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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 voicesofvalor@wacotrib.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.

OFFICE, WACO, TX 76701

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