Sioux City, Iowa --
On the heels of the 185th’s return from a year-long deployment to Vietnam, Larry Blair joined the Sioux City, Iowa based Air National Guard unit. This weekend, fifty years after Blair first became affiliated with Iowa Air Guard, he celebrated his second retirement during a small ceremony in Sioux City.
Since retiring militarily in 2009 Blair had been working as a State Guard for the Air Guard unit where he was working in security forces for the past ten years. This weekend he retired again from his job as a security guard.
Blair said when he first joined the unit he worked in services, dining facility which in the 1960’s and 1970’s was located in what is today the headquarters conference room. This weekend, the dining room in the newly constructed consolidated support building was filled to capacity with well-wishers for an informal send-off.
Blair said he began his military career when he joined the unit in April 1969 and has been affiliated with the unit ever since. During his time with the unit, Blair saw four different airframes and worked for eight different wing commanders.
During his forty military years Blair also worked in supply and in the recruiting office where he was able to share his enthusiasm about the Air Guard with prospective recruits. Master Sgt. George Mendoza 185th Air Refueling Wing retention manager worked with Blair in recruiting from 2002 to 2009 said it was Blair who initially recruited him.
“This was his life, it’s all he knew,” said Mendoza, when talking about Blair’s love of the Air Guard experience.
Mendoza describe his experience when as a student at Western Iowa Technical College it was Blair’s tenacity that convinced him to join the Air Guard. Mendoza described his initial conversation with Blair, which from Blair’s perspective Mendoza’s joining the guard was a done deal from the first conversation.
According to Mendoza, with Blair it didn’t stop with a pitch about the benefits of joining the Air Guard. Blair would jokingly promise much more; “were going to make you famous,” Blair would say, promising both fortune and fame to a potential enlistee.
At the gathering over the October training weekend Blair had one last opportunity to reminisce about his time with the unit.
“I have been blessed to be able to work here the last ten years,” said Blair.
After fifty years most people would start to consider life after work. With Blair however he said the idea of not working didn’t really cross his mind. Before his last day with the Air Guard he had already lined up his next job working as a security guard for Mercy Hospital in Sioux City.
“This has meant everything to me,” Blair said in a short speech surrounded by cake, flowers and many friends he has made over the past fifty years.