Fairfield, Cali- scoring his first soccer goal. ourselves,” she said. HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
fornia and now Columbus. Laura said 7-year-old Maverick “It is always a balance scale, and we both know and
18 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 7

Photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb/Columbus Air Force Base


Senior Airman Nico Buonsanto, 14th Operations Support Squadron Air Traffic Control-
ler, moves flight strips while in the new Tower Coordinator position August 4, 2020, on
Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.

ATC tower gains new position


AFB tower and have become experts in
First two airmen earn ratings their craft. The tower leadership said it
By Senior Airman Keith Holcomb was hard to decide who would receive the
14th Flying Training Wing, Public Affairs ratings first, but were confident in the two
Airmen chosen because of their experience

T
he first two Airmen ever in the Co- in Flight Data.
lumbus AFB Air Traffic Control Tower “At first I didn’t think it was a necessary
are now certified in position and I think most other Airmen
the Tower Coordinator (CT) who never controlled in a control tower
position. with the CT position didn’t think it was
Columbus Air Force necessary,” Fisher continued, “but once
Base, Mississippi Air Traffic Nico and I controlled in CT it was obvious
Control Tower leadership how much better it worked.”
developed the training plan The new CT position is vital in ensuring
and implemented the new even safer and overall improved commu-
CT position, effective June Fisher nication between controllers and from the
1, 2020, splitting the duties tower to the pilots.
and responsibilities of the overtasked Flight “Flight Data is like a secretary of the
Data (FD) position. tower, calling for weather, maintenance
“Senior Airman Nico Buonsanto and I control, updating weather conditions, and
are both on the more experienced side of more,” said Buonsanto. “Before the split
controllers in the Columbus AFB tower,” it got overwhelming to coordinate traffic
said Senior Airman Miranda Fisher, 14th with the other controllers and accomplish
Operations Support Squadron Air Traffic Flight Data’s responsibilities. The CT will
Controller. “It was exciting to be chosen to alleviate that stress on FD and allow us to
be the first ones rated in the CT position.” really execute our mission more safely and
Air traffic controllers are responsible for effectively.”
the safe and expeditious flow of air traffic. Fisher and Buonsanto accomplished
The tower visually controls the flow of their training July 17, 2020 and July 29,
aircraft from the taxiways, runways, and in 2020 respectively.
local flight patterns. “It was really cool to be the first airman
Both controllers began their U.S. Air to go through CT training, it’s something I’ll
Force air traffic journeys in the Columbus always have,” Fisher said.
6 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 19

Taking on a legacy
Graham talks coming to Columbus, importance of base’s mission
By Isabelle Altman
ialtman@cdispatch.com

