In Memoriam

Buz Sawyer

Wallace Blaine Sawyer, Jr.

Buz never considered himself to be a goal-oriented person but in reflecting on his life, it is evident there must have been a strong, compelling sense of dedication and purpose to his being. When he first learned of the Air Force Academy, he set his sights on being one of the cadets. All facets of his life were tuned on that wave length. Having heard that carrots helped eye-sight, he ate them by the thousands even though he didn't particularly like them. Going to an orthodontist was not a chore; it was an accepted fact that to have good, straight teeth was necessary to becoming a cadet. His participation in the Civil Air Patrol became ''the thing" for him. Selling the most tickets to a pancake breakfast for the Civil Air Patrol became one of his tickets to more flying time. Buz earned his pilot's license almost as soon as he got his driver's license. To enhance his chances of becoming an Air Force Academy cadet, he accepted an appointment to the Air Force Academy Prep School and had basic training at Lackland AFB at San Antonio before entering the Prep School in the fall of 1963. Like other cadets, he participated in the usual summer activities, spending one summer at Ft. Benning, Ga. in parachute training. On his last jump, his main chute opened seconds before he touched the turf. The colonel directing the operation told Buz, "Sit down and rest, your color will return to your face in a few minutes." Buz participated in high school athletics, several clubs and made good grades. His parents usually found many chores around their home to keep him occupied and there were no major disciplinary problems. At the Academy, Buz, alias "Magnolia" and "Gus", was not an outstanding student but did succeed in graduating with the Class of '68. To the chagrin of his parents attending June week activities that year, they learned he was named one of the 11 on the "All Star Team" - those graduates who had come the closest to being washed out because of grades, disciplinary or other problems but yet managed to graduate. It was the year when two young Air Force pilots flew over the Academy and caused a few windows to break. It was something Buz would have done had the opportunity presented itself. Buz was a member of the Air Force Academy Soaring Club and earned the Silver Eagle Award for reaching an altitude in excess of 20,000 feet in a glider. His wings were awarded in 1969 after completing the pilot training course at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio. He had several tours of duty in England, Germany and Spain and flew C-130 gunships and cargo planes during the Vietnamese situation. Among his decorations were the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster and the Air Medal with two clusters. After resigning from the Air Force, he returned to Thailand to fly cargo and evacuation missions in Cambodia. His flying activities carried him into many trouble-spots of the world. Buz was killed at the age of 41 in the crash of a C-123 while transporting supplies to the Contras in Nicaragua on October 5, 1986. Buz was on a flight with Bill Cooper, who was also killed, and the loadmaster, Eugene Hasenfus, who parachuted to safety and was captured by the Sandinistas. A military funeral with full honors was held in Magnolia, Ark. on Oct. 13, 1986. His survivors include his wife, Kasanee, a son, Nockrope Hunter Sawyer; a step-daughter Carol Fredrickson; his parents, Wallace and Margaret Sawyer, a brother, Tom Sawyer, a sister, Lisa Lee Sawyer, and another sister, Tammie S. Bailey. One of Buz's heroes was General of the Army Douglas MacArthur and he had a plaque of the general's address to the cadets of the Military Academy at West Point on May 12, 1962. To his parents, Buz and all the others like him will be synonymous with "Duty, Honor and Country."

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