Veteran Birdashaw just can’t sit still

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Veteran “Birdie” Birdashaw served in the Air Force for 25 years.

OKEECHOBEE — Veteran Clarence Lamar “Birdie” Birdashaw Jr. was born in Jacksonville and raised in St. Augustine. He comes from a military family, he said. His mother was in the Army during WWII. She was a nurse at a German POW camp in Ohio.

His father was in the Marine Corps during WWII. He was in the Pacific fighting the Japanese. His parents met while they were on leave in Jacksonville, and after the war, they got married. Both of their names are on the wall in the park downtown.

His grandfather was in the Navy during WWI, and his great-grandfather fought in the Civil War. “We go clear back to the Revolutionary War!” Birdashaw’s late wife retired from the Air Force. His brother was retired Air Force and now lives in Okeechobee. An uncle was retired Army, and Birdashaw retired from the Air Force. “Our whole family was military,” he said. “I always thought it was weird they came over from France in 1763 and then turned against the Crown. It always fascinated me, seeing as how we were always so loyal to our country. How could they turn against the Crown and fight for the United States?”

Birdashaw joined the Air Force at age 18, enlisting to “dodge” the draft in 1965. He did his basic training in San Antonio, Texas, at Lackland Air Force Base. After basic, you normally go to technical school when you are in the Air Force, but he didn’t go. His first job in the Air Force was in the Air Force Band, where he played the trumpet. This lasted about a year, until he couldn’t take it anymore, he said. “I wanted to learn something.”

They sent him to the Air Force base in Shreveport and put him in the Strategic Air Command. This was during the Cold War. “I was just lucky I was never sent to Vietnam. In 1967, I got orders to report to Puerto Rico, but all my buddies were sent to Vietnam.”

Throughout his 25-year career, he was stationed in many different places, including Louisiana, Puerto Rico, North Dakota, Florida, Georgia and Alaska. He was in Alaska twice, he said, and loved it! “I don’t know how many different bases I was on. I couldn’t count them,” he said.

Before joining the Air Force, he had never been in an airplane before, but within two years, he had his pilot’s license and could fly them himself. While in the service, he got his associate’s degree and then a bachelor’s.
He never had one specific job. It was always changing, he explained. “Once you’re in the company, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. I did everything from the band to recruiting.”

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Since his retirement, “Birdie” Birdashaw spends his time traveling and fishing.

He was in charge of the recruiters in South Florida for his last 13 years. He also did rural recruiting in Colorado. He had about 50,000 square miles of recruiting territory. Recruiting was his favorite duty. “I enjoyed telling people the military story,” he said.

He said it wasn’t the most exciting career you will ever read about, but he learned a lot and grew up in the military. “My whole life was military, you know?”

Now that he is retired, he and his wife, Louise, spend a lot of their time traveling. “I just can’t stay still,” he said. They have a home in northern Nevada and another in Okeechobee. They also have a motor home they spend the majority of their time in. The Birdashaws met and married after the death of his first wife, and he said he is very blessed to have her. They enjoy the same things and neither of them think twice about heading up to Alaska in the RV or taking a 250-mile day trip out into the desert for the afternoon. They both thoroughly enjoy adventure and seldom slow down. While he was in the military, Birdashaw fell in love with Alaska. “It’s different now than it used to be. It’s a lot more crowded,” he said. He was excited to show Alaska to his wife, and she loves it as much as he does. The couple has been in every state in the U.S., every province in Canada and has traveled to Europe.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Veteran “Birdie” Birdshaw and his wife, Louise, enjoy spending their time traveling the country.

Before they married, his wife had only been to Florida and Ohio, so he has enjoyed showing her the world. They can fly anywhere for free with the Air Force, so they have flown to Germany several times. They fly in cargo planes and just make themselves comfortable back there, he said. They’ve been to England and Italy. When they get there, they rent a camper and travel around. “She likes it, too. That’s the reason we are such a fit,” he said. “She is always ready to go. She is the perfect companion.”

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment