Join us for a Celebration of Veterans
The community is invited to join us for our 8th annual Salute to Veterans celebration on Friday, November 10, at 7:00 pm. This special program will include memory tables, veterans slideshow, and music. Our guest speaker for the evening will be Tom Burdin, who served in the Vietnam war flying combat and search and rescue missions (more information below). This is a free, family-friendly event and children are welcome. Afterwards, you are invited to stay for finger foods and desserts.
Speaker Tom Burdin
After growing up in southern Illinois, Tom received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois. At the same time he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.
Procter and Gamble offered Tom a job in Cincinnati which he accepted to help pay off some of his education and to assure that he had a job if the Air Force did not work out. Later that year, after a spring wedding, Tom and Dot left for the Air Force and reported into Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas.
After a year in pilot training, Tom received his Air Force Pilot Wings. Dot pinned the wings on the left front pocket of his tan uniform shirt. It was hot on the flight line in June of 1963. He was selected to remain at the base as an Instructor Pilot and after training in San Antonio, TX, he returned to Laughlin as a T-37 IP working his way up through the T-33 and finally the supersonic T-38 trainers. Each upgrade required another short duty in San Antonio.
In 1966, Tom received another upgrade assignment to an A-1 Skyraider aircraft. He was going to Viet Nam in as Korean War vintage, propeller driven aircraft after flying all of those jets. After “upgrade” training in Florida and promotion to Captain he was off to Survival Training in Washington state and the Philippines and then short waits in Saigon and Nha Trang, before he reported to the 602nd Fighter Squadron in Udorn, Thailand. When he arrived, the loss rate was 50%.
The primary mission of the 602nd was Search and Rescue of downed pilots in North Vietnam and Laos with secondary missions supporting the CIA operation in Laos. Tom flew 168 combat missions, 100 over North Viet Nam, collected 800 flight hours of combat time and participated in the rescue of 69 fliers and other forces. During that time he collected 4 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 21 Air Medals and 2 Presidential Unit Citations. He returned to the U.S. at the end of 1967 and returned to Procter and Gamble where he retired in 1999.