Honoring Our Heroes

 

Colonel Hugh David McCracken, Jr.: Age: 85

Col Hugh David McCracken, Jr. served 26 years in the United States Air Force. He was born October 27, 1935, at West Hartford, CT, to his parents, Hugh David McCracken, Sr. and Grace, and he graduated from Wethersfield High School at Wethersfield, CT, in 1953.

He received a B.S. Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies of Mathematics and Physics in 1957 from Trinity College at Hartford, CT. Having participated in the Air Force ROTC while in college, he entered military service November 28, 1957, in the U.S. Air Force.

Col McCracken’s military career began with six weeks of initial training at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB) TX followed by primary pilot training at Spence AFB, GA for six months, flying the T-34 and T-28. He then served at Craig AFB Selma, AL, for basic pilot training flying the T-33, receiving his pilot wings in March 1959. After that, he trained as a pilot of the B-47 at McConnell AFB, KS, and flew this turbojet-powered strategic bomber designed to fly at high subsonic speed and at high altitude to avoid enemy interceptor aircraft. During the Cold War, a period of geopolitical tension between the

Soviet Union and the United States and their respective allies, he was assigned to Lincoln AFB, NE for the Strategic Air Command (SAC) for five years during 1959-1964 where B-47’s were loaded with nuclear arsenal and on alerts. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, he was sent to a civilian airport at Duluth, MN, on alert status for several weeks.

He was then transferred to Maxwell AFB, AL, to serve as an instructor at the Squadron Officer School. This was cut short after 1.5 years because of the war in Vietnam. He was then trained at Sewart AFB, TN, in the C-130 Hercules, an American four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings. The C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medevac and cargo transport aircraft, but this versatile airframe found uses in a variety of other roles including as a gunship (AC-130), for airborne assault, search and rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, aerial refueling, maritime patrol and aerial firefighting.

Col McCracken was sent along with his family to Naha Air Base on Okinawa where he spent most of his time on temporary duty flying in Vietnam. He completed 440 combat missions involving air-drop and air-land carrying supplies and ammunition.

He then returned to Maxwell AFB, AL, for four years, completing his teaching assignment at the Squadron Officer’s School. Since his service in Okinawa provided an accompanied tour for his family, his next deployment flying the C-130 was to the Philippines for an isolated tour of 18 months while his family remained at Maxwell AFB Gunter Annex at Montgomery, AL.

Returning to the USA, he served as the commander of the Air Force ROTC detachment at the University of Southern MS for four years where he was promoted to full Colonel. His last assignment was at Maxwell AFB, AL, to serve as Registrar of the Air Force ROTC senior units at 144 colleges and universities until his retirement June 30, 1983.

His numerous decorations, medals, badges, citations and campaign ribbons are: Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism at Khe Sanh, Vietnam, Meritorious Service Medal with two Devices, Air Medal with three Devices, Air Force Commendation Medal, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Korea), Combat Readiness Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon with five Devices, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with six Devices, Air Force Presidential Unit Citation, Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation with one Device, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor and six Devices, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Device and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

After military retirement, Col McCracken worked at a university. He served as the Director of Alumni at Troy University (Troy State University) for five years. While at Troy University, he received a Master of Science Degree in Education, majoring in secondary mathematics education in 1989, and he taught mathematics at Troy University for several years retiring in 1999.

Col McCracken and his wife, Connie, have been married 58 years, and they have four children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They were active members of St. Martin Catholic Church at Troy, AL, where he managed financial records and served as Parish Council President. He was a member of the Troy Exchange Club and served as President for two years. They enjoy playing bridge with other couples.

Col McCracken’s reflections upon his military service: “I met my wife when I was stationed at Lincoln A.F.B., NE, and she spent all of this time with me. We reared four children together. It has been a wonderful, enjoyable life. I had only one relative in the military before me, who served in World War II. Serving with the Air Force was the natural thing to do. I just went where I was told to go. I have no regrets.”

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Lieutenant Colonel John Gibson Hamilton: Age 84

Lt Col John Hamilton served in the U.S. military for 34 years including six years on active and reserve duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, and 28 years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. His Air Force Specialty was a Personnel Programs Staff Officer and later Education and Training Staff Officer. His medals and awards included the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with three service stars, the Armed Service Reserve Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm device and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Lt Col Hamilton was one of six children, born April 4, 1936, at Newport, RI, to his parents, Harry Goodrich Hamilton and Mary Calhoun Hamilton. For many years, his family lived in a rural area in Rollinsford, NH, in a house with no electricity or running water. They moved to Rochester, NH, where he attended school, belonged to a rifle club, hunted, played various sports, qualified as a Water Safety Instructor and lifeguard for summer employment, was a Boy Scout, and learned to scuba dive. He also worked in a five and dime store as a stockboy and in the kitchen of a YMCA summer camp. He graduated from Spaulding High School in Rochester in 1954.

Upon graduation, Lt Col Hamilton attended Taylor University in Indiana for one year and then volunteered to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps arriving for a 13-week boot camp at Paris Island on May 1, 1956. He was proud to be a Marine; graduated at the top of his platoon and promoted to Private First Class (PFC). After completing advanced infantry training, he was assigned to Hqs Second Marine Division and then as a guard at the Portsmouth Naval Prison at Portsmouth, NH, where he was promoted to sergeant. He ended his active duty with the Marines on July 31, 1958.

While completing his reserve commitment with the Marines, he attended the University of New Hampshire receiving a B.A. Degree in Education, Physical Education and History in 1961. During this time, he also worked for a GM supplier producing auto parts, sold shoes at an Endicott Johnson Shoe Store, and was the steward and bar tender at the Loyal Order of the Moose Club. After graduation, he taught at the Springfield Junior High School, in Springfield, VT.

