On Tuesday, September 13, 2022 the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce will host an event celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Air Force. The local community will have the opportunity to hear first hand stories from our very own local veterans who participated in significant events in our history.
- The event will take place at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center at Northwest Florida State College from 1:30-3:30pm.
“It’s just amazing that our neighbors and friends were involved in these crucial military operations throughout the world,” says Ted Corcoran, CEO of the FWB Chamber of Commerce.
Corcoran says that there was already a plan to honor the Air Force for the 75th Anniversary, but after meeting local veterans at the Final Goblet Ceremony back in April, he realized there was so much more that happened at Eglin Air Force Base, Duke Field, and Hurlburt Field that no one knows anything about.
- “The 75th Air Force Anniversary is the logical opportunity to recognize these incredible stories that have occurred during the past 75 years,” he added.
After the program’s opening ceremonies, the stories will be presented chronologically, starting off with World War II.
Here’s a list of panelists:
- Cindy Cole Chal, daughter of the late Colonel Dick Cole who served as Col Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the lead B-25 in the April of 1942 bombing raid on Tokyo, Japan.
- Colonel Howard Hill, Vietnam Veteran, F-4 Fighter Pilot and former POW for nearly 2000 days.
- Capt (Ret) Dale Dye, who has just written a book about Korea, will talk about Korea as well as Vietnam.
- Col Larry Ropka, Vietnam veteran, master navigator and special operations aircraft expert. He led a small group of intelligence and operations officers for Operation KINGPIN, the raid on Son Tay prison to rescue American POWs. Colonel Ropka was inducted into the Air Commando Hall of Fame in 1969.
- Col Bill Keeler, combat experienced Air Force pilot who was chosen as the Commander of the Eglin Refugee Reception Center in 1975, whose amazing success awarded Col Keeler a Presidential Citation for Meritorious Service later that year.
- Chief Master Sergeant Bill Walter, Veteran of Operations Eagle Claw (Bield Kirk, Blue Flame and Blinking Light (El Salvador), Urgent Fury/Grenada, Just Cause (Panama) Desert Shield/Storm (Saudi Arabia/Kuwait), Deny Flight (Bosnia) and Somalia. He was inducted into the Air Commando Hall of Fame and the United States Special Operations Command Hall of Honor and has authored two books detailing combat history of the AC-130 gunship.
- Lt Col Kirby Locklear, Veteran of Operations in, Bield Kirk, Blue Flame and Blinking Light (El Salvador), Urgent Fury (Grenada), Desert Storm (Saudi Arabia/Kuwait). The Honorable Kirby Locklear is currently a City of Fort Walton Beach Councilmember.
- Lt Col Corby Martin, MH-53 Helicopter Pilot. Veteran of Operations Desert Shield/Storm (Saudi Arabia/Kuwait/Iraq), Uphold Democracy, (Haiti), Joint Endeavor, (Bosnia), Allied Force, (Kosovo), Silent Promise/JTF Atlas Response, (Mozambique), Enduring Freedom, (Afghanistan), Iraqi Freedom, (Jordan/Iraq). He is the 1992 recipient of the Colonel James Jabara Airmanship Award.
- Colonel Allison Black, AC-130 Gunship Navigator, Veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), with more than 2000 combat flying hours, Current 1st Special Operations Wing Commander.
- Lieutenant General Marshall “Brad” Webb, MH-53 Pilot, Veteran of Operations Desert Shield/Storm (Saudi Arabia/Kuwait), Joint Endeavor (Bosnia), Allied Force, (Kosovo), Silent Promise/JTF Atlas Response, (Mozambique), Enduring Freedom, (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, (Jordan/Iraq). Former Deputy Commander of Joint Special Operations Command and Commander of Air Force Special Operations Command.
Corcoran says that the Air Force, and the military as a whole, are just loved in Okaloosa County and this event is a special way to honor our brave men and women.
“So many of us don’t know about Son Tay or Operation Eagle Claw and by attending this event, they are going to learn so much more about the history of the military and the people who were involved” says Corcoran. “These are stories they haven’t made movies out of and many just haven’t had the opportunity to read them.”
Corcoran continued by saying that “the quiet professionals that we have here in the Air Force don’t pat themselves on the back very often, and it’s our job to do that!”
- Tickets are $20.
- Active duty and veterans can receive a complimentary ticket by calling the box office at (850) 729-6000.
- Seating is general admission.