LTC Pat L. Reese (1943-2020)
Thank you for the video, Junelle.
My father-in-law was one of the most interesting men I had the privilege to meet. I know everyone says that about someone they love, but Pat never, ever met a stranger. He was a service man, a family man, and a friend to anyone that came into his life. This is just a glimpse into the life of a Vietnam veteran, husband, and father’s amazing life.
Pat was born in Beaumont, Texas, the son of any oil refinery worker and stay-at-home mother. As a young man he loved going fast, and later in life, this translated to a love for Corvettes, Harley-Davidsons and above all else, flying airplanes. If there was anything he loved more than speed, it was the only love of his life, Sharon, who he married in 1965 at the age of 21. Pat used to say that Sharon “got him”, even eventually agreeing to his no vegetables rule. Pat may have never met a person he didn’t like, but Pat never met a vegetable he did like! (After retirement, he routinely teased her about how she used to make him chicken fried steak for breakfast, she reminded him that now his military days were over, meaning his military physique was as well.)
In 1966, Pat was drafted and decided to join the US Air Force. Pat was always candid and truthful that he never wanted to be drafted and never had aspirations to serve as a young man, but when he knew the time had come, he wanted to make the best decision for himself and his new wife. He served honorably as a pilot during the Vietnam war and while he never like to tell stories from his time at war, he always spoke with pride for having served in Operation Linebacker. After the war he remained in the USAF, working his way up to Lt. Colonel. In his final 10 years of service he used all the connections he had developed over his career to make sure Sharon was not subjected to the constant relocations that so many in the service and their spouses have to endure. Like most everything he put his mind to, Pat was successful, and his last 10 years of service were spent at Hickam AFB in Hawaii. His only child, Layne, was born right before the move to Hawaii and was probably the only military “brat” that never had to move until his father’s retirement to San Antonio, Texas (aka Military City).
Being restless after retirement, Pat started the Afterburners Papercraft company. Pat used this company to teach thousands of children about the principles of flight and physics, utilizing his knowledge and skills from flight school. He would create and engineer “paper airplanes”, but they were so much more than that. They were made from heavy duty materials that came in kits with all of Pat’s favorite jets, many of which he worked for years to perfect. He would be invited by Texas school districts to come to various schools and bring these kits, which he then taught the children how to put together. Each kit was designed to be streamlined, with easy instructions to complete the construction of the airplane model, and would result in a “paper airplane” that would regularly reach 50 feet in the air and travel hundreds of yards. The kids loved it! (As did he!)
Pat loved sharing his stories with anyone he met. There were countless folks that came into Pat’s life, yard service assistance, mechanics that maintained up his prized Corvette, neighbors, fellow church goers, that all became life-long friends with Pat after one meeting. In fact, at Pat’s funeral in 2020 a young man showed up that we did not recognize. At the end when we asked anyone to share that wanted to, he stepped forward and started by saying, “You don’t know who I am” (well he was right!). He went on to say that when Pat’s wife Sharon passed in 2015, he met Pat once to assist in the design for concrete work for Sharon’s cemetery plot. Five years later when he heard LTC Pat Reese passed, he made is way to the funeral to pay his respects. That was the kind of man Pat was, loving, open, and generous to everyone he met. No one left his presence without a hug and quite possibly a kiss on the cheek as well. He loved his Country and every person within it.
Pat’s life touched so many, but the thing he was most proud of was his family, followed closely by his career. While he never planned to join the military, his service ultimately came to define his life and made him the man he was. He loved to tell every veteran he could, (and we are here to tell you since he no longer can), how incredibly proud he was of all service men and women and first responders. He would say, “I was drafted and had no choice, but these men and women today, they sign up, they step up, they volunteer.”
With our love to all of you: active duty military, reserves, national guard, veterans, first responders, and supporters of Project Refit, thank you all for what you do/
– Layne and Junella Reese.