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In this episode, Brian Beckcom speaks with his Dad, Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Augustus Beckcom III, about overcoming adversity and the characteristics of great leadership. 

Lieutenant Colonel Ed Beckcom served during the Vietnam war, flying over 200+ combat missions navigating B-52 Bombers. He flew the last B-52 mission of the war from Guam, which sparked the negotiations that would ultimately bring the war to an end. 

Lieutenant Colonel Ed Beckcom’s military experiences taught him mental toughness and discipline, but it was his life experiences that taught him how to deal with adversity. 

When his boys were 5 and 3, Col. Beckcom found out that his wife had terminal breast cancer. Col. Beckcom was on the military fast track, but he put his military career on the back burner to focus on raising his sons after their mother, and his wife, ultimately lost her five-year struggle with cancer. 

Despite the hardships, Lieutenant Colonel Ed Beckcom continued to be optimistic. He counted his blessings, worked hard, and learned to lead through adversity.

Watch this episode on YouTube

 

In this episode, Brian and Lieutenant Colonel Ed Beckcom discuss:

Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Augustus Beckcom was born on May 15th of 1943. He spent most of his youth as a military brat, traveling in and out of the states until he made his way back to Texas (on his own at the young age of 17). He graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.A. in History and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.  From there, he would go on to navigate B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War. He flew 200+ combat missions in Southeast Asia for a total of 1,300 hours of combat flight. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and 11 Air Medals. After his distinguished military career, Col. Beckcom taught Air Force Junior R.O.T.C. at Western Hills High School in Fort Worth, Texas, before retiring in 2002. Today, Colonel Ed Beckcom is retired and lives in Fort Worth with his loving wife, Janice, a retired law enforcement officer.

Read the transcript:

Brian Beckcom: Hey everybody, Brian Beckcom here and I have got Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Augustus Beckcom II, also somebody I refer to as Dad. Dad, I gotta ask you a question immediately before we get started on the podcast. Did you get in a workout today before the show? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: I certainly did. I did 43 minutes on my recumbent bike and feel great.

The characteristics that distinguish people who exercise from real athlete

Brian Beckcom: Nice, nice. You know, I wanted to ask you to kind of right at the start of the show. You've had a lifelong habit of exercise and you were exercising long before exercise was cool. I mean, you were a runner before running was cool. I think you told a story one time when you first got to college, there was an ex-military person who was your roommate for, like, six months who had some weights and stuff, and everybody thought that was really weird. But where did you get that habit? Where did you get that start with your exercise? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: It's hard to say, but I can tell you this: Everybody has an addiction, okay? I think I've always had that addiction of endorphins. And, I mean, I can remember living in Turkey and running around the neighborhood, you know, three or four miles with no shirt on. And that was not necessarily the thing to do over there, but nobody gave me a problem. And I know my high school buddies back in the States would go out and they'd want to look for girls and I'd want to go work out. So, I'm not absolutely sure, Brian, that's anything to write home about. 

Brian Beckcom: Well, I, you know, I have memories of when I was very young when you were stationed at Upstate New York in Plattsburgh Air Force Base, but I literally can remember consciously you coming in from a run, and this is upstate New York in the winter where it gets very, very cold, and you would come in and you would have nothing but a pair of shorts on and socks for gloves. And you would have literally icicles hanging off the end your nose. So, when we say you've had a lifelong exercise habit, I mean, you've had a serious exercise habit, including running three marathons. So, talk a little bit about those marathons you ran.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, the last one I ran was in ‘79 and I ran one in ‘78 and I ran one in ‘77. The first one was four hours and five minutes. The second one was a little less than four hours. And the last one in ‘79 was the one I wanted to break – 

Brian Beckcom: Did I lose you there for a sec? Dad, I don't know if you can hear me, but I may have just lost you.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: To be perfectly honest with you – 

Brian Beckcom: There you are. Hold on one second. Hold on one second. I lost you for about two minutes. Your screen froze up. So, we'll just – no problem. We'll just clip that out. That's happened a few times. So anyway, we were talking about your marathon. So, keep talking about that. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Oh, okay. Anyway. I ran three of them. A little over four first one, the second one was a little less than four, and last one in ‘79 was three hours 44 minutes and 16 seconds. I want to break 3:45 and run the entire weight. Never walk. I just drank water on the run.

But anyway. So, at 20 miles I kind of was dragging a bit. And anyway, this 27- to 30-year-old female comes up beside me and says, “How are you doing?” I say, “I'm beginning to fade a little bit.” She said, “Hang with me.” So, I ran. She led me in all the way. And, of course, she spent the last part, I mean, I tried to find her after the race but couldn’t. But anyway, after that, I decided I liked to run too much. I like to exercise too much. And marathons really take a lot out of you. It’s actually probably not the smart thing to do too many of them. But anyway, that was my last one. Never do another one again. But it was fun to do one. 

Brian Beckcom: And you’ve maintained, one of the things I think that's most impressive about your exercise habit is you’ve maintained it throughout your entire life. So, you were doing it when you were a young kid, but you're, what are you now? 82? 83? Something like that.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Yeah. Right, right.

