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Thomas Newman

Major (Ret.) Thomas Newman dropped out of high school in 1965, and military service was almost a certainty.

It was 1965 and the Vietnam War was in full swing. After making the decision to enter the Air Force, Newman trained as a pararescueman—an elite rescue and recovery specialist. On completion of his training, he was assigned to Headquarters Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. From May 1966 to December 1967, Newman improved his proficiencies and it was during this time he executed his first rescue mission.

“I was standing over the patient when he regained consciousness,” Newman said. “He had no words to say, but the look on his face will always be with me.”

Not even a year later, he was awarded the Air Force’s second highest award, the Air Force Cross, for selflessly putting himself in harm’s way to retrieve a downed pilot in the jungle of Southeast Asia.

Newman said he is, and will always be, proud of the work he did while in the service.

“My biggest accomplishment was the result of the work that I did being able to actually save three lives,” he said.

Newman gained his GED while enlisted and later decided to pursue a college degree.

“I went through ROTC and finished my undergrad degree, commissioned and got a master’s degree.”

As an officer, Newman became an instructor at the survival school at Fairchild AFB, Wash.

After serving for 29 years, Newman retired Nov. 1, 1994. His last assignment was at Randolph AFB, Texas.

“The Air Force taught me core values before there were core values,” he said. “It gave me responsibility with accountability. It taught me that service was more important than recognition, and that good enough isn’t good enough.”