Eighty years might separate them, but a World War II veteran, who is a retired Air Force Colonel, and a soon-to-be U.S. Air Force Academy cadet formed a strong bond May 6 as they met on the San Marcos Academy campus.
Col. Floyd “Skip” Hyson, still strong in body and sharp in mind at the age of 98, shared stories from his long military career with students in the Junior ROTC program at the Academy and made a presentation to Battalion Commander and Cadet Colonel Carl Rindahl, who will enter the Air Force Academy in the fall. Col. Hyson presented Rindahl with a replica World War II bomber’s hat, the kind that were worn with headphones so much they got bent into a “fifty-mission crush.” This one came new with the crush built-in and met with considerable excitement from Rindahl, who will graduate from SMA May 17 as class salutatorian.
“It was interesting to meet someone from that time period who has done so much and seen so much,” Rindahl said. “I was honored by the gift of the hat and will be adding it to the mini war museum I have in my room.”
Rindahl explained that his “mini museum” includes a piece of teak from the U.S.S. Missouri, a bayonet he acquired on a trip to Normandy, France, various aircraft instruments, and a few other cherished items. One thing that should perhaps be among his artifacts is a book about the Air Force Academy that Rindahl said he checked out from the Master’s School library back in fifth grade. “That book is what inspired my interest in the Air Force,” Rindahl said. “From then on, I knew I wanted to go to the Academy.”
A Distinguished World War II Veteran
As Col. Hyson visited with Rindahl and other SMA cadets, he identified himself as a native of Smithville, Texas, who enlisted in the armed forces not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hyson had prepared himself for duty by learning to fly in the Civilian Flying Training Program, which put him ahead of others who enlisted with dreams of becoming a pilot.
When his orders came in, Col. Hyson was assigned to the San Marcos Army Air Field (now the location of Gary Job Corps Center and the San Marcos Airport). His girlfriend and later wife, Lucille, lived in Smithville, and Col. Hyson claims that the town still owes him for cleaning the streets while “buzzing” her house on a fly by.
After the war ended, Col. Hyson remained in the Air Force, flying in the Korean War and carrying out other assignments during the Vietnam War. During his tenure, he had a second assignment in San Marcos, where he served as a logistics officer. He was promoted to colonel before retiring.
Now a resident of Bastrop, the colonel remarked on how much San Marcos has changed over the years. He returned to San Marcos the week of his 98th birthday, Sept. 18, as a guest of the San Marcos Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). He also attended the Commemorative Air Force’s World War II Dance in the hangar at the San Marcos Airport back in December, marveling about how he remembered that hangar the way it was many decades ago.
Rindahl and the Civil Air Patrol
The hangar and the airport have played a big role in Rindahl’s life, too, through his participation as a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol for the past three years. The CAP is an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force that provides emergency services and educational programs. Rindahl likened the CAP cadet program to SMA’s JROTC. In his time as a CAP cadet, Rindahl has worked his way up the ladder to the rank of Cadet Chief Master Sergeant, the highest NCO rank available. He also caught the attention of Dr. Kirk McManus, a member of the CAP Squadron. It was Dr. McManus who had the idea of bringing Col. Hyson to the Academy to meet and congratulate Rindahl.
“Col. Hyson is the nicest man you’ll ever meet and the most easy-going guy ever,” Dr. McManus said. “He’ll talk nonstop about the Air Force or flying or the world. Mention anyplace, and he has a story about it. He and Carl Rindahl are fascinating–the same person at either end of 80 years of the same career of serving.”