Brian Beckcom: 76. But you're still exercising. You’ve maintained it throughout your whole life. So, there must be something about – you talked about the endorphins earlier, but there must be something more than that that drives you to, I mean, you know, if you've got something early in the morning, you'll get up at 4:00 AM to get your exercise out of the way. 

I remember when Brett and I were in high school, you'd get up early and go run. And then the way you would wake us up for school is by taking your dirty sweat socks and sticking them in our faces when we're still sleeping. So, what was it that, you know, other than the endorphins, what is it about the exercise habit that you got into that you've been able to maintain it throughout your entire life?

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, part of it is I've been extremely lucky. I have no feet problems, no anchor problems, no knee problems. I haven't had any problems, okay? And you asked me how old I was. Well, yesterday I was 40, today I'm 77. You figured that baby out.

But anyway, you know, I tell you what I think it is. A lot of it is if you get up and you get some exercise – now, I don't get up early unless I have to. But, if you get some exercise that you could feel the rest of the day like you've accomplished something, okay? That's nice. I mean, driving to work, feeling like you've done something. I’ve thought that, you know, it just makes you feel like if everything else goes to poopoo in a hand basket, you've at least done something. And so that’s kind of the reason that – it gives you a sense of satisfaction. And so that's part of it.

I mean, I'll tell you what, it's hard to get up. And you know that, and everybody else that exercises knows that. And the old saying is the first step is always the toughest. You know, rolling out of bed and taking that first step. But you get a good reward at the end. You feel good the rest of the day, you feel like you actually did something. And I can drive to work and I can look at all the people in the other cars and I can say, “Ha ha hahaha.” 

Brian Beckcom: You know, and that's one of the things that you've instilled in me and I'm trying to instill in your grandkids, in my kids, is this habit of exercise. And one thing I tell people, and I'm not sure if this is the same way you feel, but one of the things you used to say is the difference between an athlete and somebody who exercises is an athlete exercises when they don't feel like it. And you know what I've noticed is I honestly cannot recall a time where I felt worse after exercising than I felt before. Like, I always feel better.

And I think people that don't have the habit of exercise might not have that feeling. Like, they might actually feel worse sometimes after they exercise. So, talk a little bit about your mentality. I mean, there was a time period where you probably ran every single day, seven days a week, for years because you kept track of it. So, what was it that – where did you develop the mentality to get out there and exercise even when you didn't feel like doing it? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, you know, it's kind of funny because it seemed to me like a lot of the days where you didn't feel like it, once you got started, you actually felt better than the days that you felt real good going out. But it’s Herb Elliott who was a famous Australian district's runner. I think he was one of the second or third guys to ever break the four-minute mile, okay? He said, “Anybody can exercise when they're feeling good.” He said, “It's the people that can run through those tough times when they're not feeling good that’re going to win the championships.”

When Janiece gets on the treadmill and she has a bad workout, she said, “I really felt bad.” And I say, “I'm so happy. I'm so happy that you did because you forced yourself. That's the best exercise you can do. Anybody can do it when you feel good.” So, that was kinda my, you know, that's kind of the way I looked at it.

And so, I've got to admit that I go overboard with it but it's kind of part of my DNA. And so, I'm going to keep doing it as long as I can. And if I'm on a hospice bed, I'm hoping to get maybe a couple of two-pound dumbbells and, you know, exercise with those or do a few pull-ups or something on the bed posts. So, I mean, it just makes me feel better. I think the bottom line is it makes me happy. 

Brian Beckcom: Nice. Nice.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: So that’s kind of it. But anyway, before we go any further, I kinda got a little bone to pick with you before we go any further.

Brian Beckcom: Uh-oh. Okay.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: You know, it’s a little after two o'clock in the afternoon, okay? Do you know what people my age are supposed to be doing at two o'clock in the afternoon? 

Brian Beckcom: Going to Luby's? Sending chain emails? I don’t know.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Taking a nap.

Brian Beckcom: Oh. Sorry. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: You need to be more aware of that.

Brian Beckcom: I apologize for cutting into your nap time. If you want, we can take a quick break and you can take a little nap.

Well, seriously, Lieutenant Colonel. And I'm going to call you Dad, cause it sounds weird to call you Lieutenant Colonel. Dad, I'm really happy that you've come on the show. There's a bunch of things I want to talk about. You know, I normally tell my guests, because I've had some super prominent guests. I mean, very, very important people. I normally say, “Boy, I really appreciate your time,” but I know you don't really have much going on.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: I go from meeting to meeting, okay? 

Brian Beckcom: But I am really, really pumped about this because I think your story is incredible. I think there'll be a lot of people that will get a lot out of this podcast cause you got a lot of wisdom. And so, I want to talk about some of your ideas about leadership and some of your combat experience.

But before we get started, there'll be a lot of people that know who Lieutenant Colonel Ed Beckcom is, no doubt about that, that are listening to the podcast. But there'll be a lot of people that have no idea who you are. And so, who is Ed Beckcom? Where are you from? Tell us a little bit about your background.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, I was born in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston, the hospital down there, in 1943. They have a plaque on the room that I was born in, okay? In memory of me. It’s a broom closet, okay? 

