Former Air Force Thunderbird recollects

By Jeff Lawson - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi resident Chuck Johnson and his wife Betty will be among the estimated 70,000 people expected to come to Keesler this weekend for the Air Force Thunderbirds show. For Chuck, the Thunderbirds bring back some very pleasant memories.

"This was my boss, Jim Simon," Chuck said as he looked back through scrapbooks from those days.

The year was 1975, and Chuck had just become a new member of the prestigious Air Force group. For Chuck, they were the best of times.

"I was the life support system specialist, that means I took care of the survival equipment," he said.

That job involved everything from the communications equipment, to the parachutes. It all had to be perfect, because if it was not, the consequences could be deadly.

Johnson says one of his favorite memories is how every member of the Thunderbirds always worked as a team.

Chuck spent three years as part of the group. That's the maximum amount of time the Air Force allows someone to serve with the elite flying group.

Johnson told WLOX news, "I loved my whole career in the Air Force, but that was the best time of my 20 years."

Johnson even has the original helmet he had to wear every day.

For years now, Chuck and Betty have tried to make it to as many reunions as they possibly can.

Chuck told us, he has only one regret about his time with the Thunderbirds.

"I would go back and do it again tomorrow, in a heartbeat. I absolutely loved it and will always miss my time there."

Chuck says he will be among the first at Keesler when the gates open later this week.

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