By Ryan Lengerich
Walking his golden retriever outside Denny’s restaurant and waiting for his wife to pick up the food, George LaFrance was stopping in Tucumcari on his way to Arizona.
All he did before arriving here is serve more than 30 years in the military, fly major military aircrafts, survive one term in Korea and two in Vietnam.
And his wife served this country for 26-years, evacuating wounded from battlefields.
LaFrance, his wife Sharon and their “overly friendly” golden retriever Scooter were returning from a family reunion at Sharon’s brothers house in Scottsville, Va. on the way to their home in Sun Lakes Ariz., a retirement community 24 miles south of Phoenix.
“The grand nieces and nephews are getting older and the family is getting older,” LaFrance said. “You never know who will be around next year.”
The three had been driving 13 hours in a white minivan before landing in Tucumcari, where they have stopped for the past four years on similar trips. LaFrance said he stays in this city because it’s easy on and off the highway and there are always open hotel rooms.
LaFrance, Sharon, their 38-year old son and Sharon’s brother are retired U.S. Military. LaFrance’s daughter in law is currently active military.
In 1990, LaFrance was forced into retirement after 33-years of active duty. He said he would have willingly retired if he had been active during the Clinton years. He said he supports President Bush’s actions in Iraq.
“I think what we are doing is right, it was right in Vietnam too but we didn’t have the (courage) to finish the job,” he said. “I am afraid we won’t have the (courage) to finish the job now, it’s not going to be easy — it’s going to be long.”
He said the American media in Iraq is not giving its viewers the full story.
LaFrance was a fighter pilot, flying B-52s, F-105s and AC-47s for most of his military career. He was an infantryman during the Korean War and completed two tours in Vietnam.
Sharon retired from the military in 1992 after serving 26 years. She spent much of that time as a flight nurse evacuating wounded. In 1973 she participated in the POW release in Hanoi, Japan., and became the first female commander of a flying unit at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.
LaFrance and his wife retired as colonels.
Just Passin’ Through is a weekly feature profiling the interesting people who stop for a short time in the community.