100 Years of Service

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Agustin G. Salazar
  • 149th Fighter Wing

One family has more than just the holidays to celebrate this year. The Connelly brothers -- Bill, Mark, John, Michael Connelly of Champlain, New York -- have accumulated 100 years of service in the Air Force.  

Bill was the first Connelly brother to enter the Air Force, enlisting in February of 1980, followed by Mark in October of that same year. 
John joined in April of 1986, and Michael arrived at basic training on Veteran's Day in 1997. 

Each entered military service for different reasons. Some were just looking for a more promising career, and some a new life direction. The Connellys have served in every major conflict since 1980 -- Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.   

The stories of the Connelly brothers are not too different from those of other service members. 
They all experienced their temporary duty assignments and short-notice deployments that come with military service and unique stories attached to these events. 

Bill Connelly remembered a harrowing and somewhat amusing tale corresponding to one of his deployments. While unloading pallets of food from a C-141, locals began firing shots. "I could not see them but only the puffs of smoke from their rifles," Bill said. The loadmaster started rushing around, taping the holes in the aircraft with duct tape. The pilot started the engine and told them it was time to go and to leave the forklift. One of his young Airman started cutting all of the electrical lines on the forklift with his knife. Bill laughed, tapped the Airman on his head, saying, "Like they don't have electrical tape." Bill recounted 23 holes in the plane and three shots that hit the forklift that day. Bill spent 22 years of his 27- year Air Force career overseas and said he has no desire to ever travel outside the U.S. again. 

John Connelly was in the front row for President Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" speech. He supported the cease-fire in Kosovo and Bosnia while assigned to Naples, Italy, Naval Support Base for six months, during Operation Joint Endeavor, as well as the Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Two of the brothers recalled another found memory when their paths unexpectedly crossed in Ramstein, Germany.  Mark Connelly was there from McGuire AFB and Bill from Mildenhall, England. Neither knew the other was there.  Both ended up at the Enlisted Club on base. Bill saw Mark across the bar and said to a co-worker, "I bet that guy is from New York and that I know his Social Security Number." Bill got a free beer.

Michael Connelly recalled an incident where he, too, ran into his brother, Bill. Michael had traveled from Langley, Virginia, to Hungary to support the NATO efforts in Kosovo. When he landed for a layover in Mildenhall, he and his unit were marshaled to a staging room. Bill walked in and told his convoy commander, "Maj. Smith, I'm taking him," which prompts Maj Smith to say, "Hey, will he be back for departure?" Bill responded, "Your plane isn't going anywhere until I say so!"

These deployment stories and seemingly serendipitous meetings are the types many service members share. The one thing that most service members cannot boast about is a family legacy of four siblings amassing a century's worth of military service.