HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE Retired Air Force Col. Donald Harrison Stokes Jr. of Hot Springs Village has managed a lot of people and resources all over the world in both his military and civilian careers.
Stokes, 74, is among 15 Arkansas veterans who have been named to the Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame. Paul Foster of Conway, treasurer of the nonprofit organization, said Stokes is one of five veterans being recognized for “honorably serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and then contributing exceptionally to community, state and/or nation”; the other 10 inductees are being recognized strictly for their military accomplishments. More information can be found on its website, www.amvhof.org.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., will present Stokes and the other inductees with the Hall of Fame medallion at a banquet ceremony at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock. Tickets may be purchased individually for $55 or $500 for a table of 10 by calling (501) 902-9706.
“This is an honor, certainly,” Stokes said of the award. “When they notified me that I had been selected for the Veterans’ Military Hall of Fame, I was shocked, stunned. I have been to a couple of these ceremonies. … I had absolutely no clue. … I never dreamed I would be one of those being recognized.
“I’ve always been one that tried to stay away from being recognized,” Stokes said. “I like for the people I work with to get the recognition. I learned a long time ago that any recognition I received was because of the people I worked with. It’s always a team effort.”
Stokes retired as a colonel in 2002 with 38 years of military service. His last duty station was Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, where he was director of C-5 Aircraft Depot Maintenance.
His military awards include the Legion of Merit, nine Meritorious Service Medals, the Joint Services Commendation Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the NATO Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with one device.
Since Stokes retired to Hot Springs Village, he has become active in the community. He is a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10483, where he served as commander for two years and quartermaster for four years. He participates in taking ice cream and serving it to the veterans at the Eugene J. Towbin Veterans Health Clinic (Fort Roots) in Little Rock; Post members do this on a weekly basis.
Additionally, Stokes participated in Post 10483’s flag education program for children in kindergarten through the third grade at three local schools and served on the Hot Springs Village Veterans Memorial Board of Directors.
He is a member of Christ of the Hills United Methodist Church and has served on the missions committee, allotting funds to needy organizations who help local communities.
Stokes is on the church’s board of trustees, and he and his wife are greeters at the door on a regular basis.
Stokes was born in Jellico, Tennessee, but grew up in Hot Springs.
“My dad was in World War II, and after he got out, he was called up in the Korean War,” Stokes said. “We moved to Hot Springs in 1952, when he worked at the Army-Navy Hospital, so we used Hot Springs as our base as he moved around.
“I went to second grade at Jones Grade School in Hot Springs,” Stokes said, adding that the family moved again and came back to Hot Springs, where he graduated from Hot Springs High School in in 1963.
“President [Bill] Clinton was a year behind me,” he said, laughing.
“In 1964, I got my draft notice,” he said. “My dad had been in the Army, and my two brothers were in the Navy, so I went Air Force. I reported for basic [training] in Little Rock in April 1964. I completed basic in San Antonio, [Texas], and went to technical school in Illinois. I was assigned to Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base in Oklahoma, which was a B-52 base. Then I was sent to Vietnam. I served there from April 1966 until March 1967. I was an aircraft mechanic and chief of a quick reactionary team. We were used to help guard an air base as it was being built.”
In addition to his service in Vietnam, Stokes’ military career included 12 years in aircraft maintenance and 13 years in logistics, serving as chief/senior maintenance officer in logistics at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas; deputy commander of the 51st Logistics Group at Osan AFB, Republic of Korea; director of logistics for the 19th Air Force at Randolph AFB; and commander of the 436th Logistics Group at Dover AFB.
Stokes is a graduate of the Air Force Air War College. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation management from Auburn University in Alabama and a Master of Arts degree in management from Webster University.
Stokes used his military experience in logistics during his civilian career. He served as business development management for the Allen Corporation of America in Colonial Heights, Virginia. He served in several positions with Science Application International Corp., including deputy division manager, Far East Division, in Honolulu, Hawaii, and integrated support manager, Lockheed Martin ACO-WSI Team in Hampton, Virginia. Stokes also served as director of marketing for North American Aircraft Services Inc. in San Antonio.
He said one of the most memorable experiences in his Air Force career was helping with the earthquake relief effort in Turkey in 1999.
“It was quite an experience,” he said. “We did a lot of good. It was a joint forces operation … working with a lot of people from all over the world, bringing in supplies for the earthquake victims.”
Another experience he recalls was the time he was in Italy “working with special operations … Navy Seals, foreign service.
“We were in Brindisi, Italy, at Christmastime,” he said. “A couple of guys came around and asked if I’d like to go to Rome and see the Christmas Mass with the Pope — Pope John Paul. Although I am not Catholic, I said I would like to go. I sat about 13 to 14 feet away from the aisle that he walked down. The Mass was spoken in 13 languages … he did seven of them himself. That was a very interesting experience.”
Stokes and his wife, the former Carolyn Meece, who is a graduate of Lakeside High School, will have been married 56 years on Nov. 10. They have two married daughters, three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Donald Stokes was nominated for the Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame award, unknowingly, by his sister-in-law, Debby Meece of Bryant.
“I have worked with veterans for 37 years, and I just know the sacrifices they make every single day,” Meece said. “I watched that recent Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War and thought about Don. He never talks about his military service. He is the most modest, most humble person you would ever want to meet. He serves other veterans.
“When you nominate someone, you have to tell what they did,” Meece said. “I didn’t know all that Don did, and still does. I had to ask his friends. Don helps fingerprint children. He sells poppies. He just gives and gives back to the community. He deserves to be recognized for his service to our country and to his community.
“He is truly a servant,” Meece said.