Follow Your Dreams – Veteran George Bradley
“They put a sack over my head and marched me to a cell. That was a scary moment.” While he was not really captured by the enemy, for Sergeant George Bradley, it sure felt like it. He was taking survival training at Fairfield Air Force Base 12 miles southwest of Spokane, Washington. George would attend numerous training courses during his 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, but none as tough and terrifying as the survival training at Fairfield. He would also learn survival training for both land and water. Later in his career, he would attend NCO (Non-commissioned Officer) Leadership School at March Air Force Base, California.
George was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in January 1946, the first born of four children. He was raised by his Grandfather and Grandmother and said he had “a good childhood.” His Grandfather Charles “worked doing dry wall and house painting.” His Grandmother Ethel was “a domestic worker and rental property owner.” He said the movie “The Help” reminded him of his Grandmother. His Grandfather did maintenance and general labor work. While George had a “good childhood”, growing up in the Deep South, he was also aware of the segregation at the time. He mentioned “separate beaches, bathroom, water fountains, diners and sitting in the back of the bus.” He recalls going to kindergarten and grade school that was “right across from our house”. He noted that “on rainy days, I had no excuse not to go to school.”
George graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1966. In 1969, he said “went to sign up for the Marines, but they were out to lunch so I joined the Air Force.” He would do his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He noted that when he was in high school he “dreamed of going to see the world and the military took him to France, England, Spain and Hawaii.” He also had two tours to the Philippines and was in Thailand, Okinawa and Japan. His main job in the Air Force was Life Support & Survival Equipment for F4 Phantom Jets. He was the NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer in Charge) of all survival equipment such as parachutes, oxygen masks, floatation devices, etc. While stationed in Germany, he attended Supply Custodian school and one of his best friends was a Swede named Sven Gustafson and “when we went out, people called us salt and pepper.” During his twenty years of service, George would obtain the rank of Tech Sergeant (E-6) and complete five overseas tours. He also continued his education while in the Air Force, receiving his Associates Degree in Work Management in 1985 from the Community College of the Air Force.
George would retire from the Air Force at Reese Air Force Base in 1989. He would be married four times and jokingly said, “None of my exes live in Texas!” He worked at Lockheed Martin at Reese AFB in tools and parts, Texas Tech University Press in shipping and receiving as a tool and parts attendant, UMC as an emergency room floor tech, and the Texas Health Dept. He found out about the Texas South Plains Honor Flight at the Lubbock VA Clinic and would go on the 2017 flight. He enjoyed being around all the other veterans and when asked what his favorite memorial was, he said “liked all of them.” About his time in the service, he said, “I enjoyed working with all the airmen. I learned responsibility, self-reliance, got to travel and enhance my life.” He also said “I am a living testimony and encourage other people to follow their dreams.”
George was assigned Katherine McLamore to be his Guardian and seatmate on the Honor Flight. They shared many laughs and stories in seat #43 on the Red Bus. George is very animated and delights people when he sings one of his favorite songs, “Hello Dolly” in his gruff, mock Louis Armstrong voice. George has also gone on to respond to speaker requests from schools via Katherine, and recently spoke at the Silent Wings to a large group of Lubbock school children, sharing his story and his humor-filled deep sense of patriotism. He enjoys helping people see the cup half full, and empowering them to be who they are created to be.
Respectfully submitted by
Katherine Mclamore and Larry A. Williams
Veterans Liaison Co-Chairs
Texas South Plains Honor Flight