The Commerce Journal

November 19, 2012

Vigil honors Air Force veterans

By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Ted Oats shared what it meant to be in the Air Force as he spoke during the Texas A&M University-Commerce Veterans Vigil on Nov. 12.

The event, held at Sam Rayburn Student Center in Commerce, honored the 65th anniversary of the United States Air Force.

“In 1947, the Air Force became its own branch,” Oats said. “Thank God, because I didn’t want to walk when I got in the service.”

Oats joined the ROTC at East Texas State University with his friend, Terry, and was drafted in 1967 and went through basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

“That started a journey for Helen and I that would take us halfway around the world,” he said.

Oats said he knew exactly what to do when he got into the Air Force.

“When we landed, a gentleman asked me if I knew what to do,” he said. “I said I’m gonna go to the man with all the stripes on his shoulder and do whatever he tells me to do.”

According to Oats, June of 1969 is a time he will never forget.

“June of ‘69,” he said. “I know exactly where I was standing when I got a call saying that Terry’s plane had been shot down. That was the first close friend I lost during the war.”

Oats said he would lose other friends during his service.

“Since that time I’ve lost a few friends but nothing quite like that,” he said.

Although he went through many trials in the Air Force, Oats said he is grateful to have been able to serve.

“I lived in my flight suit in the Air Force,” he said. “I am very fortunate that through the Air Force I got to work for Southwest Airlines for 10 years.”