Four Brothers ... 100 Years of Service
by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Agustin Salazar
One family has more than just the holidays to celebrate this
year. The Connelly brothers ... Bill, Mark, John, and Michael of
Champlain, New York ... have accumulated 100 years of service in the
One family has more than just the holidays to celebrate this year. The Connelly brothers
... Bill, Mark, Mark, Michael Connelly of Champlain, New York
... have accumulated 100 years of service in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force image by Tech. Sgt. Agustin Salazar - December 23, 2020)
Bill was the first Connelly brother to enter the Air Force,
enlisting in February of 1980, followed by Mark in October of that
John joined in April of 1986, and Michael arrived at
basic training on Veteran's Day in 1997.
military service for different reasons. Some were just looking for a
more promising career, and some a new life direction. The Connellys
have served in every major conflict since 1980 ... Grenada, Panama,
Desert Storm, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The stories of the Connelly brothers are not too different from
those of other service members.
They all experienced their
temporary duty assignments and short-notice deployments that come
with military service and unique stories attached to these events.
Bill Connelly remembered a harrowing and somewhat amusing
tale corresponding to one of his deployments...
While unloading pallets of food from a
C-141, locals began firing shots. "I could not see them but only the
puffs of smoke from their rifles," Bill said. The loadmaster started
rushing around, taping the holes in the aircraft with duct tape. The
pilot started the engine and told them it was time to go and to
leave the forklift.
One of his young Airman started cutting all
of the electrical lines on the forklift with his knife. Bill
laughed, tapped the Airman on his head, saying, "Like they don't
have electrical tape." Bill recounted 23 holes in the plane and
three shots that hit the forklift that day. Bill spent 22 years of
his 27- year Air Force career overseas and said he has no desire to
ever travel outside the U.S. again.
John Connelly was in the front row for President Reagan's "Mr.
Gorbachev, tear down this wall" speech. He supported the cease-fire
in Kosovo and Bosnia while assigned to Naples, Italy, Naval Support
Base for six months, during Operation Joint Endeavor, as well as the
Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Two of the
brothers recalled another found memory when their paths unexpectedly
crossed in Ramstein, Germany. Mark Connelly was there from McGuire
AFB and Bill from Mildenhall, England ... Neither knew the other was
there. Both ended up at the Enlisted Club on base. Bill saw Mark
across the bar and said to a co-worker, "I bet that guy is from New
York and that I know his Social Security Number." Bill got a free
Michael Connelly recalled an incident where he, too,
ran into his brother, Bill. Michael had traveled from Langley,
Virginia, to Hungary to support the NATO efforts in Kosovo. When he
landed for a layover in Mildenhall, he and his unit were marshaled
to a staging room. Bill walked in and told his convoy commander,
"Maj. Smith, I'm taking him," which prompts Maj. Smith to say, "Hey,
will he be back for departure?" Bill responded, "Your plane isn't
going anywhere until I say so!"
These deployment stories and
seemingly serendipitous meetings are the types many service members
The one thing that most service members cannot boast about is a
family legacy of four siblings amassing a century's worth of
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