Contemplating retirement was not an easy decision for Lt. Col. Brian Buck because he loved Tech too much to leave.
“They wanted me to go to United States Cyber Command and, trust me, it was a hard choice to turn that job down,” Buck said.
Buck said he was willing to stay at Tech and run Air Force ROTC for another year, but the Air Force wanted him to go to Maryland to work at the USCC.
Buck said he decided he did not want to leave Tech and go on a tour of duty in Maryland, so he decided to retire at the age of 43 and stay in Ruston with his wife and son, Alex.
“The big thing is I just did not want to leave the local area,” Buck said. “I am happy here. My parents are close by, my son is attending Tech and my wife has a job here. It was time.”
Buck said when he came and was assigned to Tech ROTC, it was the closest he had ever been to his home in Arkansas since joining the Air Force.
“I actually came into the military through ROTC at Southeast Missouri State University,” Buck said. “I graduated in May and came back to active duty in January of the following year.”
Buck said SMSU is where he met his wife, Yvonne Buck, administrative coordinator for flight operations in the professional aviation department. He said they were married in November of 1992 and their marriage paralleled his career.
“It’s been twenty years of moving around,” Buck said. “We started in Texas at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio.”
Buck said after moving from there they went to Anderson Air Force Base, south of Guam, to Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, then to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz. and then they ended up in Washington, D.C.
“I worked at the Pentagon for a couple of years,” he said. “The Pentagon really wasn’t my thing.”
Buck said he had a variety of jobs at the Pentagon.
“After two years, I was tired of being in DC, so I decided to go to Baghdad,” he said. “I spent a year in Baghdad, from 2006 to 2007 in the International Zone. That was a life-altering experience.”
Buck said there were a couple of times in Baghdad during which he almost died.
“Mortar rounds were coming in. Very, very close calls,” Buck said. “You start to appreciate life when you have been that close to it ending.”
Buck said Iraq was not his first time in a country going through a war.
“I served in Bosnia,” he said. “It was back in Operation Joint Guardian.”
Buck said he spent the change into the new millennium in Bosnia.
“That was the coldest winter they had recorded. At one point it was 40 below around Christmas,” Buck said.
Buck said after his tour in Iraq he went back to Hawaii for another tour of duty to work with the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command in Hawaii.
“The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is an organization that is responsible for going around the world to find the remains of our missing from previous wars and bring their remains to their families,” he said.
Buck said working with JPAC was probably, outside of teaching the next generation in Tech’s ROTC, the most fulfilling thing he has ever done in the military.
“It was another eye-opening experience working with that command and bringing closure to families,” Buck said. “Bringing their loved ones home…It was emotional.”
Buck said the highlight of his time in JPAC was an event related to a silver bracelet worn to remember prisoners of war and the missing in action of the Vietnam War.
“I wore one for 17 years,” he said. “Before that, my wife wore it for three years for Col. William Henderson Mason,” he said.
Buck said Col. Mason was a C130 pilot lost in Vietnam.
“On one of the trips with our command, I had gone down to Miami,” Buck said. “We had a family meeting we had to go to. We would tell the families about the status of their cases. One thing led to another and one of the guys I worked with back in Hawaii was there at the meeting with me and said, ‘I never knewyou wore a bracelet.’”
Buck said his co-worker told him they had just finished identifying Col. Mason back in the laboratory and was asked if he wanted to meet Col. Mason’s family.
“They introduced me to Mrs. Irene Mason, a wonderful, wonderful woman,” he said. “She had been waiting 41 years for her husband to come home. I had the honor of being the special escort of his remains back to Arlington Cemetery.”
Buck said after wearing the bracelet for 17 years, it was closure. He said his next job after working with JPAC was with Tech.
“When I finished up my tour there, I was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to come and teach ROTC,” Buck said. “The job here has been awesome. I love this job.”
Buck said his last day at Tech will be May 17.
“That day I will go over to Barksdale Air Force Base, turn over my identification card and get my retired card,” he said. “I will do all the paperwork for retiring that day. Then I will turn around, put my uniform on and commission the lieutenants May 18 at graduation. “
Buck said his last official act as commander will be to launch those lieutenants off to active duty and then he will officially be retired as Lieutenant Colonel of Tech ROTC.
“I’m hopeful I will get a job here at Tech; that is my big hope,” Buck said. “There are a couple positions open I am hoping for; we’ll see how that works out.”
Buck said his retirement ceremony will actually be on May 8 in the TAC. He said the retirement will take place after the changing of command for the cadets.
“We only do this once a year, and this is the first time the retirement ceremony will be part of it,” Buck said. “They will present the Presidential Retirement Certificate, and my shadow box will be presented at some point.”
Buck said the shadow box is used to place medals and badges for display.
“You can put it on a mantle or something, and it is a nice little conversation piece,” he said.
Buck said he feels as if he made a difference serving in the Air Force.
Buck said it is a great thing he gets to end working with the Air Force the way he started.
“I’ve had a great time serving my country, and I would like to think I‘ve made a difference, and I know I have here seeing the lieutenants I am commissioning,” he said. “This is how I started. If I could take the last 18 to 20 years and capsulate it down, I would take those lessons that I have learned and give it to the next generation.”
Email comments to rcj...@latech.edu.