TEXARKANA, Ark. — After giving 40 years of military service to nearly all of America’s armed services, Charles Mackey received not only recognition but also some comfort Saturday for his commitment to the country’s safety.
Teresa Moreno, a group leader with the nationwide Let Freedom Ring Quilters, presented Mackey with a full wrap-around red, white and blue quilt at American Legion Post 58.
“Since the Quilt of Valor Foundation started in 2003, 318,483 veterans have been presented with this quilt — and today we can add one more,” Moreno said, as she presented Mackey with a quilt commemorating his service from 1956 to 1996. “We now have more then 10,000 volunteer quilt makers across all 50 states, and it’s all being done strictly for the love of this country.”
Besides serving in the Navy, Army and Air Force, Mackey also worked at Red River Army Depot, as well as the Army Reserves and Air National Guard.
Mackey first volunteered for four years of naval service aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S Hancock , where he was a radioman and teletype operator as the carrier patrolled the Pacific Ocean.
“I love being on an aircraft carrier,” Mackey said. “I love to watch flight operations.”
Upon receiving his first honorable discharge, Mackey went back to Texarkana in 1960 to continue his federal service as a general communications operator at Red River.
“I was hired right on the spot, and I spent a few years there at the depot,” he said.
However, Mackey never lost his enthusiasm for active military service. In time, he joined the Army National Guard Reserves. He worked as a postal specialist at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, for several years, before receiving another honorable discharge.
A month later, Mackey joined the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 223rd Combat Communications Squadron, where he worked in mobile communications for eight years. He traveled to Air Force bases in Turkey, Italy, Spain and England before receiving a third honorable discharge.
Finally, just two months after his third discharge, Mackey received an invitation to join the Air Force’s 917th Communications Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base. He rose to the rank of master sergeant and was put in charge of ground radio communications. The assignment took him to overseas to Hamburg, Germany; Amsterdam; Paris; Portugal; and the Azores.
Mackey also traveled to Puson, South Korea; China; Manila, Philippines; Tokyo and Hiroshima in Japan; Guam, Hawaii; and Alaska before receiving his fourth and final honorable discharge after serving 14 years at Barksdale.
“I had finally reached the majestic age of 60 when they handed me my final honorable discharge before turning me out to pasture as a retiree,” Mackey said. “If you were an officer, you could stay in the military after age 60, but not if you were an enlisted man.
Mackey said since his last salute, “I’ve been a pain for my wife, but I love her.”
The end of military service actually became the beginning of public service for Mackey.
“I signed up as a member of Miller County’s Office of Emergency Management Service,” he said. “I try to be involved in as many activities as possible.”