Senior Airman Michael White served his country in the US Air Force from 1980 to 1985. A 1980 graduate of Falmouth High School, he did his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He described his experience: “We were a little sheltered in Falmouth so hanging out with city boys was a little different…I loved the aspects of teamwork and discipline…the Air Force was big on education…they teach you about everything and make it very goal-oriented.”
Airman White was then sent to Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois, where he studied to be a fire protection specialist. His first assignment was at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi. From there he was assigned to Bitburg Air Base in Germany. “It was a bit scary at first when we landed…German police were walking around with German shepherd police dogs and machine guns…there was a tremendous amount of tension with people worrying about terrorists…I thought, we’re not in Kansas anymore…Bitburg was fabulous…the absolute best…I’m 20 years old going to different countries…what an adventure,” he said.
Airman White recalled with sadness the loss of a close friend when he was at Columbus AFB. “He was the passenger in a car driven by someone that was intoxicated...it was just devastating…he was only 18 and thought he could help the guy that was driving…he was a really good guy,” he said.
He had a couple of mentors in Columbus and even went as far as to look them up and call them to say thank you several years ago. “For what they did for me, an 18-year-old, homesick kid, was just wonderful…I just wanted to pick up the phone and say thank you,” he remembered.
White’s biggest mentor was Matthew Mantei, a German Navy veteran of World War II. “It was amazing to talk with him…told me what it was like to be a German…being captured by the Russians, being treated poorly, escaping and being captured by the Americans…what a history lesson,” he said.
He described being away for the holidays as “pretty neat…I got to go and spend time with my friends in Switzerland and Austria, ski in the Alps…our camaraderie is what kept us going…I didn’t see my family for almost three years…we had no cellphones or computers, either. Airman White also played baseball for the Air Force team in Bitburg.
His thoughts on his service? “It was a natural progression…almost all my family served and I wanted to serve…my sense of duty…I believe people should serve at least a couple of years…what’s my obligation to live in the greatest country in the world? Provides sense for everyone to feel good about being an American…the armed forces pays for you to learn a trade, then pays for your education…I am proud of my service…the experiences I had, the friendships…my pal in the service was my best man and he just read a piece at my daughter’s wedding,” he said.
After service to his country, Airman White put in 30 years of service in the Falmouth Fire Department, retiring as a well-respected captain. “It was a difficult transition, going from the military to the fire service,” he said. “I followed in the footsteps of my dad…my dad was a fireman…great guy.”
Giving back to the Falmouth community is extremely important to him; his involvement in coaching kids from Little League to youth soccer to starting the girls’ hockey program is legendary. He lives in North Falmouth with his family.
Michael White, thank you for your service to our great country.
Contact Wayne Soares at firstname.lastname@example.org