The military life of Thomas M. Ward
By Dan Ellis | AFRH-G Resident
Tom Ward was born to Hilda and Marvin Ward on October 14, 1946 in Paris, Tennessee.
During his early education, he processed through several elementary schools in Tennessee and Georgia before enrolling in Moultrie Jr. High School. As an avocation, at age 14, Tom joined the Civil Air Patrol because of his interest in aviation. He benefitted from this by taking weekend flight lessons over his hometown. While still in 11th grade at Moultrie Sr. High, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on October 27, 1963. He was sent to boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina and attended infantry training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina.
Tom was then assigned to Marine Corps Engineering School for MOS training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was then placed with the 2nd Engineer Battalion at Camp Lejeune for eight months.
He had his first overseas tour at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan for eight months before his transfer to DaNang, Vietnam where he served a second tour for 13 months. When offered, he took advantage of the tax-free reenlistment option and signed up for six years with a request for MOS change to aviation. He was transferred to Naval Air Station in Memphis, Tennessee where he received six months of training as an aircraft hydraulic mechanic. He was then assigned to the Marine Aviation Detachment (MAD) NAS in Memphis, Tennessee for thirty months. With this move, he was assigned as an instructor of aviation fundamentals.
Tom's next assignment was overseas duty at Futema, Okinawa when he was deployed aboard the USS Okinawa, a helicopter carrier cruising off the coast of Vietnam. The helicopters were used to reposition and/or resupply the Vietnamese soldiers. During this duty assignment, his ship made stops at many of the ports in the South Pacific. He also served aboard the USS Tripoli helicopter carrier.
With a rank increase to gunnery sergeant, he was sent to Marine Corps Air Station New River, in Jacksonville, North Carolina for thirty months. During this time he continued to perform helicopter repair and maintenance and was an instructor for the staff NCO Academy at Camp Johnson, North Carolina.
Tom returned to Futema, Okinawa for a year supervising maintenance aboard the USS New Orleans having its home port at Subic Bay, Philippines. Then, he was transferred to Marine Corps Air Station New River, Jacksonville, North Carolina for thirty months as an instructor teaching H-46 helicopter hydraulic systems.
At his request he was approved and sent to the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia for embassy duty training. He was then assigned to the American Embassy in Dublin, Ireland where he was ranking NCO in charge of five men and was upgraded to master sergeant. His next duty was in charge of twenty men that composed the Marine Embassy Guards at the American Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. This assignment included classified information security, flag duties, and entrance guard duty. When top ranking military and government officials entered the building, the honor guards performed special ceremonies; in 1981, they assembled to make special honors and greetings to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Tom's final assignment for fourteen months was at the Naval Air Station Memphis supervising helicopter maintenance training. On December 31, 1983, he retired from duty.
During his duty assignments, he met and married Geraldine Ward and had two daughters, Marcie and Lea. From this marriage, Tom is a proud grandfather of three granddaughters and one grandson.
Tom was employed by Douglas Aircraft Co. in Long Beach, California in June 1984 where he worked on the US Navy T-45 aircraft program in addition to developing a maintenance training curriculum. He was upgraded to production supervisor in charge of the MD-11 aircraft program for four years. He then became a contract aircraft mechanic for McDonald Douglas Corp. for two years. He continued to work in the aircraft industry and moved to Lockheed Martin Aircraft Company in Greenville, South Carolina for four years.
Deciding on a change of scenery, Tom decided to see the world again by becoming a truck driver for six years.
Taking stock of his age and health, Tom arrived at AFRH-G in June 2019. Since making entry to the Home, Tom has participated in the wood shop, where he makes various items that are useful to residents.