VALDOSTA — It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for two brothers who call Valdosta home.
After Lt. Cmdr. Mark Bair completed some training in Key West, the Navy granted him permission to visit his brother on his way home to Virginia. It had to be a quick trip, only two days, but that wasn't a problem. Mark could take his own mode of transportation – a Boeing F-18 Super Hornet.
Saturday afternoon, Lt. Robert Bair with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office waited at Valdosta Regional Airport for his brother to fly in. He wasn't alone.
Robert is a shift commander with the LCSO and his shift has adopted Mark as a brother. A squad of LCSO patrol cars waited for Mark to come home. Not only was Mark's adoptive family there, his father, mother and grandmother were there to greet him, as well.
"Everyone in my shift wears these little pirate pins on their uniform," Robert said. "The reason for that is – when my brother was deployed to the 'sandbox,' this was the mark of his unit, so we adopted it as our shift logo."
Robert has been with the sheriff's office for 20 years and his brother has been in the Navy for 17 years. During all that time, he has always wanted a photo of the two of them together in their respective uniforms along side their respective vehicles: Robert with his patrol car and Mark with his jet.
"I thought it would be something neat to put on my desk," Robert said. "And here we are, 20 years later, both in the twilight of our careers and this opportunity finally presented itself."
Mark lives in Virginia Beach, Va., with his family and every now and then is sent down to Key West for training. He spoke about taking a jet and visiting his family in Valdosta with his commanding officer, who thought it was a great idea, Mark said.
He and Robert grew up in a military family, so they were used to moving around. Their dad, Noah Bair, retired in Valdosta after 22 years as a flight engineer for the Air Force. Mark went through elementary, middle and high school here in Valdosta, so this is where he considers home.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to fly into my hometown in a jet to meet my family," he said. "My brother has been a police officer for a long time. I've been in the Navy for a long time, and just the fact that we were able to come together with our daily drivers was an amazing experience."
Thomas Lynn is a government and education reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256