Brian Beckcom: The Edwin A. Beckcom Broom Closet.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Yeah, right. I've lived – my dad, your grandfather, was in the military. So, we moved around an awful lot. I spent a couple of times in San Antonio. Went to South Carolina. Went to Waco. Spent a year, the last year and a half of high school, over in Ankara, Turkey. And I had just kind of moved around like any military branch would, okay? 

Somebody said something one time about, “Well, you know, you need to give your kids some stability.” Well, I agree totally with that. But your stability is your family, okay? That's your stability. It doesn't make any difference where you're living. And I thought that was pretty good wisdom, pretty good information.

But anyway, I played a lot of sports and was a pretty good high school football player.

What it was like growing up as a military brat, being uprooted from his life in the states to live in the Middle East at the age of 14

Brian Beckcom: Let's talk about that for a second, because I think you're being a little humble about that. I mean, weren't you an All-state high school football player at Waco High School when you were a junior? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, I was on the All-stater, but we moved to Waco when I started my ninth-grade year at junior high school, okay? We moved from South Carolina. I had a South Carolina accent, and I wore a pair of slacks to school the first day. And all these Texas boys, I mean, they gave me so much trouble. It was unbelievable, okay?

I said, “Do you guys have a football team here?” “Yeah. You gonna come out?” I said, “Yeah, I’m coming out.” So, I tried out that afternoon and I nearly died, okay? I stood with it. The first scrimmage we had, I was playing second string center, okay? And I hit the first-string center so hard that he never got the ball to the quarterback. George Sterling [13:40] was the coach said, “Switch.” So, anyway, that sort of was the defining point and I was accepted after that. And we had 11 guys off of that junior high school team that ended up playing college football. 

Brian Beckcom: Wow. Nice. And you were, back then, I mean, you were 6’2”, 6’2.5”, roughly 200 pounds. Pretty big guy. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: No, it was 153 pounds. But anyway, then I played a little – I went out for the high school team. They bussed all of us freshmen that were going to be sophomores in high school, they bused us over to the high school. I worked out and I had apparently a pretty good spring training because I was one of the four guys they put on the varsity of sophomores in football.

The coach came up and told me something. He said, “You know, I talked to you to your junior high school coach.” And he said, what'd he say, “You'd rather fight than,” – anyway, he thought, you know, pretty tenacious, but I never looked at it that way. But anyway, so I ended up playing varsity football as a sophomore and believe it or not, I started. I had a couple of pretty good games and I played as a junior at Waco High School. And then I moved overseas halfway through my junior year. So, I didn't get to play my senior year. 

Brian Beckcom: Talk about that a little bit, because literally you're in the middle of your junior year in high school. You’re a very, very good athlete. I assume you had plenty of friends. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, you get uprooted and you got to go to Ankara, Turkey in the Middle East, of all places. So, what was going through your mind? What was it like as a young kid getting uprooted in the middle of your junior year and moving overseas? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: It was not something that I wanted to do. I really would have preferred to stay there in Waco. But the bottom line is, I didn't fight it. I went over. We had a basketball team. We went to wrong flights [15:55]. We won the championship in the Mediterranean area, the high school basketball championship, my senior year.

We played soccer against the Turks. We were so bad that we could never score a goal. So, one day, the Turks said, “Okay, this is what we’re gonna do. We're never going to take the ball down the field. We're going to let you guys set up for about 20 yards from our goal, you know, until you finally kick one in.” So, that was good. But they, you know, kids at that age, all they're interested in is getting back to the States, okay? And I had some great experiences. I was in the underground water system of Jerusalem on Christmas Day of 1961.

Brian Beckcom: Nice. What were you doing there? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Me and one of my buddies met up with two Arab boys. Most of them, through and through, okay, here we are, two Christians, two Muslims. They said, “Do you want to go down in the underground water system?” And we said, “Sure.” And, I mean, we went through that whole day. When we came back up, everybody hugged and everybody left. It's a good example of how people can get along, okay? 

Brian Beckcom: Sure. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Totally different cultures. They treat us like gold. And we treated them like gold. No problems. But we got to see a lot of things like that. So that was, you know, it made it – it was good. 

The reasons why he decided to follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, joining the A&M Corps of Cadets and devoting his life to military service

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: I came back about halfway through the summer after I graduated from high school. And I rode a bus all the way from New Jersey to Waco, Texas. And I ran out of money about in Mississippi, okay? This bus stopped at every place you could possibly stop. This guy gets on the bus in Mississippi, we’re having a good conversation, you know, and it's a 48-hour trip or something.

But anyway, after about a day or so, I’m starving to death. I was so hungry that I brief [18:00]. This guy, we stopped at this place and this guy said, “I'm going to go get something to eat.” So, he goes, and he gets the largest burger you can possibly ever find, okay? With a large order of fries and eats it in front of me. I'm drooling. I mean, it's horrible.

So, anyway, we finally get to Waco and I get with family that I stayed for a month before I went down to A&M. But it was a good experience. My parents wanted to do it for me, and I have no regrets whatsoever. It kind of cut me out as far as scholarships and football goes, but I did have a couple of offers anyway. One of them from Colorado State. I think even UT may have offered me one, but they were giving them to everybody at that time to keep everybody else. So, I was hoping to be either a one-year scholarship at A&M or a walk-on and that's kinda what happened.

