Sunday, June 10, 2012

Col. John Griffith, USAF, Ret.

John Griffith was born August 11, 1931 in Port Arthur, Texas.  He passed away on May 8, 2012 in Austin, Texas at the age of 80.  John was walking, with his daughter, on a section of the hike and bike trail in Austin that is adjacent to a heavily traveled down-town street, when a speeding vehicle left the roadway and struck John, killing him at the scene.  The vehicle also struck a University of Texas Professor, who suffered serious injuries.  The City of Austin as now place barriers at that location to prevent such occurrences.

John graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur in 1949 and from Texas A&M University with a BS in Meteorology in 1959.  He loved his Aggies!  He also attended Lamar State University in Beaumont where he studied Electrical Engineering and St. Edwards University where he made progress towards an MBA.

Col. Griffith joined the United States Air Force in 1951 and proudly served his country that he loved so much.  His many assignments included Tactical Instructor at Lackland AFB, Squadron Commander of a Combat Flying Squadron (the Antique Airlines) in Vietnam, Pilot, Instructor Pilot, and Flight Examiner of Single and Multi-engine Conventional and Jet Aircraft.  He amassed 7000 hours as a pilot in T-28, T-37, T-38, C-7, C-47, C-124, C-141 and C-5A aircraft.  His many military decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star Medal.

After his retirement in 1975, John worked as a pioneer in the evolving computer industry in Austin.  He enjoyed post-military careers at Texas Instruments and CompuAdd Corp.

John was a tall man, with striking military bearing in his uniform which he continued to don after his retirement.  He was a true gentleman, a beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend to all who knew him.

He was an active member of Bethany United Methodist Church.  His greatest passion in his last years was cheering his many grandchildren on in their various athletic activities.  John, himself, was an accomplished athlete, taking his high school basketball team to the State Play-Offs in Austin in 1947.  He also played catcher on both his high school and college teams.

A Service of Celebration in remembrance for John's life was held on May 11 at the Bethany United Methodist Church in Austin.  In attendance were the Patriot Guard Riders who formed a line of American Flags at the entrance to welcome the family and friends.

The Celebration included the singing of the hymn "Old Rugged Cross" and the recitation of The Lord's Prayer.

After the Service, the Riders led the funeral procession to the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery at Killeen, Texas.  There awaited the Patriot Guard Riders of the CENTEX Region and fifty American Flags lining the roadway to the committal shelter.

Also in attendance was the United States Air Force Honor Guard.  After the Honor Guard moved the flag draped casket from the hearse to the shelter, the Riders formed a line of flags along the front of the shelter, as full military honors were rendered.

The Air Force Honor Guard carefully and precisely folded the flag that draped the casket into a tight triangle, and passed it to a Non-Commissioned Officer.  The Detail of three rifles fired three volleys of fire, representing Duty, Honor and Country.  The Air Force bugler played the always mournful Taps.

The folded flag was then presented to John's daughter  on behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, for the faithful and dedicated service of Col. John Griffith.  Three of the expended rifle cartridges were tucked into the fold of the flag.

A Pastor of the Methodist Church  performed the rite of committal and  led the gathered family and friends in the recitation of the Lord's Prayer.

Col. John Griffith was then laid to rest next to his dear wife, Mary, who passed away September 16, 2008, as the American Flag flew at half-staff on the hill above in his honor.

Left to cherish his memory are his three daughters, two sons, ten grandchildren, one brother and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

High Flight

"Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the
tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds -
and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -
wheeled and soared and swung high
in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I've chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God."

(A sonnet written by John Gillespie Magee, an American pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War.  He came to Britain, flew in a Spitfire squadron, and was killed at the age of nineteen on 11 December 1941 during a training flight from the airfield near Scopwick.) 

With thanks to Cook-Walden Chapel of the Hills Funeral Home for biographical information and additional photos, and to various Austin news sources for the details of the event that took his life.