Altenheim Senior Living resident Byron Temple has plenty of stories to share with fellow veterans when he joins them aboard this weekend’s Honor Flight, which will take them to Washington, D.C. to visit the city’s major war memorials and reflect upon their time in the service.
Byron’s interest in serving started at an early age, as he grew up with uncles who served, and he longed to travel the world as a young man. Until he graduated from high school and joined the Air Force in 1962, he had never traveled outside his home state of Michigan. His four years of service took him all across the globe.
Byron spent his first year in the military attending airborne electronics school. He was later stationed at a base in Texas that proved to be a rather fateful location, as President Kennedy was scheduled to fly out of there the day he was assassinated.
“I was planning to go out to his plane to see him when I received the news of his death,” Byron said.
Byron later received another pivotal piece of news on that base.
“I was told I would be going on a secret mission,” he said. “Along with other specialists, I flew on a KC-135 refueling tanker. We didn’t know where we were going. I later found out we would be flying out of Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines and that we would be refueling bombers over Vietnam. It was an exciting mission.”
Byron went from the heat waves of Vietnam to the wintry winds of the Arctic Circle for a NATO training exercise meant to assuage Norway’s doubts that the organization would effectively defend the country in the event of an invasion.
“NATO showed its dedication and power — it was pretty neat and impressive,” Byron said. “I remember them issuing snow skis to me when I got off the plane. I spent most of my time there working on equipment and skiing. It was a cool experience.”
You can clearly hear a great deal of pride and excitement in Byron’s voice when he talks about his time in the military. His fellow veterans and passengers are in for quite a treat when they swap stories with him during the Honor Flight.
“I could tell so many stories of my travels and experiences,” Byron said. “I am proud of having served my country, and I’m very much looking forward to this trip.”