Brian Beckcom: So, you left – as a high school senior, you left Ankara, Turkey by yourself, flew on a plane back to the States to New Jersey, and then took a bus to Waco and stayed with a family for a month until you went to A&M. When was – after you left Ankara after your senior year and went off to college, when was the next time you saw your folks? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: I saw them the next, I guess the next summer. 

Brian Beckcom: Okay. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: They were coming. I didn't see them for a year. I had some grandparents and some friends that I stayed with over the holidays, wasn’t a big deal. And I was pretty independent at that time. I mean, it wasn't a big, big, big deal, okay? I didn't have problems.

I mean, you know, you get a little lonely at times and stuff like that, but basically, I knew a few people, so it wasn't too bad. But I didn't have to have anybody wash my clothes for me, okay? I can take care of myself. A lot of that I attribute to my parents making me – teaching me a few things that you ought to know before you leave home. So, anyway, that August, we went down to A&M for our student conference and I stopped by the coach's office. They weren't going to give me a one-year scholarship.

 Brian Beckcom: This is a football coach?

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Yeah.

Brian Beckcom: Let me ask you this question real quick. So, your dad and my grandfather went to A&M class in 1938. He was commissioned in the, I think, the Army Air Corps and then that became the Air Force. So, were you always dead set on going to A&M and getting in the military and being in the Corps or when did you make that decision?

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Very, very, very, very, very, very early, okay? There was not much doubt about what I was going to do, but I can remember going to the A&M SMU game my freshman year in high school, okay? We drove to College Station and A&M was number one in the nation. Don Meredith was a quarterback for SMU and that's the first time they came out with what they called SMU spread, okay? And we had Charlie Krueger, John David Crow, Jack Pardee, the whole works, okay?

Anyway, we ended up winning the game, but I can remember them singing in “The Spirit of Aggieland” and that sort of solidified it, okay? But anyway, looking across the field at the Corps and all that really, you know, there was no doubt about where I was going to go. I didn't care who else offered me a scholarship or how much money or anything else. And that was a long time ago. In fact, Janiece, when she sees these football players with leather helmets on, she asked me if I wore one.

Brian Beckcom: So, you show up to A&M and did you just walk into the coach's office? I mean, how did the football thing happen at A&M? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, I walked into coach's office, but I had one guy coach that I talked to said, “We're not going to give you a scholarship but we'll let you be a preferred walk-on.” So, I was fortunate there. I was a preferred walk-on. I got put on a training table. They put me in Law Hall, which is where they put all the scout team players, okay? The big guys stayed in Henderson. It was air conditioned. The only air conditioned place on campus. But anyway, so I had a chance.

My roommate the first night was a 27-year-old Navy veteran that was coming out for the football team. And he had tattoos up and down his arm. I mean, before tattoos got popular, okay? He's got all these weights in there. I'm thinking, you know, I'm 18 years old, scared to death, got to go to class, got to go to football practice the next day, and Ray does, too.

But anyway. So, about midnight, about five or six of his buddies come over and they play poker all night. You know, I’m trying to sleep. But anyway, So, thank goodness Ray lasted one day. So, it wasn’t that he wasn't tough, it’s that he had kind of gone through that. You know, he was 27 years old and stuff like that. I never saw the guy again.

So, I was without a roommate for a couple of months and it was kind of cold, dark, and lonely in there. And all of a sudden, I hear this voice behind me saying, “Hey, you need a roommate?” And I turn around and it’s Wayland Ward, which is probably my best friend. And he had a roommate. He was a year ahead of me and he lived in Law Hall, but his roommate had been thrown off the football team. And I said, “Wayland, I need a roommate in the worst possible way.”

So anyway, we moved in together and he passed away a couple of years ago, but this is a good example also of leadership, I think. Just a little encouragement like that. I mean, God, I would have done anything for that guy. I mean, he picked me up when I really, really needed to be picked up.

So anyway, I finished my – I started on the fourth team. 

Brian Beckcom: That's like Jackie Sherrill was talking about, he was, like, at Alabama, there was a gold, there was a red team, a white team, a purple team, a green team, a yellow team, a black team. Because you wanted to get there early so you weren't on, like, the purple team, right? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, I started on the fourth string, okay? And I thought I'd done pretty good in the pre-testing. But anyway, in about a week, I moved up to the third team. I got promoted, okay? And it was simply because of all the hard work, and the fact the guy in front of me quit. He quit and left so, “Beckcom, you’re third string now.”

So, I only played a very short couple of plays my first year. Made the tackle both times, they took me out. I never figured that out. But I got suited up for all freshmen games. We had a lot of fun. I made a lot of friends. A bunch of great guys. We had so many high school All-Americans, it was unbelievable. Of course, a whole bunch of them are dead now.

But anyway, that's kinda how I went through my freshman year. And then we switched coaches. Come back end my freshman year. I did pretty good. I got a scholarship my sophomore year. And I suited up for three games. Did not play, but I suited up for three games and then, I don't know. I just didn't seem to put it together after that, okay?

So, anyway, I hung with it until about halfway through my junior year. And then I had an opportunity to go into the Corps full time. And it was kind of one of these perfect storms, okay? I mean, I was 175 pounds. Couldn't keep any weight. I had two guys that beat me up on a regular basis, Ray Kubala and Jerry Hopkins, and they both played in the pros. Fantastic guys, okay? If I'd ever been shot down as a POW, they couldn't have beat me up worse than Ray and Jerry did.

