By Ben Spicer
Every November, right before Thanksgiving our nation takes time to thank those who sacrifice so much by serving our country.
So this year, in honor of Veteran’s Day, Welcome Home Community Newspaper has chosen to put two local veterans on our cover – Diann O’Connor and Albert Hockaday, both of whom served in the United States Air Force.
The pair chosen were kind enough to let us visit with them and learn about their time in the military, as well as tell us what Veteran’s Day specifically means to them.
Retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Diann O’Connor
Diann O’Connor, born and raised in California, said she was doing her patriotic duty when she joined the service, and did so to both travel, and to fulfill her father’s wishes.
O’Conner served an exemplary career spanning 29 years – and it is something she remembers fondly. She recalled her first days in the military as extremely busy.
“We had classes, we were fit for uniforms, we had to march – I had never marched before, so they kept us very busy,” she said.
O’Connor began as a second lieutenant and progressed to brigadier general. Her responsibilities over that time included being both a chief nurse and flight nurse, before finally being in command of several hospitals.
“It meant serving my country, serving humanity. I was honored, and it was privilege to serve my country – to be able to take care of patients, and to provide quality nursing care,” she said.
When asked about Veteran’s Day, O’Connor said she hopes everyone remembers how much men and women serving give up in their lives.
“I hope people remember that freedom is not free,” she said. “The reason we’re celebrating Veteran’s Day is because of the people, and I think many times Veteran’s Day is like Memorial Day, we tend to quickly think barbeques and forget about honoring people.”
Retired U.S. Air Force Chaplain Col. Albert Hockaday
Albert Hockaday began his 28-year military service in California in 1968. As an Air Force chaplain he traveled extensively, making stops both across the country and throughout the globe – traveling everywhere from Okinawa, Japan to Thailand – as well as making stops in the states of Virginia, Alabama, and Hawaii.
Hockaday’s duties involved providing spiritual guidance to servicemen and their families, and working closely with troops. During his service he received two Legion of Merit medals for exceptional jobs done. Hockaday said no matter where he went the dedication he saw by servicemen was always impressive.
“The commitment to doing a great job is universal,” Hockaday said. “Everywhere they all had a sense of responsibility, and a love of country.”
Hockaday said the opportunities we enjoy here at home are things exceptionally hard to obtain.
“Freedom is costly,” Hockaday said. “To both acquire and maintain it.”
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. M.D. Eberts
A third gentleman from Independence Hill, retired U.S. Air Force Col. M. D. Eberts, was unable to be interviewed. Eberts, a veteran of World War II, flew 38 ferrying missions during that time. His military career spanned 30 years – one that started in Ontario, California. Eberts has a love of flying, and a passion for playing billiards.
Welcome Home would like to wish everyone a happy Veteran’s Day as well as Happy Thanksgiving holiday this month.