PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
For the past six years, the Air Force Public Affairs Agency recognizes veterans for their valuable and lasting contributions to America's modern, preeminent Air, Space & Cyberspace Force.
This year, one of Patrick’s own, retired Don Shelton, deputy commander of the 45th Space Wing Detachment 3, and retired chief master sergeant, who was also the Air Force’s senior Pararescueman (PJ) at the time of his retirement after 31 years. He was nominated by his peers and former subordinates in Air Force Special Operations Command, for the 2017 class of Veterans in Blue.
Shelton said he is honored.
“Being nominated is an awesome feeling,” Shelton said. “This is a very humbling experience as I have always felt as if I was just doing my job. To be recognized by my peers and leadership for something like this is truly amazing to me. I am very fortunate to have worked with great people throughout my career and I credit them with providing me this opportunity.”
Shelton said that being a part of the Air Force Team and getting to work with true professionals is what he enjoys most about his career, both on active duty and as an Air Force civilian.
Shelton was nominated because he is the perfect fit for his achievements, according to Lt. Col. Jason Havel, 45th Operations Group Detachment 3 commander.
“Don has literally been hands-on with America's crewed space programs since he joined the Air Force,” Havel said. “I've been to Houston, Texas, with him a number of times and it is very common for current and retired NASA employees to recognize and approach Don in a restaurant and start a conversation.”
Havel said that Shelton is also an excellent instructor.
“He does a great job of passing on knowledge and skills to everyone he works with,” said Havel. “When new folks would come to the unit and ask me how to learn more about DoD support to human space flight my answer is always the same, ‘Take Don Shelton out to lunch for a few hours.’”
Some of Shelton's first operational experiences were as a young PJ supporting astronaut rescue during the last flights of NASA's Apollo Program, according to Havel.
Not only has Shelton dedicated himself to the military and the civil service, for a combined total of more than 44 years, he remains a humble individual, according to Havel.
“When Don speaks he refers to his accomplishments as, ‘we did this … or, ‘our squadron did this ...’ His focus is never on himself,” Havel said. “He always identifies as being a part of a bigger team.”
Shelton said that he was given an opportunity to do some really interesting things in his career that he said he will always remember.
As part of the nomination process, a team assigned to the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron met with Shelton here July 21-22, 2016, to conduct an on-camera interview and capture still images to be used later in the year and during formal ceremonies.
Previous nominees of the Veterans in Blue award include Buzz Aldrin, George "Bud" Day, and Doolittle Raider Richard Cole.
This November, the Air Force Public Affairs Agency is slated to launch Volume VII of "Veterans in Blue," a portrait collection showcasing the men and women who have contributed to the legacy of the Air Force.
The Airmen highlighted have aided in making the Air Force what it is today--the best in the world.
Through the Veterans in Blue project, these service members share their personal stories of how the Air Force has made a difference in their lives. Their stories support operations from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Portraits will be displayed at the Pentagon’s fifth floor, A-ring between the eighth and ninth corridor, replacing those of Volume VI.
Although nominations for Veterans in Blue Volume VII have already been submitted, it is an annual project. For details on how to submit a nominee, or for more information, go to: http://static.dma.mil/usaf/veterans/index.html