But anyway. Never missed a workout. I just couldn't keep on any weight. And that's no excuse, but that's kind of what happened. And I had a chance to go into the Corps full time and be a full time Corps person. So, that's what I did approximately halfway through my junior year and it actually worked out pretty good.

Brian Beckcom: Do you have any regrets about not finishing football?

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Oh, yeah. I do, but I would call it not a regret, but maybe half a regret, okay? Because I'm a firm believer in you finish what you start. You finish what you start. But if I had finished, I probably would have never played. Which is okay. But I got so much out of the Corps and I didn't get beat up. A million things could have happened. And I met some guys in the Corps of Cadets that are still my great friends, love them to death.

So, I actually – I guess when you want to look at it, I got the best of both worlds. I go back for the football reunions and I can tell these guys, “You remember those four sacks I got against UT in 1963?” “Oh yeah, Beckcom. You had a great game that day.” Great stories. Every year. Nobody knows what happened

Brian Beckcom: Isn’t that something? You know, back when I was a walk-on at A&M, I played in seven or eight games, scored two points. And nowadays, 30 years later, nobody cares. I mean, nobody, literally, nobody cares. All they care about is that you were on the team. It’s kind of remarkable.

So, you were in the Corps for a couple of years. You were successful, as far as it goes in the Corps. And then you graduated and you were commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. Was it your intent for a long time to get in the military like your dad did?

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Yeah, I had two objectives: I wanted to be in the service, go in the military, and I wanted to teach high school. And so, that worked out really well. I went in, I went to NAV training in California. I graduated from A&M in May of ‘65 and I left San Antonio where my parents were stationed in August of ‘65. Went out there and there were 40 in our class, in our undergraduate navigator training class, okay?

First UNT class to ever go through Mather in Sacramento, California. Before that, they had been at James Colley in Waco. So, I got to go to California and there were, I think, 35 Air Force Academy graduates. These were the first academy graduates in that class that were not pilot washouts, okay? They went directly to NAV school. A bunch of fantastic guys. We had a couple of ROTC guys in there. I feel like maybe we had one West Pointer.

But we didn't want to do what all the other young bachelor lieutenants do when they go to pilot or navigator training. We didn't want to party with the girls from California. We wanted to do community service projects.

Brian Beckcom: Yeah, right.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: And we spent, on the weekends, we would help old ladies cross the street and stuff like that.

Brian Beckcom: Yeah, sure.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: That's not exactly true. 

Brian Beckcom: Let me ask you this question: Why NAV school? Why not pilot school?

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: This is gonna sound kind of weird, probably, but I was never that interested in flying. I mean, yeah. It was something that was fun, but I wasn't totally interested in it. So, I said, “You know, if I'm not totally interested in it, maybe I oughta take another look.” So, that's what I did. And I have absolutely positively no regrets whatsoever. I did exactly what I needed to do at the time. 

Brian Beckcom: What was the status of the Korean and Vietnam War back in 1965 when you're commissioned? If memory serves, Vietnam hadn't started, or at least it was really off the radar in 1965. But there was a chance that you would go see combat when you graduated. Isn’t that right? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, I had about a year and a half of school I had to go to first, okay? I had to go through NAV training and Avalon [30:30] training, survival training, and I ended up at Barksdale in Shreveport, Louisiana, where you were born in April of ’67, okay? And the war was beginning to heat up pretty big time then. But the B-52s were not going over there just yet.

So, anyway, I was a B-52 navigator to start with. And then I guess it was ‘68. We had a real good crew. Very, very, very, very good crew. Great pilot, great copilot, great navigator who was Air Force. A great, great radar navigator, a good electronic warfare officer, and a good gunner.

So, our pilot got an assignment and left base, so we got another guy. Absolutely the worst possible situation. He was not a nice person, okay? But anyway, well, we didn't know that. So, we volunteered to go overseas and fought B-52 missions where just a couple of the crews in Barksdale would go.

We went over there, and it was a 179-day disaster, okay? That’s all I can tell you. We had a little copilot who was outstanding and this pilot would be on final approach and the copilot would say something like, “I think you're a little low.” And the pilot would say, “I know where I am. I can handle this.”

This is a good example of leadership because this is what this whole thing is about, okay? You better listen to your subordinates or you're going to get in trouble. There's a 500-pound safe hanging over your head. And that did not endear us to him. But we had a gunner that had shot down, believe it or not, a Japanese airplane in New Zealand in the Second World War. That's how old he was, okay?

Brian Beckcom: Wow. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: The path he had a problem with was the booze, all right? They had to send him home because of alcoholism. This pilot never even went over to see him before they deployed him back. Never even went over to see him. The radar nav and I went over and we saw him and talked to him and tried to give him a little bit of comfort, okay? 

But anyway, that’s another example, I think, of a lack of leadership. I mean, when your people have problems, you don't have to agree with them or, you know, you may have to make a decision that's a little untasteful. But at least you try to show them that you care, okay? That you care about them.

