Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

Nola Cary A Veteran's Story

 

December 7, 2017

Courtesy Nola Cary

Cary as an enlisted airman

Determined not to have her parents pay for her college education, Nola Cary choose the Air Force because that is the branch her father, Lewis Cary, Sr had served during WWII. Her plan was to use the GI Bill to complete her education after one four year enlistment. She had heard the family story of how her father, on his birthday of 7 Dec 1921, a Sunday morning, had been listening to the radio when it was announced that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. He went to the country church to give the congregation the shocking news. Later he enlisted in the Army Air Corp and became a crew chief on the C-47 where he Flew the Hump while stationed in China.

After graduating high school in 1971 in Paducah, Kentucky Cary received her Associate of Science degree from the local community college. She lived at home and prepared meals and did housework for her working parents in exchange for them paying 2 years of her college tuition.

Cary went into the USAF in 1974, choosing the career field of weather. The only requirement was not having a fear of heights because many weather observation platforms are in towers. Two years later she volunteered to join a very special unit that tracked storms and typhoons in the Pacific from Andersen AFB in Guam. The mission protected military assets in the Pacific islands of Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines.

The military is known for its involvement in many community projects. On Guam, her unit was part of an annual program called "Christmas Drop". Items for boys and girls, adults and babies were collected and packaged up for an air drop from the cargo ramp of a WC-130 onto remote islands in the Marianas island chain from 500 feet above the beaches. In 1977 over 16,000 items were gathered and dropped.

Cary finished her first enlistment as a Staff Sargent and headed to Texas, where she would earn a four year degree from Texas A & M in Meteorology. After receiving her degree, she went into the Air Force Reserve Unit at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS, the only Aerial Reconnaissance Weather unit in the US. However, she would still have to go in as an enlisted member in the same position she had previous held as there were no officer openings, and the unit was desperate to fill the enlisted position. It was her responsibility to deploy a weather package of instruments measuring temperature, dew point, barometric pressure and wind as it drifted to the ocean surface via parachute each time her 6 member crew passed through the eye of a hurricane. Hugo and Andrew were two of the most remembered hurricanes because of the massive destruction they caused.

One year later, in 1985, she was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant as an Aerial Reconnaissance Weather Officer, with her career plan fulfilled. Now she flew in the cockpit behind the pilot, copilot, flight engineer and navigator, where she directed the plane through each hurricane. One of the planes she flew sits as a display plane at the National Guard gate in Cheyenne. Tail number 861. She remained at Keesler for the next 17 years retiring in 2002 as a Major with 23 years of service.

Penny Merryfield/Pine Bluffs Post

Retired Air Force Major Nola Cary salutes the fallen soldier.

After retiring she traveled to Pine Bluffs to visit her friend Joanie Knox, who she had known for many years in Biloxi. Joanie was a bar tender at Pal's Pub and a great cook. While sitting and talking to the people at the bar, they thought Cary would make a great truck driver because of her love of driving. After a little thought, she returned to her parents home in Paducah, KY and went to truck driving school. She now owns her own truck and trailer. Staying close to home, she hauls sugar from Western Sugar in Torrington and Scottsbluff to Denver and popcorn from Imperial to Loveland. However, she is a fair weather trucker. You won't find her chaining up. She will be safe at home with her chickens and ducks.

"I am lucky to have had such a rewarding job in the Air Force. I would do it again. "

 

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