Military retirees join efforts to fight closure

Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ Staff Writer

Whether they still go there once a week or rarely at all, retired military from the area agree — Cannon Air Force Base has been an important part of their lives.

Many also agree that Cannon has assets enough to keep it open, but its position on the Base Realignment and Closure list announced Friday was not a shock.

“I wasn’t surprised,” said Charles Ferguson, who retired from the Air Force in 1984. “If you look at the big world picture and where the Air Force has got different assets and all those sorts of things, Cannon is just a little frog in the pond.”

Although Ferguson said he had an inkling Cannon might be targeted for closure, he does not agree with the Pentagon’s plans, especially since millions of dollars were recently spent rebuilding the base’s runway, he said.

“It’s kind of asinine to put a padlock on the gate and walk away,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson frequents the base once a week for the base exchange, which is a general store that sells everything from furniture to chewing gum, and the base commissary, or grocery store. Ferguson said he would simply find places to shop in town. “I’m not gonna move,” he said.

A staunch community supporter who serves as chairman of Clovis Pride and a member of the Base Restoration Committee, Ferguson said he will do what he can personally to support Cannon in this time of trial.

In the past he said he’s written “119 legislators 119 letters” and will surely start penning in again for Cannon.

He said he’s not impressed with politicians’ plans to rally behind the base.

“All the politicians are going to show up and wave their banners … it’s a bunch of BS,” Ferguson said. “They are going through the little knee-jerk reaction to show their support for Clovis and Cannon just so they can save face with the voters.”

C.K. Castleberry, a Clovis resident since 1958, said he too will embark on a quest to save Cannon with letters and phone calls.

“We don’t get around much anymore,” Castleberry said when asked about his relationship with Cannon, “but I would miss being around the military personnel (if Cannon closes).

“It’s a shame they had the gall to put Cannon on the list,” he said.

Retired from the Air Force since 1961, Castleberry served at several bases across the nation — including those in England and Japan, but found none that compared to Cannon.

“Of all the bases I was stationed at, we had a better rapport with the citizenry of Clovis than all other areas. We liked it well enough to stay (after retiring).”

Donald Karna also did tours of duty around the world. Ironically, many of his tours were with bases that have since been closed by BRAC.

“Here we go again,” is what Karna said he thought when Clovis showed up on the closure list. “This will be the fourth one I’ve been through.”

Retired since 1987, the seven-year Clovis resident uses Cannon facilities once a week for the medical and commissary benefits. He said he and his wife opted to live in Clovis after traveling through and receiving a warm welcome.

“We spent the night at Cannon, went out to dinner, and the people were so nice and friendly we bought a house here,” he said.

He said he was “kinda expecting” Cannon to make the closure list and he will write letters and make phone calls to help save the base. Its closure, he said, could drastically alter his life.

“That was the first thing we thought about — that we may leave Clovis,” said Karna after hearing Cannon was targeted for closure. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”