Anyway, we spent 179 days over there. I don't even know how many missions we flew. We flew a bunch out of Guam. We flew a bunch out of Thailand. We came back and we hit the ground and the first thing we went in is we talked to the squadron commander. And the radar navigator who was probably the most talented human being I've ever met told Colonel Birmingham, he said, “Bud, you either get us a different pilot or you get us all off this crew.” 

And of course, Colonel Birmingham, “Well now, just a second now, Don. Let's stand by, let’s stand by,” all the stuff. You know, “You just gotta back us.” And Don said, “No way, Bud. This is the way it's going to be.” Because Don could talk to the big hot shots like that and they never questioned him. But anyway. So. They ended up with a different pilot and I met your mother during that time.

What it was like flying B-52 bombers for 1,300+ hours into the heart of combat zones

Brian Beckcom: Give us the timeframe. What year is this? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: This is a 1970 – I guess 1970. And I was a big squash player, which is a combination of a racquetball and tennis. So, I was playing squash one day. Happy bachelor. Flying on a crew, make captain, no big deals. And I look up and there’s this really good looking little nurse looking over the side, watching the game. So, after it was over with, I said, you know, it didn't have anything to do with the way she looked, okay? 

Brian Beckcom: Right. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: But I felt like I should at least go up and introduce myself. I gave her some long story, you know, and she said, “Well, can I come up and cook in your house, or your apartment sometime.?” We lived in the same bachelor officer quarters on base. So, I did. And anyway, I guess that was there at Christmas time. She went home to Pennsylvania and spent a couple of weeks there and she came back and she left all her dishes in my BOQ room, because I didn't have anything but a bar fork and one plate and one fork, okay? 

Brian Beckcom: That's all you needed. That's all you needed back then. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Yeah, what do you need, man? I mean, they finally got us king-sized beds. I mean, they were on sale, but they really weren’t that good. But anyway, we got back, and I've got all her dishes and I said, “You know, I'm not going to call her. I'm going to make her call me and ask for her dishes back.” And about a week later, she calls me, and she says she wants her dishes back. I said, “Well, that would be fine, but there’s a stipulation that you have to come over and watch TV with me tonight.” But anyway. It was all uphill from there. 

Brian Beckcom: I met Kara, you know, I met my wife, Kara, in law school and I always tell her it was her intellect that I was attracted to at first. It had nothing to do with her having great legs and being an athlete or anything like that. It was that she was very good at contract law. That's what I was really attracted to at first.

Well, let me ask you this question. So, you meet and eventually marry your wife, my mother. And then she gets pregnant. And you're still flying combat missions in Vietnam. Matter of fact, I think you were overseas when your first son, i.e. me, was born. So, what was that like? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, I went back over there after we got engaged and we had been married, I don’t know, for a couple, three months. This is November ‘71. And I went back over there again, and I went with a guy named Knox Bishop. I'd just gone to squadron officer school in Alabama an took your mother with me and we stayed there three months. We came back, got married, and I went back overseas and I went with a guy named Knox Bishop.

It was a great crew. Great, great crew and the whole wing had gone over there. The pilot was a Texas graduate. Could have been an insurance salesman. Wasn’t real wild, good stick, great guy. Copilot was a big, tough beer-drinking Irishman. The only thing bigger than him was his heart, okay? John Dooley. And navigator left stuff to be desired, but I was a bombardier at this time and we had an electronic warfare officer who was a major. And then we have a gunner, a Black guy named Willy Tobe. And Willy had, like, 500 missions overseas because he never stayed at home. He kept volunteering to go back out. You know, he just wanted to be left alone.

Anyway. We went over there and we came back and I came back in November of ‘72. 1st of November, ’72. I'm going to spend 30 days at home, then I'm gonna go back, okay? And a lot of this stuff starts kind of fading away because I was over there so many different times. Anyway, get back and she is absolutely – she wasn't pregnant. She was pregnant, pregnant, pregnant, okay? I mean, she was really – she was so pregnant that she could sit down on the couch and this giant ledge, about this 12-inch ledge. I mean, a perfect ledge. 

Brian Beckcom: Stick your beer on the belly.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Yeah. I was pretty impressed with that. But anyway, you were supposed to be born about the middle of November. About half the time that I, you know, it was going to be great. I was going to get there if you came a little early, I was going to get to see you if came a little late.

But anyway, about the end of November, no baby. And she said, “You're going to stay home, aren't you, until the baby is born?” I said, “No.” I said, “Nobody's flying my combat missions.” I said, “You're healthy. You got plenty of support. If there's a problem, I can be back in 24 hours.”

So, anyway, just to add to that story a little bit, when I got back and she was that pregnant, I did what any man would do. I counted the days back from your conception to make sure that I was home during that period, okay? 

Brian Beckcom: You know what I was doing when you were talking about this timeline? I was doing a little mental math on when you got married and when I was born. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, I just wanted to make sure that that, yeah, the timeline worked out, okay? I was home during that period. And it had happened after we got married, which is all good. But she was so pregnant. I said, “You know, the kid needs some exercise.” She said, “Well, how are you going to exercise him?” I said, “Well, sit down on the couch and pull your shirt up.” So, she did, and I would put this cold beer can on her right side and you would move over to her left side. It was real convenient. It really was.

