The Duncan Banner
Despite more than 6,000 hours of flight time and countless missions in the U.S. Air Force, Charles Coker takes Memorial Day as he would any other day.
Coker said he was never in any big battles but appreciates those who were, especially those whose lives were lost. Though he doesn’t do “anything special” for Memorial Day, he recognizes its importance.
“It’s very deserving to honor those who paid with their life, so we can be free,” said Coker.
“The men who served and no longer with us are to be commended and I’m thankful for those who have been through conflicts and got back to tell about it. The Almighty had a hand in that somewhere.”
Coker is an Empire native and a 1947 graduate of Duncan High School. After graduation, he attended Cameron University for two years and decided he wanted to be a pilot. However, after attending Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, he was told he didn’t make the grade.
“I went on to navigation school and graduated from there on March 10, 1951,” he said. “I was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base. I have been to most every island in the South Pacific.”
After two years there, Coker served a one year tour in Guam in an air rescue unit. He then spent time as an instructor for three different Air Force bases and returned for another tour, where he was a part of missions that took in new soldiers to Korea and returned the injured back home.
“When Vietnam began, I was assigned in one of the first units to bomb Vietnam,” said Coker. “These were 12 hour missions and I flew in 44 of those type missions.”
That crew broke up after returning home and Coker then spent time as a weapons officer. He retired as a major on Dec. 1, 1969. Both of his sons are retired military now as well, something that gives Coker great pride.
“It gives you a feeling of being associated with a job that’s your duty,” he said. “I enjoyed my time in the service and even though there were times of separation from my family during Vietnam, it was a wonderful experience.”
Along with being able to see much of the world through his flight, Coker has numerous awards and decorations to show for his service. Those recognitions are Air Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal (one Bronze Star), Korean Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Award, United Nations Service Medal and Republic Vietnam Service Medal.