The Valdosta Daily Times
Just like the old song goes, Gerald Richard has been everywhere, man.
“I've been to every continent except Antarctica,” said Richard.
It's all courtesy of his 25-year (and counting) career with the Air Force.
Growing up in Kinder, La., Richard was the oldest of four boys, with an athletic streak.
“I was the 'high school jock' in school.”
As a senior, Richard was faced with two paths: go for an athletic scholarship in football or basketball; or enter into the Air Force.
“I really didn't have any family members in the military, except for an uncle who was in the Army for four years. The military wasn't pushed on us. It was my choice ... and that's what made up my mind to do it.”
It's a decision he's never regretted and one that's taken him all over the world.
Serving with Air Force security forces for 16 years, he flew with senators, representatives, diplomats and presidents as part of their ground security.
His team's job started when the plane landed, with his team securing the plane for as long as it was on the ground. Their only break came when the plane was in flight, and then when it landed, they would start up again.
From there, he became a first sergeant, making sure other service members were ready for their missions, mentally and physically. It's a position he still holds today.
When he came to Valdosta in 2008, he joined AMVETS Post 607.
“Before coming here, I didn't really know about the organization. The members welcomed me with open arms.”
After joining, Richard helped Post 607 with its yearly Thanksgiving food baskets and Christmas toy giveaways. Now, he's serving as the Post's public relations officer.
“It seemed like a natural transition to become more involved.”
It's work that Richard relates to his long Air Force career.
“It's along the same lines. It's all about service to the country and making a team effort to take care of the people in the community who need our help. It's about American veterans taking care of American veterans.”
For Richard, part of Post 607's job to be centralized and located in the community, and part of his job is getting out into the community to distribute information.
Information like the upcoming Thanksgiving Dinner Basket event, where AMVETS Post 607 will provide baskets for 60 families in the community. It's something Post 607 has been doing for more than 20 years and it's something Richard wants to see still happening 20 years from now.
“I want to get a younger group of veterans involved, to start bringing them into the fold, make sure they know about the organization and what it does ... the thing a lot of people know about is the nightclub portion, but that's a separate, for-profit business. It's only 20-30 percent of what we do.”
Richard challenges other veterans to become a member and find out firsthand what Post 607 is about.
“They can call the Post or they can stop by and talk to members.”
Interested veterans can reach the Post at (229) 244-1463, or just stop by Post 607, 728 E. Hill Ave.
Non-veteran members of the community interested in donating or helping with the upcoming Thanksgiving Dinner Basket event and/or Christmas toy giveaway, contact Post 607, (229) 244-1463.