Naval Postmaster wins “Best Beard Growing Contest”
Gordon Hambright served in the Navy from 1951-1955 as a Teleman, 3rd Class USN-1. “There was not one time I was ever afraid” while in the military, not even while serving in the Privil of Islands during the 3.5 day long typhoon which spanned twelve miles in diameter. Navy Veteran Gordon Hambright describes the violent weather event he witnessed at 20 years old and the eye of the storm as lasting a peaceful 8 hours. He said he remained calm aboard the USS Electra AKA-4 and was involved in communications monitoring the tropical monsoon. After the storm, with no docks constructed in the area, it took the Navy an entire year to load and unload supplies in landing boats. His free time included watching fur bearing seal herds.
The former farmer from Floydada, TX, born in February 1932 to William and Ethel Hambright, participated in 4-H, tennis, basketball, softball and bowling before he graduated in 1949 from high school, then worked at the post office. He joined the Navy in 1951 and his first impression of San Diego was “crowded”. He went to Teleman School where he learned teletype skills and how to be a movie operator. He served in Guam for 2 years at the Naval Hospital where he replaced a postmaster that had committed suicide because he did not adjust to living on the island.
While in Seattle Washington awaiting orders, the Captain told the soldiers they could grow a beard and soon competition mounted among them creating the Beard Growing Contest. Hambright won three first-class ribbons for the best beard. He also helped with entertainment by operating drive-in theater projectors on base which would serve as a springboard for a future family owned theater in Lockney, TX for five years where all the members of his immediate family had various roles, including him as the projectionist, Darlynn as the concession stand manager, Grant making popcorn, Craig at the box office, and Treva as the cook.
After leaving the Navy in 1955, Gordon worked at the Floydada Post Office for nine years and for the Department of Transportation for twenty-seven years and retired in 1993. His wife Darlynn passed away in 2006 after many years of working for the Secretary of Superintendents in Floydada.
Gordon states he was “very concerned” when his house caught on fire in 2009 in Floydada, TX while he was inside. He thanks God and the volunteer fire department that protected his house with a wall of water as 60 mph winds previously spread the flames to several other houses in his neighborhood, with his house being the next one in line to be consumed. After being removed from his home and given light medical care, he was able to reoccupy his home the next day.
Gordon met his wife Darlynn in high school in Floydada and they were married in 1955 soon after he was honorably discharged from the Navy. They settled in Floydada and had three children: James Craig, William Grant, and Treva Wilson who now lives near him in Lubbock, TX with her husband Mike.
Soon after hearing about the 2014 Texas South Plains Honor Flight, Treva spoke to her father about it and quickly sent in his application and her own guardian application. “At first we were very excited when he got accepted, but then I started to worry about how his lungs would respond while on the airplane and about all the supplies they would need to do the activities on the flight, from riding on the bus to touring the monuments.” Because her father is oxygen dependent and there were multiple risk factors involved in him going on the flight, she says she lost sleep and was worried many days leading up to the flight. Despite the risks, Gordon was determined to go. He said he was “going to go sometime and he’d rather go while on the Honor Flight than any other way.”
Gordon was supplied with enough medication and supplies and soon they were at the Lubbock International Airport preparing to leave with 82 other Veterans on Oct 1, 2014. He boarded the plane, did well on the flight, landed in Baltimore in good spirits and was able to view his memorials with the help of Treva and Mike Travis from the Honor Flight medical team. His favorite stop was the Korean War Memorial where he got to lay the red, white and blue wreath with Treva right behind his wheelchair. It was a very moving experience for him and he states he treasures it greatly. He also enjoyed the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Another highlight from the trip was when he got to “revisit” his Postmaster duties on the flight to Washington and was honored as one of two former military postal service personnel to distribute mail to the Veterans during mail call.
Currently Gordon enjoys assembling puzzles and has on display many large framed puzzles, including some of Treva’s photography work that she had made into puzzles for him. Gordon has many visitors where he lives and he gets to visit with several Veteran volunteers (including a retired Army Brigadier General) and a couple of Pet Therapy volunteers. His sister also lives in the same complex and they get to play bingo together and see each other frequently.
Gordon’s favorite song is “Happy Trails” and the hymn “How Great Thou Art”. When asked what his advice to those serving now is, he encourages them to “make the most of it”. He reflects fondly on the years of service and is surrounded in his home by military memorabilia including a very special treasure, a book designed and assembled by his daughter Treva highlighting his adventure to Washington, D.C. It is a place where he was able to view his memorials and get to see the bigger picture of what all the branches of service came together to accomplish. When asked how he feels about the Honor Flight he smiles brightly and replies, “I’d highly recommend it!”
Respectfully submitted by
Veterans Liaison Co-Chair
Texas South Plains Honor Flight