I went back overseas and flew a bunch of missions, but the big one was the 11-Day War and the Christmas Day War of 1972. That's when we started getting shot down. And you were born on the 30th of November ‘72. I had never seen you, okay? Cause I was overseas. But I can remember I got a phone call. We were all struck in this drill room, BOQ. It’s midnight, or very late. The phone rings. And I know what it is. I know it's the doctor calling me to say, “Hey, you know, your son’s arrived.” But I was so tired, I really didn't want to get up and answer the phone. So, the copilot answers the phone.

Brian Beckcom: Take a message.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: And I got up, I talked to the doctor. I'd known him before. I said, “Is my wife, okay?” And he said, “Yes.” And I said, “Is the baby okay?” He said, “Yes.” You were 11 pounds, 14.5 ounces, which is really big. And you were a boy, okay? This was like winning the lottery. I mean, there's no boys. So, of course I wasn't arrogant, boy or girl. I mean, I never rubbed it in to any of my officer’s. Anyway, but during that period of time, well, I' got some pictures of you five days later.

Brian Beckcom: Yeah, so, you get some pictures in the mail and of course you're like, “Man, that is the most beautiful, attractive newborn baby I've ever seen in my life,” right? I mean, you were just like, “Wow. I just, what a beautiful baby.” 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Yeah. Well, I got these in the mail. Of course, they couldn't send them by text or anything else then back then, but I guess they saw the envelope and all the crew said, “Boy, Ed, I think you got some pictures of your son, but let's take a look at it.” I said, “Well, let me go downstairs. I want to kind of look at them in private.” “Okay.”

So, I went down there and these five pictures, you look like a punch-drunk fighter. I'm not kidding with you. Because your mother was in labor for 30 hours. And everything wasn't quite shaped up like it shouldn’t been. So anyway, I'm thinking, my reputation is at stake here, okay? So, I get back up to the room and the guys want to see the pictures. I said I lost them.

But very soon after that, Nixon was reelected. We wanted to get out of Vietnam, and he was looking for a way to do it. So, this was the B-52s claim to fame. So, bullet shot our [43:15] Linebacker II. Most of the missions we flew down South. It was never a problem. 36,000 feet, three airplanes together, spaced 500 feet, you know, two miles behind each other. Anyway, so, on the 18th of December, we launched a ton of B-52s out of Guam and Thailand into North Vietnam. Hanoi and Haiphong.

Brian Beckcom: How long are these missions, by the way? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Out of Guam, they're like 12, 13 hours. Out of Thailand, they're like three or four. Anyway, all of a sudden, the guys getting back from those missions were all hanging out and stuff and three of them got shot down. First that's ever happened by Sams. Their missiles, those babies go 60,000 feet. Well, when we realized that, all of a sudden, we got serious.

Anyway, we flew three more days, and we used the same tactics which was totally stupid. One airplane following another one. So, the North Vietnamese, who have a super air defense system anyways, it's like shooting ducks in a shooting gallery. I mean, all I do is sell, but he's saying. [44:35] So anyway. But, they changed the tactics and we were coming in from different approaches. We didn't take six hours to do all the bombing. We came in, in 15 minutes, we had 120 B-52s across Hanoi and Haiphong. And that worked out really well.

We took Christmas Day off and I guess it was the 26th, we flew 120 B-52s out of Guam and Thailand and we hit the targets in North Vietnam, all of them, within a 15-minute period. And that is the biggest show of fire power in the history of warfare. And the D models carried 108 500-pound bombs. The Gs that I was in at the time, we carried 27 internally.

But that was a scheduling nightmare. So, those missions were about 18 hours back to Guam because we had to go back over to the Philippines, refuel. I mean, it was tough. And the POWs, after we got back, after they got home, they told us that that was a thing. They'd have their guards at the Hanoi Hilton come in and say, “Hey, they're trying to kill you,” because these bombs were going around, you know, going off all around them. And the POWs said, “No, they're not trying to kill us. They're trying to kill you.”

 So anyway, after a couple more days of this, the North Vietnamese all of a sudden decided they wanted to negotiate again, because we had basically wiped them out. They had no more stamps, AAA wasn't effective, we had bombed all the railroads from China and Russia that would bring all this stuff in. They had no supplies.

And I gotta give a lot of credit. We had a lot of support from fighter guys. We had a lot of support from electronic warfare airplanes. We had a lot of support during all this, okay? And I got to give those guys so much credit. But, even though we were in harm’s way, I never figured that – I never felt like we did anything other than our job. The real heroes were the people on the ground, okay? That were in foxholes, eating grub worms daily, just trying to get out of this mess in some way. Seeing their buddy – you never know when someone's going to get shot in the jungle.

So, we did our job. We did it well. And I think that you can probably ask any historian that the B-52 bombings, the 11 days of Linebacker II in December of 72 is what basically ended the war, okay? All of a sudden, everybody wants to negotiate. A lot of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese would tell everybody later that the two things that they were most scared of were snakes and B-52s. And so, but anyway, we weren’t the fighter guys, but I think we did a great job, and they went back and they negotiated. And very soon after that, we stopped bombing them. The war was over with. I stayed over there for a little longer. But the POWs were released about a month later, which was very nice.

