CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. —
In August, 1966, Donald Funk joined the Air Force. He said all he wanted to do was work on airplanes.
Now, Senior Master Sgt. Donald Funk, an air reserve technician with the 315th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, is preparing to say goodbye to Charleston AFB, where he has spent his entire career. He will also say goodbye to the men and women whom he has both befriended and mentored throughout the years and the aircraft that he loves when he retires Sunday.
"I'm in good health. I could stay for a couple more years," said Sergeant Funk. "But I guess it's time for me to move on."
Lillian Funk, Sergeant Funk's wife of 37 years, is also ready for her husband to retire.
"We really want to travel, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with him," she said.
After 41 years of service, Sgt. Funk will be missed around Charleston AFB.
"Mr. Funk is probably as well known as any single person assigned to Charleston," said Senior Master Sgt. James Hobson, 315th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight Chief. "He has become an institution and will be missed for the many different talents he brings to the fight, the chief of which is his ability to balance meeting the mission with taking care of the troops."
Maj. James Bayone, commander of the 315th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, agrees with Sergeant Hobson and has noticed Sergeant Funk's influence on the younger generation.
"He is one of those guys that just works. There is no drama. He comes in and takes care of business and ensures the mission happens and that is ultimately what we want everyone to do," said Major Bayone. "Most of the younger guys see him as a father figure. He has a bucket load of experience and it's hard to lose a guy like that."
Throughout his Air Force career, Sergeant Funk has served on active duty and in the Reserves and is the recipient of several Air Force awards and medals.
A few of the honors include: an Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with an oak leaf cluster, an Air Force Commendation Medal with an oak leaf cluster, an Air Force Good Conduct Medal with an oak leaf cluster, an Air Reserve Force Meritorious Service Medal with 10 oak leaf clusters, a National Defense Service Medal with two bronze stars and a Humanitarian Service Medal with a bronze star.
No matter the amount of accolades Sergeant Funk has received over the years, he lists his greatest Air Force accomplishment as "helping get necessary equipment and supplies to the troops in Iraq."
And with that accomplishment he said he knows he has helped save lives.