Gary H. Kent

KentIt was interesting to read Mac’s bio—you’ll find many similarities with mine. And, as Mac is writing his book about his experiences for his children and grandchildren, I too am writing a book for mine yet my book will be a family history of the Kent family and my ancestors. It’s a rich history including participation in the settling of this country and keeping it free – a part to which I am proud to say I contributed somewhat.

In writing this biography it is not only appropriate but also necessary that I identify the three persons whose support and contributions enabled me to succeed. First, there is my wife Elizabeth (Betty) who has been my partner from the beginning and will be beyond the end. Her numerous contributions exemplify what a wife should be, what a mother is, and what a military wife must be (God knows the anguish they suffer). The second person is Major Edmond W. Bastek who was my first Air Force supervisor. His guidance, example, and toleration of my maturing both as a man and as a military man helped create my mindset for succeeding. Finally, my mother, who had never given up on me even though I had let her down many times prior to enlisting in the Air Force.

Speaking of my mother – from my first letter home to my last, she filed each away including all those received from my wife and children. So now I have an almost day-to-day report on my family’s growth which is, in our own words, “a treasure.”

But let’s see who I am:

August 1955 – Was working three jobs none of them going anywhere; engaged to my future wife with nothing to offer her; and a high school dropout just completing his diploma work through night school. Why not enlist? The military seemed a viable solution. Went straight to the Navy recruiter and he was out to lunch (later found that to be typical of navy personnel), so stopped in the Air Force recruiter’s office on my way out. After a few minutes I was on my way to a career in the Air Force – a proud future.

July 1956 – Finished basic training (Sampson), Tech school (Sheppard), married my special lady, and was on my way to Germany as an Accounting Specialist, Directorate of Management Analysis, HQ USAFE. My boss then was Major Bastek, a graduate of an Army Air Forces Officer Candidate Class (OCS) class in 1942. What a role model!

July 1959 – Then returned from Germany (18 month tour), had a short tour at Mitchell Field where I took a short re-enlistment, and Seymour-Johnson where my first application for OCS didn’t make the cut and also where our first daughter was born. I was next on my way to Japan (Johnson AB and later Yokota).

January 1962 – Completed the equivalent of two years college, second application for OCS was accepted, and our first son was born. Settled the family in Billy Mitchell village, visited Lauterstein’s, and met my first 1st Class – What a meeting!

February 1962 – Experienced the following: my wife’s birthday, my tray slipped from my hands in the Dining Hall and my lung collapsed resulting in 2 months of hospitalization and recuperation. And a decision had to be made – to quit or go on in a new class — 63A.

September 1962 – Completed OCS with Class 63A, bought my first car (thank you, Andy), packed up my family and headed for Sheppard for Tech training (Management Analysis Officer)

June 1968 – Air Defense Command – Hancock Field (second daughter born – our OCS baby) and also was at Stewart AFB (26 Air Div Inspector General’s Office) where I had lunch with Earl Boggs. Earned Bachelors degree through Operation Bootstrap at Omaha Univ. Second son born (that’s four now). McGuire AFB – appointed to Regular AF and promoted to Captain. Off to Syracuse University to earn MBA compliments of AFIT. Completed SOS by taking correspondence courses before we left.

August 1969 – Sent to Vietnam – Assistant Director, Management Analysis, HQ 7th Air Force.

June 1976 – After a year in Nam spent four years at SAC HQ. Director, Status Analysis Division, Directorate of Management Analysis. Assisted and gave morning briefings to CINCSAC on C-ratings (Operational status of forces). Our third and fourth sons were born and completed military comptrollership course. Had lunch with Andy Iacarrino who was stationed at Gunter. Spent two years at Robins AFB as Comptroller, 19th Bomb Wing and decided at 39 years of age it was time to start a new career, thus I retired from the Air Force (20 years, 9 months, 7 days)

July 1976 – Fifth son was born (our last Air Force baby) and we now have a total of seven children. As of this date, they have given us nine grandchildren.

September 1999 – After 23 years in the Education community, I retired again. Last duty was as Director of Physical Plant, Buffalo State College.

Thanks to the Air Force my future was indeed proud. A high school dropout who earned two degrees (and completed all but his dissertation for a Doctorate), received a Commission and the right to be called a Gentleman, many awards including the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army and Air Force Commendation Ribbons, and The Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with 2 oak leaf clusters and a V. None of the above would have happened without my wife at my side supporting me.

