EDITOR’S NOTE: The following feature series profiles Ellis County veterans killed in the line of service to their country during the 20th century.
The features, researched and written by Perry Giles, are read in first-person voice by area students during the annual Ellis County Veterans Appreciation Day Ceremony as a special way to remember and pay tribute to our friends, classmates and neighbors who gave their lives for our freedom.
“We Were Soldiers Once and Young” will appear every Sunday in the Daily Light through Veterans Day.
We stand on the backs of their sacrifice. Their history is our tradition, as long as there are Americans to remember...
My name is Terrell Nelson Tate, the son of Roger Tate of Nash, Texas. My friends just call me Ted. Being raised on a farm, I learned the value of a hard day’s work at an early age.
I attended grade school in Forreston, graduated from Waxahachie High School and attended A&M College for three years. After school, I worked for National Geophysical Company and Pruitt Construction Company in Dallas.
After the war in Korea broke out, I joined the United States Air Force in February of 1951. I was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and received my pilot’s wings in June of ’52 at Craig Air Force Base at Selma, Ala.
I had qualified as a fighter pilot in the P-51 Mustang. I really loved flying that plane, it was just swell. This flying business was getting really fine for me.
I was then sent to Wichita Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., to be trained in the new jet fighters.
It was a real adrenaline rush to fly one of these advanced jet fighters at over 500 miles per hour. I worked hard to become the best pilot that I could be and I felt privileged to be where I was.
On July 12, 1952, I took off around noon on a routine training mission in a T-33 “Shooting Star.” We called it the “T-Bird.” My instructor was 1st Lieutenant Edward Chahesian from Detroit.
There were a series of summer thunderstorms in the area and considerable cloud-to-ground lightning. There were also scattered heavy rains, but as an Air Force pilot, we had to learn to deal with any type of weather.
We were shooting practice landings prior to me being checked out in the T-33 plane, as I was already scheduled to be sent to Camp Stoneman, Calif., for final processing before shipping out for Korea.
The training mission was just about over and I was feeling good. My training was just about finished and I would soon be on my way overseas to make a contribution to the war effort.
We were on a straight glide path for the air base landing strip. There were ominous dark clouds and lightning flashes all around. Suddenly we were hit by a strong downward wind sheer.
Alarms sounded as we dropped down out of control. I did everything I could, but she just wouldn’t recover! There wasn’t time.
We slammed into the muddy Kansas farmland at a steep angle and plowed a hole about eight feet deep into the earth.
It was 1:30 in the afternoon, a Saturday, and I was 22 years old.
Remember us… We were Airmen once and young.
Perry Giles serves as co-chair of the Ellis County Veterans Appreciation Day Committee. The 2013 countywide tribute to veterans is scheduled for 10 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Waxahachie Civic Center followed by a wreath presentation at the Ellis County Veterans Memorial located in front of the center.