This website is dedicated to all veterans and active duty of the United States Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard helicopter groundcrew and aircrew, and the helicopters they flew and maintained.
Update: 29 Jan 23
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U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Wendell Bruce Wood, Colonel, USAF (Retired)July 01, 1941 – March 22, 2015
Wendell Bruce Wood was born July 01, 1941 in Madill, Oklahoma to Wendell and Cordella Moon Wood.
Bruce was the oldest of 5 children: He had 2 sisters Donna Butler Mathews and Sylvia Butler. He also had two brothers Tommy Wood and Tim Butler (deceased)
Bruce started school in Madill however moved to Oklahoma City at age 8. By the time Bruce started Jr High he was identified as quite a Basketball Player and became well known throughout Oklahoma. While attending John Marshall High School he was honored as an All-Star Basketball Player both his Junior and Senior year being referred to as an ace, smooth working pivot man for Coach Willie Edward, frequently shooting 30 to 50+points in a game (this was in the time frame where they didn’t have 3 pointers). After graduation from John Marshall in 1959 he was offered 23 different college scholarships to play basketball but decided to play at Oklahoma City University. After one year of contemplating nothing but basketball he was searching for something more, so therefore joined the Air Force in 1960 and discovered he really liked the purpose, organization, discipline and the ethics of the military. However, learned very quickly it would be a better career as an officer.
After making his wishes known to the Academy Basketball Coach, Bruce applied for and was accepted to West Point Preparatory School to brush up on Math and Science and then in 1961 went to the Air Force Academy class of 65.
Right after graduation Bruce married Carol Wilburn and immediately left for Helicopter Pilot Training. Upon completion was sent directly to Vietnam as a rescue Helicopter Pilot at Bien Hoa, Vietnam. During his tour in Vietnam, Bruce was credited with saving 48 flyers and bringing back the remains of many more. He was honored with the Vietnam Gallantry Cross given by the Republic of Vietnam and the Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Stars.
Bruce flew Helicopters for 8 years and Transport (C-141) for 4 years. His last Duty Assignment was in Panama 1989-1990 liberating the country from the tyranny and injustice of Manuel Noriega. He retired from active duty in July 1990.
During his Military Career he was honored many times, some of honors included: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Achievement Medal, Defense Meritorious Service, Medal, Air Force Presidential Unit Citation, Meritorious Service Metal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award , Air Medal, Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Air Force Overseas Short Term Ribbons, Air Force Overseas Long-term Ribbon, and the Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon
Bruce completed two Master’s Degree, a MS in Logistics and BA in Counseling.
Bruce and Carol were divorced Jan 1994.
Bruce met his current wife Betty in 1995 and they were married February 15, 1997 in Destin Florida.
After completing his Military Career, the next 11 years Bruce’s second career was working as a Defense Contractor. Completing 41 years of serving his country Bruce finally decided to retire in 2007 and Betty and he moved to Nebraska in 2008 to be closer to family in Nebraska and Oklahoma.
After retirement Bruce enjoyed Golf, traveling, dancing, playing his Guitar and making up songs, wood working, stained glass and most of all spending time with family and friends. He enjoyed very much trying to keep up with his 10 grandchildren, attending many sporting events, school activities, dance competitions, musicals, plays, Summer theater productions, speech contest, horse shows, which was no easy task as grandchildren are spread across the country.
Bruce’s children are: Shelly Hawthorne-Nebraska, Norie Phelps–Oregon, James Wood-Arizona, James Madsen-Nebraska, and Jennifer Wood-Florida.
His ten grandchildren are: Ryan and Zach Hawthorne, Josephine and Janessa Madsen, Quinton, Kiel, Emilia and Caden Phelps, Issac and Gabriel Wood.
A Celebration of Bruce’s Life will take place at 1:00 PM on Thursday April 9, 2015 at the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Inurnment will follow at the USAFA Columbarium in Colorado Springs.
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