Extracts From Letters Home

Betty and I wrote home fairly regularly and my mother, through her maternal instincts, kept all of our letters (over 20 years worth). I thought extracts from those letters mailed during my OCS days would be of interest to many as we all experienced the same adventures and each could easily substitute his or her name for mine or Betty’s.

It All Started:

15 June 1961
(Gary) I received some good news today regarding OCS. My application has been returned accepted tentatively. This means, if all other requirements are satisfactory, I will be finally accepted and scheduled for class. These requirements are an interview at home by the Squadron Commander, a special performance report, and most important, an evaluation by a board at Lackland AFB, Texas.

18 October 1961
(Gary) This waiting to hear about OCS is driving us nuts.

The News:

24 October 1961
(Gary) Some good news. I have just received word that I am to report to Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas on the 2nd of January 1962 to begin training in Officer Candidate School which will lead to a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the USAF.

14 December 1961
(Gary) Our trip was long, dreary, and hectic. We left Tokyo Sunday morning at 11:30 and arrived at Lackland AFB at 2:30 Wednesday morning. Today we move into our new quarters – 226C Croyden, Billy Mitchell Village.

23 December 1961
(Gary) Just 9 days to go before school starts and still so much to do. I hope our household goods arrive before school starts.

The Curtain Rises:

Scene 1:

1 January 1962
(Gary) Well, tomorrow is the big day. I have to report in at 9:00 AM and Betty is going to a coffee at the same time. I will report in with two other guys and Betty will be going to the coffee with their wives. Things will start happening now and we are not sure what.

8 January 1962
(Betty) Gary won’t have time to write as they are going all day and half the night. I am kept busy all day from 7 AM to make a laundry run until sometimes 11 at night. The guys are having a rough time and are always kept hopping so they are a little nervous now. I have three other guys that are my “sons” and I have to take care of their laundry, etc.

13 January 1962
(Gary) So far it has been rough. In the twelve days I’ve been here I haven’t eaten as much—all told—as I would normally in three days. I’ve been getting 5-5 1/2 hours sleep each night.

14 January 1962
(Betty) I’m ready to go to bed but have to scrub and wax the floor, etc., etc. I don’t know where to begin. We have a full, full week. Sunday 8:00 Church, up at 6:00 AM, take our son to the nursery and bring daughter. Breakfast after Church and visit until 11:30. Each day—laundry run (leave house at 7:30, pick up dirty uniforms, deliver to laundry, come home and wash underwear for Gary and 3 other guys—laundry is done 6 days a week). In afternoon, shopping for food, clothing, get haircuts and a million and one odd jobs. At 3:00 pick up laundry and starched fatigues. We have to open all stuck together parts (sleeves, legs, pockets) and then deliver them to the base, getting home by 4:30 or 5:00. Then cook dinner and clean the house. Some nights we go out—Tuesdays: Wives Club meetings (wives only), Wednesdays: choir night (husbands, wives and children), Fridays: club night (husbands and wives), Saturday: Squadron party (husbands and wives).

26 January 1962
(Betty) Well, Gary is still in school. They started with 95 class members and now have 80 guys. The pressure on them is really tough and each has his own breaking point. Gary is changing each time I see him. They are not only being trained to be officers but also as gentlemen.

The Setback:

NOTE: 7 February 1962 Gary went into the hospital and as a result, was washed back to class 63A, which started April 2nd. Gary joined that class on April 9th.

Scene 2:

2 April 1962
(Gary) School began again today but I didn’t go in. I am still on sick leave. I was a little sad this morning as, believe it or not, I sort of miss the school. Betty went to the coffee so she could meet the new girls and get all the latest information. She had a good time and is raring to get back into the game.

10 May 1962
(Betty) I have been so busy that when I get a minute to sit down I collapse. I not only take care of Gary but 2 other men again— like before, and the girl I ride with has her husband and 2 men. The men have their first test Monday and they are all sweating. If they fail they are out. After that is one more test as second class and 2 when they are first class. Two nights a week the second class girls from our squadron get together to work on getting our squadron party together (1 night in June) and there are only five of us to do everything.

