Lakenheath event honors those who served before
Stars and Stripes June 13, 2007
RAF LAKENHEATH — Air Force wings at the United Kingdom’s largest bases feted retirees and their family members last week to thank them for their service.
About 120 retirees and family members gathered Friday to enjoy aircraft displays, remarks of gratitude, retiree benefit booths and the chance to catch up with old friends and share war stories.
Retired Master Sgt. Robert L. Williams reminisced for a few moments about his Vietnam War experience as he took part in the event’s luncheon inside the Liberty Club.
The 65-year-old served in the war from 1969-70 and worked as an administrative superintendent for a supply squadron. He recalled his support of a Vietnamese orphanage. And, he touched on a more depressing period of his tour when his base came under heavy enemy fire.
“We had to actually fire at the Viet Cong who were launching 122-mm rockets with bamboo poles at the base that killed 23 airmen,” he said.
Williams, who currently helps run the Retiree Affairs Office on RAF Mildenhall, remembered running through ditches filled with sewer water while firing his M-16 rifle in order to fend off the enemy.
“It was exciting to us at that age, but, as I look back at it now, I say, ‘you fool, you fool!’ [but] that was the order of the day, and we were there to do our duty,” said Williams, who was 27 at the time.
Retired Tech. Sgt. Henry Elim, who served from 1954-74, came to the event to meet up with old acquaintances.
“I know quite a few of them, a lot of old comrades that I was stationed with,” said Elim, once a member of the air police — known today as the security forces.
Senior Master Sgt. David Claybourne, one of the event organizers, said that the luncheon was an opportunity for the 48th Fighter Wing and 100th Air Refueling Wing to honor retirees living in the U.K.