By Naeisha Rose
Bernard “Ben” Thompson, a St. Albans war veteran, served as a Weapons Specialist-Heavy Ordinance for the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War and was honored for his duty by state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) earlier this month.
“I am proud to induct him into the Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame for his estimable contributions to Queens, New York state and our entire country,” Comrie said at the May 17 ceremony in Albany.
After finishing his senior year at Richmond High School in 1966, Big Ben, as he is affectionately known by friends and family, enlisted with the 559th Tactical Squadron and joined the Air Force like his uncle before him, Reynold Roberts, and helped to load bombs while at stationed at an air base on Cam Ranh Bay, which was south of Vietnam.
“It was my first time away from home,” said Thompson, the youngest of five siblings. “We were stationed on an air base and provided air support. It was eye-opening.”
Due to back pain from lifting heavy artillery behind F4C fighter jets, he retired as an Airman Second Class in 1968.
“After I left the military I started working in the banking industry,” said Thompson. “Then I was a beer salesman.”
Despite having a fun job selling beer for Anheuser-Busch, Thompson wanted to find another way of serving his country.
In 1980, Thompson joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the Proctor Hopson Post #1896 in Jamaica and served as post commander between 1983 and 1985. He is also a life member of the 369th Veterans Association, AMVETS and Disabled American Veterans, a member of the Air Force Association, and he serves on the board of directors of the New York Military Ministry & Fellowship Group.
“Through the VFW we fight for the entitlements due to all veterans and during Christmastime, I’m involved with DHL and Dee’s Nursery and we ship live Christmas trees to the troops in war zones.”
Thompson also collaborates with the Girl Scouts of Nassau County, which has shipped 700,000 boxes of to the troops over the course of 15 years.
He currently works as a despatch agent for the U.S. Department of State.
“We do logistics for all of the embassies around the world,” said Thompson.
Thompson has been married to his wife Gwen for 38 years and has five children. He will celebrate his 71st birthday in August.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose