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Veterans’ Voices Honoring our men and women in uniform By MARY DRENNON Special to the Tribune-Herald W oodway resident Ben Hagins, 73, would tell you that familial ties influenced his joining the U.S. Air Force. Both his father and uncle were in the Army and Navy, respectively, participating in World War II. Hagins has both of their flags hanging in his office since they passed away. Hagins was raised in Fordyce, Arkansas, home of the legendary coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant. He graduated from Fordyce High School in 1965 and attended Baylor University because of its Baptist influence. He joined the golf team and became its captain. In 1970, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Hagins decided to join the Air Force. “I had to be different and go to the Air Force,” he said. “I liked the Air Force, and I wanted to fly.” For his first six months in the Air Force, he was actually an enlisted man with one stripe. Officers school was delayed. Instead, he went to financial and accounting training before finally attending officers training school, where he became a 2nd lieutenant in the summer of 1971. U.S. AIR FORCE Hagins was promptly sent to Mather Air Force Base in California for B-52 bombardier/navigator training. He discovered he was near-sighted, which nixed the pilot position. His trip to California would be instantly life-changing when he met Kathy Price on an arranged blind date. They were married after just three dates on April 15, 1972. They’ve been together ever since. With a new wife in tow, Hagins was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. There, he was a part of a B-52 crew and spent many hours on nuclear alert. He amassed some 2,500 hours of flying time on training missions throughout the United States. The B-52 was an intimidating plane to the enemy, Hagins said. Sometimes called “The Beast,” this strategic, long-range supersonic bomber was produced by Boeing from 1952 to 1962. The plane can carry up to 70,000 pounds of weapons and is still in use today. “I was flying a 20-year-old plane,” Hagins said. In 1973, Hagins was sent on temporary duty to Thailand and Guam to U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield. There, he flew on dozens of sorties over Southeast Asia. They took no incoming fire from the ground because they were flying so high up. He was there about four months. “I’m lucky I missed the 11 days of Christmas over Hanoi,” he said. The “Christmas bombings,” as they are sometimes called, was a major B-52 bombing campaign that occurred from Dec. 18 to Dec. 29. Photo by Mary Drennon Ben Hagins, of Woodway, served 10 years in the U.S. Air Force and flew on B-52 missions during the Vietnam War. Hagins returned to Thailand and Guam in 1974 and was Ben and Kathy were only children), has a boy and a girl, on the last B-52 flight in Southeast Asia in August of that Robert and Kate. Hagins dotes on them and his rescue year. Hundreds of bombs were dropped. In fact, Hagins dog, Maddi, he got from Fuzzy Friends. did two jobs, navigator and bombardier, bolstered by a tail Today, Hagins golfs several times a week and leads gunner. He had some long flights, often 10 to 12 hours, but a devotional group, Waco Links Fellowship, He is also his longest flight was not in Southeast Asia. Instead, he part of a Christian writers group. He is active in his flew round trip to Germany from Fort Worth and back. It church and is a published author, releasing a book of was over 26 hours of flying. devotionals and poems in 2014. The book, titled “Slice Back at Carswell, Hagins was part of the Strategic Air of Heaven,” is published by Shari Parker Publishing Command. Every two or three weeks, they would go on and is available on Amazon.com. Today, he is halfway standby for nuclear alert, working seven days on and 3½ through writing his second book. days off. When they weren’t on alert, they would often It’s safe to say that despite the years, Hagins has not simulate low-level bomb runs. forgotten his time in the military. Hagins had intended to make a lifelong career of the “I had a wonderful experience in the military,” Air Force, but that plan ended early when his father Hagins said. “I loved it,” adding, “I’m a big believer was murdered in Fordyce. Six months later, Hagins was of the military, and we need them, but I don’t see the honorably discharged as a captain after 10 years of service. national support today.” Hagins returned to Fordyce to take care of his mother. He had invested his flight pay in a financial program before he left the service that would help him financially for the “Veterans’ Voices,” featuring stories about Central rest of his life. He also went into the financial advisory Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday. To suggest business for 30 years before he retired. a story about a Central Texas veteran, please email About 10 years ago, the family moved to Woodway to be email@example.com. “Veterans’ Voices” is near their grandchildren. The couple’s only son, Trey (both proudly sponsored by Johnson Roofing. 574 Youngblood Road, Waco, Texas, 76706 • 254.662.5571 • JRoof.com At Johnson Roofing, we believe in America and proudly stand behind the men and women of our armed forces.