Lt. General Charles A. May, Jr. (USAF-Ret.) served as the keynote speaker for the Harpers Ferry/Bolivar District Veterans' annual Memorial Day service Monday. The event featured a parade with led by the middle school's band along with the town police and fire units, members of the Veterans' group, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and officials from both towns.
May shared his thoughts about military service and the all-volunteer military the country has. He explained that he believes the all-volunteer system should stay in place because it works. In reference to soldiers fighting for their country, May said he believes those soldiers fight even more for their comrade next to them in a fox hole or on the deck of a ship than they do for those folks back home. Professionalism is the name of the game for those who join the military, a standard they take seriously.
May spoke passionately when he told the crowd, "The military is at war. America is not at war. America is at the mall!"
May, a resident of Shepherdstown, was born in Washington, D.C. and graduated Archbishop Carroll High School in 1955. May shared recently that his class was the first graduating class of integrated students. Following that first in May's educational career, he continued on to graduate as a member of the first class from the United States Air Force Academy.
May explained that at the time he graduated high school, the draft was in effect so service in the military was a natural course of action.
"I thought about West Point," he said. "Then I saw an ad about a new service academy and took the test." He shared that when he went to the Academy, the facility in Colorado Springs was under construction. The first class actually spent three years at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, finally moving to the current Academy site in 1958. The first class, consisting of 207 cadets, graduated June 3, 1959.
May earned a master's degree in international relations from Columbia University through the Air Force Institute of Technology program. He became a distinguished graduate of Squadron Officer School in 1964 and the Air Command and Staff College in 1973. He was selected fro the Air Force Institute of Technology graduate program at Columbia and completed that program in 1967 after which he was assigned to the department of political science at the Air Force Academy as an academic instructor.
In 1969, May volunteered for an assignment to Southeast Asia. He completed A-37 combat crew training and flew 165 combat missions in the A-37 fighter plane. In addition to the A-37, May flew various aircraft in non-combat situations including the B-53, KC-135 and EC-135. His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters and numerous foreign awards.
May served throughout his Air Force career in a variety of capacities including director of training at Strategic Air Command, Offutt AFB, Neb. and later director of command control. He returned to Air Force headquarters, Washington, D.C., and served as deputy for strategic forces, Directorate of Operational Requirements, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, from October 1984 to July 1985. He then was assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Research, Development and Acquisition, as special assistant for ICBM modernization. He served as deputy director for operational requirements and special assistant for ICBM modernization matters from February 1986 to March 1987. He then became deputy director of advanced programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, as part of the Goldwater-Nichols DOD Reorganization Act. In June 1988 General May was assigned to SAC headquarters as deputy chief of staff for requirements. From January 1990 until January 1991 he was assistant deputy chief of staff for plans and operations, Air Force headquarters and served as Assistant Vice Chief of Staff until his retirement.
May and his family relocated to Shepherdstown. He has served as a consultant on National Security issues for the past 15 years. He and his wife, Bobbie, have eight children between them and 12 grandchildren.