13 June 1962
(Betty) I have been going day and night. The last two weeks of the school term are full of things to do socially. Something almost every day. The kids and I are fighting a real good summer cold. I am about dead trying to take care of the house, Gary, the kids and the other three men, plus getting myself to social functions. Also, I’m keeping my fingers crossed—my neighbor across the hall has all four of her kids just getting over the measles – the 9-day ones. They were pretty sick. Oh well, when it rains it pours. Our squadron party went off fine and everybody had a good time. Well, this Friday is the big day – the men take their exams in the morning. They are all sweating it and the wives too. Then Friday afternoon is the Recognition Parade, that’s when the second class become First Class and takes over. We go to coffee and pin on the first class stripes. Then Friday night is the Recognition Ball.

27 June 1962
(Gary) Betty and I had a good anniversary. It fell on a Saturday and on Friday we turned first class. Friday evening at the Recognition Ball the band played the Anniversary Waltz for Betty and for awhile we were the only two on the dance floor—soon we were rescued though.

Scene 3:

9 July 1962
(Betty) It feels good to be first class finally. Of course half the guys are hoarse from yelling at the second class. The guys are half dead, getting only a few hours sleep, and the rest of the time divided between school, training second class and trying to keep up with their studies which is next to impossible. In 5 weeks they take their third phase test and it’s the worst of them all, plus they have a term paper to turn in. So, when he gets home for the weekend he locks himself in the bedroom with his nose in his books. Of course, if he sticks his nose out I’m hollering until he gets back at the books. I’m not taking any chances. When class started 3 months ago we had 23 men in 2nd squadron, we have since lost 1 medically and 14 failed thus there is a total of 8 class members left.

8 August 1962
(Betty) They took their big test Monday—the guys are chewing their nails – any failing can put you out of the program. The poor guys are about dead, they have been run ragged trying to train the second class and keep up their studies. They had a staff study to get done along with a 1,500 word research paper.

10 August 1962
(Betty) Gary passed his phase test. Tonight’s our club night and tomorrow night is the squadron party. I’ll enjoy this party as I don’t have anything to do this time.

27 August 1962
(Betty) We will be glad when this is over. It’s been a horrible strain – mentally, physically and financially. We’ll be in debt for 1 1/2 to 2 years. Hate the thought. Oh well, I hope this will be the turning point in our lives.

14 September 1962
(Gary) Well—got our orders today.

16 September 1962
(Gary) With 5 days to go before graduation we are quite busy. One function after another. Betty’s got teas and luncheons to attend and we’ve got balls, parades and exercises to go to.


22 September 1962
(Gary) Well, I finally made it and it sure feels good. At about 11:30 AM on 21 September 1962 in the Auditorium of Femoyer Hall on Lackland AFB, I took the oath, which I hope will change my life completely and lead me through a very satisfying career.


14 October 1962
(Gary) Betty looked real nice at the Graduation Ball and ceremonies. We left for the Ball Thursday evening the day before graduation and arrived at the Officers Club at about 7:00 PM and stood around for about 30 minutes before sitting at our places. We talked with a few of our classmates and had a drink. After we sat down, we began to eat and the honored guests were introduced. After dinner, the OCS Queen and her attendants made an appearance and dancing began. The rest of the evening was for dancing, drinking and talking. The kids went to their babysitter’s house to stay and we picked them up about 12:30.

The next morning we went to the graduation parade. The parade was conducted by the second class and we graduates formed a mass in front of the bleachers so that we could review the passing troops. There were about 20 masses of 81 men each passing in review. After the parade, we went to the club for coffee and then at 11:00 we went to the graduation exercises. After we left the auditorium, Betty pinned on my bars and we went outside. The second class had formed a half circle at the entrance and each of us had a replacement in the circle. When I went down the steps, he stepped forward and saluted. As the tradition requires, he, being the first to salute me as an officer, received a dollar bill from me. Then I took off his second class boards and pinned on my old boards. That was the end of it and the beginning of it.


Gary H. Kent, born January 16, 1937 in Buffalo, died March 28, 2018, age 81. Beloved husband of Elizabeth L. (nee Moores) Kent; loving father of Jacqueline M. (John) Barry, Gary S. (Elizabeth) Kent, Theresa E. (David) Matteson, Patrick F., Scott M. (Leslie), Mark J. (Jill) and Christopher E. (Kori) Kent; cherished grandfather of 13 grandchildren; caring brother of Jean (late Paul) Sciria and Barbara (late James) Ross; also survived by nieces and nephews.

Mass of Christian Burial celebrated from Church of the Annunciation.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Gary’s name to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.