Still Serving

Thursday, November 12, 2020
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Larry Tipton (left) presents Dick Henry with a 60-year appreciation certificate in front of the Veterans Wall in Columbus. (SCN photo by Marlo Pronovost)

Dick Henry has spent his entire adult life serving others.

Last week, he was honored by the local American Legion for 60 years of service. Henry accepted the certificate from Larry Tipton as the pair stood in front of the Veterans Wall in Columbus.

In 1951, Henry had just graduated from Columbus High School and was headed to Montana State University in Bozeman, where he had a scholarship to play football. Life had other plans.

One month after graduation, Henry received a letter from the Stillwater County draft board.

“I was getting ready to leave for Bozeman,” said Henry, who planned on studying business ag.

But Henry had a plan. He and one other classmate who had received a draft card went to Billings and visited every military recruiter there. He was going to enlist so he would not be drafted.

He landed on the United States Air Force — the same path that three uncles had also taken. The recruiter let them spend the summer doing whatever he wanted to do before launching his military career.

Henry eventually was assigned to be an Air and Sea Rescue clerk. A new position at that time, his job was to inventory all of the rescue equipment his crew was “kicking” through the door to victims of airplane and other crashes from Newfoundland to Puerto Rico.

It was a job created from a problem with civilians stealing the rescue supplies before they reached the intended targets.

“People would watch for the parachutes,” said Henry.

After about six months, he was reassigned to Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls.

“I said what the hell am I going to do in a Air and Sea Rescue in Montana?” he said.

Until that time, Malmstrom was a MATS unit — a Military Air Transport Service. However, a general decided he wanted a base closer than Alaska. After that assignment, he moved on to group headquarters.

“I ended up in what Mrs. Long taught me,” said Henry, referring to the Columbus teacher who taught him basic business skills that he used throughout his life.

Henry also is thankful for his time in the military.

In all, Henry served eight years — four years active, two years active reserve and two years inactive reserve.

“The service was so good to me,” said Henry, adding that the service ended up sending him to an agricultural college in Texas.