Lt Col Hamilton enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, attended Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB), TX, becoming a 2nd Lieutenant on August 7, 1962. His first assignment was as a personnel officer with the 1370th Photo Mapping Wing at Turner AFB, GA. In this capacity, he was sent to Sao Paulo, Brazil, for four months to support the aerial photography mission and visited New Guinea, Australia, Japan and Alaska. He volunteered for service in Vietnam where he served at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Vietnam, and then at the Udorn Thai Air Force Base in Thailand, working as a personnel staff officer. The most challenging aspect of his work included casualty reporting of missing aviators over North Vietnam and subsequent rescue and recovery efforts. After a one-year deployment to southeast Asia, he served as a personnel plans officer at Headquarters PACAF, Hawaii where he also completed an M.Ed. Degree from the University of Hawaii.

Lt Col Hamilton returned to the mainland and served at the Air Force Military Personnel Center at Randolph AFB, TX. While there, he selected officers to attend graduate schools to satisfy educational needs of the Air Force and served as Chief of the Air Force ROTC Policy Branch. His next assignment was to Texas A&M University where he completed a Ph.D. Degree as a distinguished graduate in 1976. He was then tasked to teach Labor Management Relations in the Federal Sector to commanders and senior personnel at the Professional Personnel Management School at Maxwell AFB, AL. He also taught elective courses on this subject at the Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, the Senior NCO Academy and at various Air Force bases. He was then assigned to Duke University to teach Aerospace Studies and assume command of the Air Force ROTC Department. His last assignment was a return to Maxwell AFB, AL, as Chief of Curriculum for high school and college ROTC programs until retiring from military service September 1, 1990. His family includes six members who have served in the U.S. military including his father, three brothers, one son and him.

Lt Col Hamilton and his wife, Joanne, were married 13 years before she passed away. He and his wife, Barbara, have now been married over 50 years. They have five children, six grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. They have enjoyed square dancing, traveling, swimming at the YMCA, maintaining their five acres, gardening and activities at the church. He has completed 13 marathons (26.2 miles) including the Boston Marathon twice, the Marine Corps Marathon, the Blue Angel Marathon, the Huntsville Marathon and others. Since his military retirement, he worked writing curriculum for an Air Force contractor involving a Leadership and Management Program, and he worked six years as an electrician for his son’s company, Hamilton Electric. He has been a volunteer with the Volunteer in Police Service (VIPS) program of the Montgomery Police Department and at Frazer United Methodist Church where he has served in the widow’s ministry and as an usher and greeter at services, a kitchen helper at the men’s breakfast and Wednesday night suppers and is a member of the Sowers Sunday School Class.

Lt Col Hamilton says, “The Marine Corps was a good place to grow and mature. I learned to put my best effort into everything I did, to obey and to lead and to respect and be respected. In the Air Force, I enjoyed every assignment and the opportunity to travel and see many parts of the world. I loved the Air Force and all of the opportunities it provided and to work with true professional people. The military made me proud to be an American, and I love the retirement.”

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Petty Officer Second Class Kenneth O. Brewton: Age 97

Kenneth O. Brewton served in the United States Navy for 2 years and 10 months during World War II. His Military Occupational Specialty was radio operator. He received the Pacific Campaign bars with three battle stars.

Brewton was born to his parents, Hose and Alice Brewton, in a rural area near Castleberry, AL, in 1924. He was reared for 12 years there and then was reared near Evergreen, AL, where he attended Lyeffion High School. At age 18, he dropped out of school and volunteered for military service with the U. S. Navy enlisting February 7, 1943. Brewton completed Basic Training at San Diego, and after scoring well on aptitude tests, he qualified to serve as a radio operator, which he did during his entire time of service. Brewton served in the treacherous waters of the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, Saipan, the largest of the Mariana Islands, Guam and the Philippines. He served as the radio operator on the USS Curtiss (AV-4), the first purpose-built seaplane tender constructed for the United States Navy. It was designed to provide command facilities for forward operating long-range patrol seaplane squadrons. To accomplish this, it was heavily armed with four 5-inch (130 mm)/38 caliber dual-purpose guns, and contained repair and maintenance facilities, along with supplies for operating in forward areas for many months. Brewton was discharged from military service December 7, 1945, at Norman, Oklahoma.

After his military service ended, Brewton returned to Alabama and worked at a laundry. Using the G.I. Bill, he completed accounting, taxes and business law courses at the Wheeler Business College in Birmingham in 1949. He then worked in cost accounting in Houston, TX, at Brown and Root, a company that repaired tanks. He returned to Birmingham where he began to work for truck lines as a traffic manager in tariffs and freight bill rates and then for Baggett Transportation, Mason Dixon and other truck lines in Alabama. After 40 years in this business, he retired December 31,1995.

Brewton and his wife, Zula, were married for 43 years before she passed, and they had three children and one grandchild. He and his wife, Mary Lou, were married for 20 years before she passed. Brewton has enjoyed gardening and fishing on his 42 acres. He did most of the carpentry in his house. He continues to use his accounting skills by assisting his neighbors in preparation of their income taxes.

Brewton’s conclusions about his military service are, “I would not take anything for it. When we got on the ship, we did not know if we would ever see this country again. We intended to whip the enemy. When we sailed away from San Francisco, we didn’t know where we were going. I was among six sons in my family with five of us serving and one brother staying home to help on the farm. My mother had a service flag with five stars which she put on her front door.”

Brewton’s conclusions about life are, “I think that people should work for what they have. Of course, there are some exceptions to that. I lived through the Depression. The love for this country is the main thing in my life.”

 

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