W
hen Col. Seth Graham took command of Co-
lumbus Air Force Base in July, he said, it was a
wildly different command from where he’d been
before.
An active Air Force service member since 1998 who
trained as a pilot at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas and
has flown B-1 bombers for most of his career, Graham’s
most recent assignment had been as vice wing command-
er at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Missouri.
Going from Whiteman — a strategic bomber base re-
sponsible for the Air Force’s inventory of B-2s — to CAFB
with its nearly 3,000 employees and 676 students current-
ly — was something of an adjustment.
“We had 20 airplanes at Whiteman, 20 B-2s,” Graham
said. “We have like 300 airplanes here. We would fly five
or six missions a day at Whiteman. We’re flying nearly 300
a day here. So just the scale of the operation, the tempo of
the operation is just different.”
But Graham said he was excited to take on the chal-
lenge. CAFB is one of only four bases dedicated to training
student pilots in the country, and it attracts pilots not just
from the United States but from Air Forces all over the
world that send their students here for training. The scope
of the mission hasn’t slowed even due to the COVID-19
pandemic, he said.
“When you think about what it is we’re doing here, we
are the bedrock of everything the Air Force does, and if we
pause even for a second, there is no make-up capability,”
Photo by Isabelle Altman/Dispatch Staff
Graham said. “Every student that we don’t train because of
Staff Sgt. Derrick Larmar, Col. Seth Graham and Tech. Sgt. Federico de Vera chat outside Graham’s office at Columbus
a pandemic, we don’t make that up somewhere else. We
Air Force Base on Oct. 14. Graham became commander of the base in July, coming from the much smaller Whiteman
are operating essentially at max capacity as it is, so there Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Missouri. He said he has spent his time since arriving getting to know Columbus, his
was no room for stopping.” officers and the base’s mission to train more than 600 student pilots.
He said the base kept the number of COVID-19 cases
at a manageable level by implementing virtual classroom “Most of our airmen don’t even live on base,” Graham
work, limiting contact between airmen and temporarily said. “They’re not part of your community, they are your
restricting cross-country weekend flying and sticking to community. We are still there and engaged with Columbus
local training. and the local area. Sometimes it may just not be obvious
On a personal level, one of Graham’s first goals coming because they’re not wearing their uniform. Our kids go
in was to explore the base, visiting each of the units, get- to the same schools, (we) worship at the same houses of
ting to know the officers under him and checking out the worship, we shop in the same stores — we are you.”
facilities, which he found to be in good shape. He also had a message for veterans and for those who
“When I look at what the Air Force needs as far as pilot remember them on Nov. 11 and throughout the year.
production, how can we do our part?” he said. “There’s “On behalf of veterans, I would just say thank you for
really only four bases in the Air Force that produce pilots the treatment that we get,” he said. “I can’t tell you how
for the Air Force, so we’re a big piece of that, and making many times I’m out and about and hear, ‘Thank you for
sure that we’re doing our part to produce some pilots that your service.’ It is appreciated when we hear that.
the Air Force needs — from a numbers standpoint, but “To veterans, I want to tell them thank you for your
more importantly from a quality standpoint.” service,” he continued. “Thank you for the heritage and
Graham is a self-described homebody who, when not the legacy that you’ve left us, and I want them to know Photo by Isabelle Altman/Dispatch Staff
working, enjoys woodworking and being outdoors. He’s that we think about that a lot. I think it motivates us to go Col. Seth Graham, commander of Columbus Air Force
never been to Mississippi before and said he is looking for- about doing what we do with the level of excellence that Base since July, poses in his office on base on Oct. 14.
ward to exploring more of the Golden Triangle and north we do it, knowing that we are part of a long line and they Graham gave a message to veterans, thanking them for
Mississippi and Alabama once quarantine begins to ease paved the way for us.” service and for the legacy they’ve left the Air Force and
up. Officers and airmen being involved in the community armed forces, which he said motivates him and the other
is something that’s important to him, he said. airmen to continue their work.
20 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 5
4 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 21

Band of Brothers member turns 96 repay them.”


