Our veterans who served our country: Ralph A. Littlejohn, MSgt, USAF (Ret.)

Published 1:07 am Friday, July 10, 2015

By Robin Edgar

Some people have such a rich family history of military service that it seems natural to enlist. Born in Columbus and raised in Tryon, Ralph A. Littlejohn knew of nine relatives from both sides of his family that had served in the military, five of whom served over 20 years.


He enlisted in the Air Force in September 1979, a few months after he graduated from Tryon High School. His stint would bring his family tree’s combined service to more than 100 years.

COLUMNPersonalLegacies7.10 Ralph LIttlejohn


“I enlisted with the encouragement of my cousin, Coretha, who was already serving in the Air Force. All of my other family members that I was in touch with were in the Army but she really sold me on the Air Force as an excellent opportunity to serve my country, travel to exotic countries, and pursue an education, all while expanding my cumulative life experience and philosophy.


“My basic training was in San Antonio, Texas at Lackland Air Force Base. During the six weeks of training, it took about a week to become accustomed to the regiment. My primary specialty was Services/Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) and my wartime skill was tactical Field Exchange/Troop Support Operations. My first assignment was to Norton AFB in San Bernardino, Calif. as a Troop Support Specialist. After that, I was assigned to Hickam AFB on the island of Oahu in Hawaii and then to MacDill AFB in Tampa, Fla., where all three of my children happened to be born.


“Serving during peacetime and the Gulf War Era, I was also deployed to Asia, Africa, and parts of the Middle East. One of the highlights of my service overseas was to conduct a Prisoner of War ceremony for our troops when I was a First Sergeant at the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.


“Another highlight was working with Operation Continue Hope in Mogadishu, Somalia where I managed tactical field exchange operations. Among other things, I ran a store that offered small personal items to the troops that helped to keep up their morale. Most of all, I enjoyed going to Cairo, Egypt because I got to see the Pyramids and the Nile River. I always wanted to plant my feet in the cradle of a civilization that existed prior to the days of Abraham.


“As I served around the world, I never missed an opportunity to work with disadvantaged kids. I learned that treating people the way you wished to be treated resonated around the globe. At the same time, I learned that the further my assignments took me away from home, the fonder my heart became for my family, friends, and my hometown. You could say that the Sahara Desert taught me to appreciate the green grass of home.”


During his 20 years of service, Littlejohn received many awards and decorations including: the Air Force Commendation and Achievement Medals; the Joint Service Achievement Medal; the National Defense Medal; the United Nations Medal; the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; and the Humanitarian Service Medal.


He retired in March, 2000 after his last assignment at Pope AFB in Fayetteville, N.C. In 2005, after graduating from Methodist University in Fayetteville with a bachelor’s degree in social work, and as a member of the Social Work Honor Society and the Chi Delta Chi Veterans Honor Society, he moved back to Polk County to spend quality time with his daughter, Christyan, and two sons, David and Cary.


If you are a veteran and would you like to share about your experience in the US military, please contact Robin Edgar at 2robinedgar@gmail.com or call The Tryon Daily Bulletin at 828-859-9151.