I lived in England from about 1979 to 1982. I am a high school graduate of Royal Air Force Lakenheath American school Class of 1980. Though I am thousands of miles away over here in the States, I share in the sadness of losing RAF Mildenhall ["USAF to leave Mildenhall, 2 other English bases," posted Jan. 9 on airforcetimes.com].
I am happy to see that RAF Lakenheath will remain open and that many aspects of Mildenhall's mission will be transferred to Lakenheath inclusive of personnel. But once Mildenhall closes, so will the memories.
Back then I was one of the many military kids living abroad in the U.K. with my "Mum" and military dad and my brother and two sisters. For my dad, it was his job and he had to support the mission of RAF Mildenhall. For me, I was a long way from the United States and television, radio, clothes — so much stuff was different. Driving on the left side of the roadway and not insulting the royal family whilst a guest over in Great Britain. As the oldest, I could have opted to stay back in the States with relatives perhaps. But I hung in there with my siblings. And I had a lot of fun.
Such as all the trips to London on the bus or the tube. Really great television — I still rely on the BBC for the latest news around the world. And RAF Mildenhall was a neat place to live and call home. I can still recall when my Mum won a car playing Bingo at the Galaxy NCO Club. She won a white Mercury Bobcat. Our house was not far from the NCO Club and they parked it in our front yard and put a huge bow on it!
Then if you like to eat, you had Mickey's Tea Bar. During the day we kids could get a bite paying in American or British money or both. I still like fish and chips wrapped in the news and drenched in malt vinegar. Jaffa cakes and prime rib and Yorkshire pudding. And after we celebrate Christmas, my family and I still celebrate Boxing Day.
I can still see Shippea Hill tube station and my 10-speed bicycle that I spent many hours touring on and visiting Cambridge. Going to Liverpool to visit my friend. We worked many long and hard hours at the RAF Mildenhall Officers Club. And going to all the dance clubs with GI friends in Norwich, Liverpool, Cambridge, Lakenheath — and Mildenhall's was the best!
Being invited to appear on East Anglia TV for a segment called "A Traditional American Christmas" with my church choir and RAF Lakenheath's church choir. Basketball games the Mildenhall Marauders played and taking the shuttle from one base to the other. The knowledge I gained and all my mates.
Today I am medically retired from the Air Force police and 919th Special Operations group. I was fortunate to visit Mildenhall and Lakenheath with my wife in the mid-1980s when I was stationed in Hahn, Germany. It will be with much sadness when Mildenhall closes for the Brits and the Yanks.
Former Staff Sgt. Sheldon Rice
Columbia, South Carolina
Military housing previously succumbed to privatization, and other military benefits such as retirement, health care and now commissaries are being reviewed for how they can be changed/modified as a future cost savings/benefit to the government. Even dual military couples could face losing partial basic allowance for housing benefits.
Incentives, entitlements and benefits are what high school and college graduates and parents look for when considering employment opportunities. If the current military member foresees a potential reduction or loss of the aforementioned, how will potential future military candidates feel about joining a military that offers little to no incentive, a lackluster recruitment motto/campaign, and how are today's serving members supposed to feel valued and motivated when they are still returning from deployments and continue to hear discussions reference potential reductions or possible loss of benefits they value?
Understand the need for analysis and proposals regarding future government spending/savings, but must the potential consideration to reduce or lose altogether certain hard-earned entitlements and benefits be at the cost of military members and their families who have sacrificed a great deal for the continued freedoms of this nation?
Every military member is serving in an all-volunteer military, but that doesn't mean the freedoms fought for should be taken for granted.
If future reduction and/or potential loss of entitlements/benefits gained over time continues its downward spiral the military likely will not be able to sustain the best, brightest and most committed it deserves, as they likely will be lost to the private sector.
Lt. Col. Debbie Lipscomb
Fort Knox, Ky.