Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Terry Lee Wetzel, CMSgt., USAF (Retired)March 4, 1948 – February 2, 2018
CMSgt Terry Lee Wetzel, Ret, USAF, age 69, of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, peacefully entered into his eternal life on Friday, February 2, 2018 with family by his side.
Terry was born on March 4, 1948, in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, to Edith M. Soles and Kenneth D. Wetzel. His family moved in the summer of 1963 to West Newton, Pennsylvania, which Terry considered his hometown, and where he graduated in June 1966 from South Huntington HS as class president.
After high school, Terry left West Newton to pursue a rewarding and exciting career in the Air Force, dedicating himself to the service of others as a Pararescueman, an elite brotherhood that became his passion and honor. In a career that spanned almost 30 years, Terry’s assignments took him to Kunsan, South Korea; Da Nang, South Vietnam; Woodbridge UK; Hill AFB, Utah; Elmendorf, Alaska; McClellan AFB, California (twice); Okinawa, Japan (twice); Scott AFB, Illinois; and Hurlburt AFB, Florida. He was the manned space recovery team leader for the Apollo-Soyuz and project Skylab space flights while assigned to McClellan AFB, California, and Royal AF Woodbridge, England, respectively. At McClellan AFB, Terry was the noncommissioned officer in charge of what came to be the largest Pararescue team in the history of the Air Force Pararescue. At Scott AFB he was Chief of Pararescue Operations. Because of his endeavors and sustained accomplishments, Terry was chosen to work on a multitude of important programs concerning doctrine, policy, and force structuring that made the Air Force Pararescue career field what it is today.
During his remarkable career, he was responsible for saving 121 lives, became a master parachutist with more than 500 jumps, and a senior aircrew member with more than 3500 flying hours in a multitude of weapon systems. The Rescue motto is: “These Things We Do, That Others May Live.”
His military decoration and awards included:United States Air Force 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, 1979Distinguished Flying Cross – 1 Oakleaf ClusterAirman’s Medal – l Oakleaf ClusterPurple Heart – 1 Oakleaf ClusterMeritorious Service Medal – 1 Oakleaf ClusterAir Medal – 5 Oakleaf ClustersAir Force Commendation Medal – 1 Oakleaf ClusterAir Force Achievement Medal(And many more, with multiple awards.)
After retiring from the Air Force, Terry attended Okaloosa VoTech in Fort Walton Beach for two years, majoring in the building trades. He then went on to run his own business in construction and home remodeling for a number of years. It was during this time that Terry met and married Kathleen. God graced them with many years together, to grow in love for Him and each other, to travel and enjoy the retirement years together.
Terry always loved the outdoors and was on the first High Altitude Rescue Team to successfully climb to the top of Mt. McKinley. Interestingly, shortly afterward, he was actually on a high altitude rescue mission on Mt. McKinley. Terry was always loved and respected by everyone with whom he worked, and was an inspiration to many.
Terry was perhaps most proud of and devoted to his children, Jason and Dana, as he watched them grow and develop into adulthood, as they chose their career paths and raised their own children. Jason followed in his father’s footsteps, being selected at the United States Air Forces’ (USAF) first Combat Rescue Officer (CRO) Selection and graduating as the first class to complete the Combat Rescue Officer Training Pipeline. To the grandchildren Savanah, Austin, Gabe and Fyn, he was known as their beloved Pappap, as he took them individually on trips across the country, as he took them on walks on the beach in Fort Walton Beach, or through the wash in Vail, Arizona, picking up treasures along the way, and creating cherished memories for a lifetime. They all were his pride and joy.
Terry was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Fort Walton Beach. It was in his later years that Terry grew closer to the Lord, and endeavored to show God’s love to all. It was this love of God that radiated from Terry’s sweet smile and easygoing manner.
Terry is predeceased by his mother Edith and father Kenneth, and by all his aunts and uncles. He is survived by his wife Kathleen; his siblings Karen, David and Keith Wetzel; his son Jason Wetzel and daughter Dana Wetzel Fragoso; a daughter-in-law Chrissy Wetzel; a son-in-law Mario Fragoso; grandchildren Savanah, Austin, Gabe and Fyn; his former wife Sandi Rosado; and by many cousins, nieces and nephews.
A memorial will be held in Terry’s honor at the First United Methodist Church, 103 First Street SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL, on February 24 at high noon. A reception will be held after the memorial at the church.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Terry’s honor to either the Gideons International or the Building Fund of the Fort Walton Beach First United Methodist Church.
Expressions of sympathy or interesting stories/anecdotes can be shared on Terry’s tribute page at McLaughlinMortuary.com
Charitable donations may be made to:The Gideons InternationalPO Box 140800, Nashville TN 37214Tel: 1-615-564-5000
~ GUEST BOOK ~
February 10, 2018 6:43 PMA candle was lit.~Yolanda Hill
February 9, 2018 3:17 PMMy condolences to the Wetzel family. May you rest in peace my dear friend and know your memories will live forever in the hearts and minds of those you left behind.~Jim Jones-Shorten
February 9, 2018 3:15 PMRest in Peace brother. Thank you for your service… You will be greatly missed…~Jim Jones-Shorten, Pararescueman
February 9, 2018 12:51 PM~Al Rosado
February 9, 2018 10:23 AMI miss you Terry and I know you are with God.~Debi Betterelli
February 9, 2018 8:40 AMTerry you will sorely missed by all. You were a good friend and neighbor for years..thank you for your services…rest now…~Msgt Craig Newmanc
February 9, 2018 8:43 AMA candle was lit~Sharon Bernier Stanaland
February 9, 2018 8:18 AMIt was an honor to be with Terry in Pararescue School back in 1967. Ran across each other in the passing years he was a great PJ.~PJ Chipper Williams
February 8, 2018 10:58 PMBlue Skies Brother… You will be missed and never forgotten, HooYah!“Let no one weep for me, or celebrate my funeral with ; for I still live, as I pass to and fro through the mouth of men.” ~ Quintus Ennius~Curt Phythian
February 9, 2018 8:07 AMA candle was lit~Chipper
February 8, 2018 10:56 PMTerry, my brother, I will miss you. Luv Ya BroCurt Phythian~Jeanie Johnson
February 6, 2018 8:50 AMJob well done on earth Terry. Am sure you will have a great job in heaven.RIP~The staff of McLaughlin Mortuary
February 3, 2018 10:37 PMOur sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Terry Wetzel, the staff of McLaughlin Mortuary; Terri Newkirk and Brenda Henson.~Bill Preble
February 3, 2018 10:57 AMAh, the times we had. The work was long and hard but the rewards are evident in the current career field. It would not be as it is if not for so much of your work. Now you are at rest. The family created by you and Sandy will endure long afterward; a lasting tribute. Rest In Peace old friend.~A candle was lit by Arthur MorrisonFebruary 3, 2018 9:52 AM
A candle was lit~The Staff of McLaughlin Mortuary