Memories: “It is our job to set the example.”

As a child growing up in East Mississippi, “Sonny” Montgomery was “our” Congressman. To us, in rural Newton County, he was bigger than life.

After high school I enlisted in the Air Force and went off for basic and then technical training. Once that was completed, I (age 18) was headed home to Mississippi for leave. Needless to say, having never been far from Mississippi before, I was feeling pretty full of myself. As I arrived via plane at Jackson, I headed down the jet way. I’d been traveling for a while (in uniform) and didn’t take the time to button my collar, tie back my tie or button my coat. I am quite sure I looked a mess.

Mississippi Congressman and Brigadier General G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery

Mississippi Congressman and Brigadier General G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery, c1991.

When I entered the gate terminal I recognized a man standing there and waiting to board his own flight. I had never met him, personally, but there was no mistake that it was Sonny Montgomery, probably on his way back to Washington. I tried to keep walking but he said, in a gentle but firm voice, “Young man, it is our job to set the example”. I could say nothing but “Yes Sir”. I knew what he meant. He was talking about those of us in uniform.

With that, I headed straight to nearest restroom to straighten myself up. When I came out, he was still standing there. He simply smiled and gave me his signature “thumbs up”. Without a word, I headed as quickly as I could to meet my parents who were waiting to take me home.

I could not have known on that day when I met Sonny “personally” for the first time that our paths would cross again many times. Because of his support of the military and our education benefits, I was able to go to college and later became an officer in the Navy. I even have advanced degrees because of the Montgomery GI Bill. One of my fondest memories during active duty was to be able to come back to Mississippi and be the first Commanding Officer of the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Naval Reserve Center in Meridian. By then Sonny and I had become friends and he was a mentor to me. I was able to introduce him, tell this story during the dedication ceremony and tell him that at “his” Center, “It will always be our job to set the example”.

He remembered and, yes, I got a “thumbs up” that day too.

Randy Reeves

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