Airman returns to his alma mater at air base in Tokyo with token of thanks
Stars and Stripes May 12, 2023
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A graduate of the Defense Department high school at this airlift hub in western Tokyo returned Thursday to share a combat memento with his former teachers.
Senior Airman Michael McDougall of the 8th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., returned from a recent deployment to Qatar with a combat flag that flew over Syria on March 8.
McDougall, who graduated from Yokota High School in 2018, said he presented the flag as a symbol of respect during Teacher Appreciation Week.
“This is to show appreciation and honor the staff here for all that they do for students past and present,” McDougall, a loadmaster aboard one of the Air Force’s largest transport aircraft, a C-17 Globemaster, told Stars and Stripes at the event.
More than 100 students and faculty were on hand for McDougall’s presentation, along with members of all six U.S. military branches in the school gymnasium.
Base commander Col. Andrew Roddan praised McDougall during the event for how far the airman has come in just five years. Roddan encouraged students to strive in their learning.
“Think about the teaching you get — the education you get — and what it is preparing you for,” he said.
McDougall was raised at Yokota and enlisted in the Air Force a year after graduation. His mother, Colleen McDougall, is an information specialist at the high school.
“Personally, I would like to thank each one of you who taught me and helped me become the person that I am today,” the airman said at the event.
One longtime educator, John Thek, who has served at Yokota since 1979, thanked McDougall for his gift and became emotional as he shared his feelings about the children he’s taught and coached over the years.
Thek mentioned other Yokota students — “the best kids” — who went on to do remarkable things, including the actress Olivia Munn, who appeared in movies such as “X-Men” and “X-Men: Apocalypse.” She attended the school from 1994 to 1996.
Yokota High will graduate its 50th senior class on May 25.