I had known Lieutenant General Glen R. Birchard for many years.
General Birchard, my boss, came to Travis Air Force Base in July 1961. He died in June 1967 near Anchorage, Alaska, when the plane he was on crashed shortly after takeoff. He was the commander of Western Transport Air Force, the squadron I served with 15 years overseas and stateside. I knew him when he was a young officer.
The second day he was on base, I got a call from his secretary, whom I also knew for years, telling me the general wanted to see me. When I arrived, he got up and took my hand. I had not seen him in a couple of years, but in my job, I knew every base he had been on.
He wanted me to print him some nice stationery. He had already written down what he wanted on some nice paper he had.
He wanted to know all about what I had done since the last time we saw each other.
His secretary had told him I was the base’s horseshoe pitching champ. He challenged me to a game during lunchtime. When word got around about the game, there had to be 50 people that would watch the game.
He was good, but I won both games. He said, “Sergeant, we will play again tomorrow.”
During his three years there, we would play many games. I let him win a couple of games, and when he got back to his office, he told everyone he had kicked my butt. His secretary would call me and say, “You let the old boy win.” I told her I felt sorry for him.
He was an outstanding officer, and a big war hero. Not all officers get to be three stars. When we first me, he was a captain and I was a staff sergeant. He promoted me to master sergeant, and sent me to the Noncommissioned Officer Academy where I would train the president’s Air Force One crew.
(Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in California.)