CAFB helps him celebrate Freeman helped guide the realism on
the television series on HBO “Band of
By Senior Airman Keith Holcomb Brothers,” using his first-hand experience to Hubert Ivan (Buddy) Dr. John M.
14th Flying Training Wing, Public Affairs make the show emulate the reality of Easy
Companies struggles and successes. Williamson Williamson
B
radford Freeman, a member of the The 43rd FTS was a bombing squadron
famous ‘Band of Brothers,’ assigned in World War II and while Freeman and U.S. Army U.S. Air Force
to E Company, 2nd Battalion of the Easy Company controlled Adolf Hitler’s
506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the famous “Eagles Nest,” the 43rd flew the
101st Airborne Division celebrated his 96th last bombing mission over Japan to end the
birthday with representatives of the 43rd war. Both the 43rd and Freeman’s accom-
Flying Training Squadron and received a plishments helped end the Second World
special gift. War and established themselves in the
Team Blaze Airmen and members of history books forever.
the installation Honor Guard replaced a Freeman was not surprised when the
damaged American Flag with a new one old school Army replica Jeeps showed up
outside of his home alongside many of his with a new flag for him, he joked nothing
friends and family. could surprise him anymore. He expressed
At 19 years old he flew over the beach- his appreciation to the 43rd since he had
es of Normandy and parachuted with his been planning on changing out his flag
brothers in arms towards foreign soil. Brad- “any day now.”
ford remembers his fellow soldiers every “This was an amazing opportunity for
day and said every moment of that jump the men and women around you today,”
will stay with him forever. said Lt. Col. Jason Barlow, 43rd FTS com-
“He was in every major engagement in mander. “We are so honored to be here
Photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb/14th Flying Training Wing, Columbus Air Force Base
Europe during World War II,” said Rufus with you today. This flag was flown in Bradford Freeman, assigned to ‘Easy’ Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute
Ward, local historian and 43rd FTS hon- each aircraft on Columbus AFB in honor of Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, prepares to meet friends on his porch
orary commander. “He’s a true American you, your birthday, and your service to this Sept. 3, 2020, in Miss. At 19 years old he flew over the beaches of Normandy and para-
hero and we need to honor those people country.” chuted with his brothers in arms towards foreign soil. Bradford remembers his fellow
… we owe them more than we could ever soldiers every day and said every moment of that jump will stay with him forever.
Specialist Hubert Williamson, 78, Colonel John Williamson, 46, of
RIGHT: Bradford Freeman, of New Hope, served for three years Dayton (MD), has served in the U.S.
assigned to ‘Easy’ Company, Air Force for the past 24.5 years,
2nd Battalion of the 506th
in the 69 Signal Battalion of the U.S.
Parachute Infantry Regi- Army. He joined to learn how to work including tours in Japan, Germany,
ment of the 101st Airborne on telephones and switch boards. Iraq and Turkey. He joined to serve his
Division, stand with members Williamson had the chance to work at country, gain great experience and to
from the 43rd Flying Train- General Westmoreland’s headquarters further his education. Dr. Williamson
ing Squadron at Freeman’s has had the great honor to provide
residency Sept. 3, 2020 in
in Saigon during his time in Vietnam.
Miss. The 43rd FTS flew an care to our past and present warriors
American Flag in each trainer as well as their families and his career
airframe over Columbus Air allowed him to travel the world and
Force Base, Miss. and raised make friends and colleagues around
the flag outside Freeman’s the globe. He has enjoyed his time in
House in honor of his service
and sacrifice to the U.S. Aeroevac and his current position as
FAR RIGHT: An old American professor the most thus far. Dr. Wil-
Flag gifted to Bradford Free- liamson and his family have enjoyed
man after it was flown over their years in the U.S. Air Force and
Washington D.C. was flown in are now looking to their last few years
his front lawn for many years,
but was retired to make room of Active Duty and then towards the
for a new flag from the 43rd next chapter in their lives and adven-
Flying Training Squadron. tures that God will provide and guide
them in.
Photos by Senior Airman
Keith Holcomb/Columbus Air
Force Base
22 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 3

Richard L. Wilson Robert E. Wilson


Army National Guard
Sergeant Richard L. Wilson, 52,
U.S. Army
Sergeant First Class Robert E. Wil-
To these veterans and the many others
of West Point, served in the Army
National Guard for 13 years during
Desert Storm. He joined for the ex-
son, 59, of West Point, served in the
U.S. Army for 27 years. He joined for
the challenges as well as experience
who have an continue to fight for out
Freedom, we say THANK YOU
perience and is grateful to have met and spent time in Kuwait and Iraq
some good people and got to visit during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Wil-
nice places. son says his time in service taught him
how to operate in combat situations
and the importance of being on time.

Dwight Andrews Percy Gibson Virgil Kimbrell Derrick Underwood


U.S. Army U.S. Army U.S. Navy Reserve U.S. Army

Willie Byrd Jr. Oran (Butch) Hill Thomas McLeod Hubert Ivan (Buddy)
U.S. Army U.S. Navy U.S. Army
Williamson
U.S. Army
Willie T. Byrd III J.B. Hodges Jr. Leavern Pate
Army National Guard
U.S. Army U.S. Army
Dr. John M.
Taroya Hollis Mel Sharpe Williamson
Dr. O.A. Cleveland U.S. Air Force
U.S. Army U.S. Army U.S. Air Force

Howard Ferguson Tracey Shelby Richard L. Wilson


Natasha Johnson Army National Guard
U.S. Air Force U.S. Army
U.S. Army Reserves

Lacy Freeman Bill Taylor Robert E. Wilson


U.S. Navy
Brendon Jones U.S. Navy U.S. Army
U.S. Marines

Devious Gandy Starling Jones Earl J. Thompson


U.S. Army U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force
2 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS SALUTE TO VETERANS The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 23
24 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020 The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com SALUTE TO VETERANS

S alute to
V eteranS
Veterans Day is November 11

Sunday, November 8, 2020

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