WILMINGTON — Two veterans have had a friendship that goes beyond rank, and has lasted well after their service.
Wilmington residents Larry Stanley, a retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant, and Lynn Grove, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, were both stationed at the Clinton County Air Force Base in 1965.
Grove was the commander of a small communication detachment, which he described as air traffic control.
Stanley was his head air traffic control non-commissioned officer.
Stanley said he was nearing the end of his career — while Grove was about halfway through his — when they met.
They had different paths in the service.
Grove joined the Air Force in February 1954 as an aviation cadet. Stanley joined in August 1948.
And they came from different parts of the county — Grove from Iowa Falls, Iowa, and Stanley from Hurricane, West Virginia.
But each decided Wilmington was going to be their home.
“We decided when we came (to Wilmington) that we would make it our home,” said Stanley.
When it came to why the two decided to stay in Wilmington, Stanley talked about how it reminded him and his wife of where they came from.
“My wife and I were both from small towns. I had lived in downtown Tokyo, and that cured me of wanting to be around crowds,” Stanley said. “I had the opportunity to get a job in Cleveland or Chicago. I told my wife and she said, ‘You want to live in the city?’ I said, ‘Nope!’”
For Grove, he and his family had bought a home while stationed in Wilmington and while he served at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The next couple years saw him serving a year in Vietnam, moving to Germany with his family — where he became a Lieutenant Colonel — then finishing his service in Oklahoma.
“In the meantime, we kept our contacts and interest in Clinton County. We had friends here still, (my sons) started school here, we acquired property here with the intention of coming back, and we never regretted it,” he said.
As the interview progressed, the two brought out old photos of their time in the service, reminisced, and shared stories.
When Stanley pulled out a younger picture of himself, Grove jokingly pointed out “your hair was black” at a picture of 21-year-old Stanley. The former master sergeant, also jokingly, responded about how he used to have more. Grove responded with, “That’s a fine-looking staff sergeant there.”
While the two were at different ranks in the military, their friendship developed naturally as they served together. Even after Lynn was transferred to a different base and served in Vietnam.
“There was nothing really magical about it. We remembered each other in the subsequent years as being good military people and having mutual respect,” said Lynn.
It was in their retirement in the 1970s, Lynn moved back to Wilmington and the two ran into each other. Lynn remembers running into Stanley at a pizza parlor after returning. Stanley said he kept track of Lynn’s service through the newspaper.
When it comes to their long-lasting friendship, they look at the military as being a part of it.
“The military has always been a melting pot … and the friendships you make there, especially when you’re in danger, those friendships seem to last,” said Stanley.
“Comradeship that builds on mutual respect,” said Lynn. “You don’t make a friendship over a day or a month. Longtime friends mean a lot to folks our age.”
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574