Leading up to Veteran’s Day, KX News is celebrating our North Dakota heroes: some in uniform and others, who have since hung it up.
Tonight, meet a man who joined the Air Force to fuel his curiosity, somehow landing him in the Peace Garden State to stay.
“I was initially stationed in RAF Bentwaters/Woodbridge in the United Kingdom, loved it. And then I got orders to Minot Air Force Base, which everyone was just absolutely terrified of,” shared Air Force Veteran Staff Sgt. Matthew Williams.
Now very much a seasoned North Dakotan, Williams is Native Hawaiian. He grew up in Waipahu, a city on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii.
“When you’re from Hawaii, you meet people from everywhere and you’re curious,” he said.
That curiosity fueled flights around the world, serving on active duty in at least eight different countries and multiple states, from 1980 to 1992.
“As a child, I knew I was going to end up wearing a uniform of one of the branches,” Williams explained. “I needed to serve.”
He was deployed to Saudi Arabia as a part of Operation Desert Storm in 1990, the first major foreign crisis for the U.S. after the Cold War.
“General Schwarzkopf had a plan,” he told me. “And from Day 1, when he lit it off, we weren’t losing.”
Williams considers himself a war-fighter.
“We’re there to fight wars, and in between, we keep the peace. There were guys that didn’t go. Shocking. You know, they’re all patched up and have all the different schools they went to, and then when it was time to do what we were trained to do, they just, ‘Oh well…’ One guy broke down and said, ‘My wife’s pregnant.’ And the Master Sergeant we worked for at the time just looked at me,” Williams shrugged.
“And I’m like, ‘I have a child too.'”
He says his time at Minot Air Force Base was some of the best of his military career, where he spent four years in the 1980s.
“I was the Airmobile Fire Team Leader, the team in the chopper. I could see everything. And I would see these nice areas, mark it on our military map, and then pull out my civilian map. You know, that’s how we’d visit these places and meet the farmers,” Williams shared.
But after his Desert Storm deployment, he says he saw more wars on the horizon and it was time to move on.
“I was proud to earn the uniform and to maintain the standard to continue to wear that uniform until I decided not to anymore,” he concluded.
Williams says his only regret is not getting the opportunity to tour and serve in Korea and Japan, two places he hoped to see.
He now works for BNSF Railroad Company, and is here to stay.