But, right after that, your mother flies over to spend some time with me, okay? She brings you. You're two months old. I meet her there at a commercial airplane and I go, “Oh, isn’t he cute,” and stuff like that. You’d straightened out just a little bit by then. Anyway, so we go to the Navy commissary and she has to go get some food for a month. I had a little place that we were staying.

So, she gave you to me and I went over, I said, “Well, I'll go to the snack bar and wait for you.” Well, Things worked out pretty good for about 15 minutes and then you started screaming your head off. And I was thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” So, I hold the screaming baby for two hours, maybe the longest two hours of my life. But anyway, she got back and she was breastfeeding you, so she took care of you. But it was really – but I have to tell you this, Brian. In all fairness – is it okay if I call you Brian, okay? I mean, on the podcast?

Brian Beckcom: I suppose so. I suppose.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: I know you guys have a certain protocol that you like to follow. Anyway, I have to tell you this. When I looked at you, I could see “future podcaster” written all over your head. 

Brian Beckcom: It was that obvious?

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Nearly 48 years later, guess what? 

Brian Beckcom: Yeah, exactly. Here we are, right?

Well, so how many total combat missions did you fly over Vietnam? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: I had exactly 200, and I guess my only – one of my claims to fame was I never missed a mission. Never missed a target. And I flew the very last B-52 mission out of Guam, okay? Out of the thousands, thousands, thousands of airplanes that were flown out of there, B-52s. That was kind of neat, okay?

But, you know, I got 1300 hours of combat time, but a lot of that’s boring holes in the sky. Just going in and out of the target area. But I never felt like I was doing anything other than what I was supposed to do. I was doing my job. And I was very lucky to be at 36,000 feet rather than down on the ground.

I think most of the B-52 guys will tell you the same thing. They were very, very proud. I’m not trying to take anything away from that. But I'm also trying to say that we realized that even though we, I really think, ended the war or started negotiations again, we did okay. But we recognize that we were – we realized we were a little bit down on the totem pole. And I sincerely mean that.

But we had a lot of fun. We had a python that stayed at Gilligan's Island. The Gilligan's Island was where we'd go on Guam after missions, get some beer, a hotdog or something. But about every two weeks, they put a chicken in with Pete.

Brian Beckcom: Uh-oh. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: And this chicken would get on top of Pete and Pete would come back up days later, the chicken’s still there. Well, then the next day, all of a sudden, Pete had a giant lump in his body.

Brian Beckcom: Bye-bye chicken. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: The chicken was – but the other interesting little sidelight is we had an EW as a major. Well, EWs get a bad rap as being kind of weird. And if you had listed to electronic signals all day, you'd be weird too, okay? Is all I can tell you. But he would go to the officer's club in Anderson. And there were some permanent party people there. But he had a pet gecko. And a big string. A he made the leash out of it and a little collar for the gecko. And he put one end of the string in a little loop and this gecko, he would sit there eating dinner with this gecko on top of his head. And the gecko would poop over here. And you know what?

Brian Beckcom: What's that? 

 Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Nobody thought anything of it. I mean, we'd been over there for so long, everybody was going crazy. He was trying to get sent home and it didn't work, okay? Anyway, I thought that was pretty good. And one other little thing. When it was a night flight, we would go out and either the copilot or I would inch off, write all the crew positions on the tires. We put P, CP, RN, NAV, DW, and gunner and kind of space them out equally so that after we landed after the flight, we'd take a flashlight and shine it on top of the tire and whoever was up there had to buy the beer.

Brian Beckcom: Nice. I like that.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, the copilot and I said, “Eh, this is not worth it.” So, either he would do it or I would do it and we would just write pilot all the way around and it was dark. No one could tell the difference. 

Brian Beckcom: Rig the game. Yeah. Rig the game.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Yeah, we’d go out there and we’d flash the flashlight. “Oh, it’s the pilot. Knox. This is the fifth straight time you've had to buy the beer.” “You just give me a break.”

I missed a lot of sports and missed a lot of football cause we got everything a week late. But it turned out pretty good because I kept betting guys on games I already knew what the score was, okay? And we'd watch them on TV. And, you know, I won, I don't know, maybe $50, $60 off, but, you know, I'd say, “Oh, I don't want to bet anymore.” “Oh, we want to bet. We're going to get our money back.” And anyway, after a couple of months, I said enough of this, so I gave all of their money back. I said, “I feel guilty that I take advantage of you.”

But there was a lot of good times like that. And there was a lot of jobs and a lot of stress. As a radar navigator bombardier going into North Vietnam and trying to find the target with the possibility of dumping the bombs on Hanoi Hilton where all in prisoners were. Man, you can't do that. You know what I mean? So, yeah. But we had a lot of fun and it was a great experience and absolutely no regrets whatsoever.

Anyway, like I say, your mother goes back to the States and I ended up back here pretty quick after that. We get an assignment up in New York and up definitely want 1130. Oh [55:20] the assignment, stayed there five years and then went to the University of Kansas as an ROTC instructor. Had a great time, I’ll tell you. And then ended up at Carlsberg [55:30] for my last three years where I basically taught the B-52 crews what they needed to do in case they had to go to war. I knew all the targets. I knew all the tactics, procedures. And that's something I've never talked to anybody about, nor will I ever talk to anyone about it. But your mother – 

The challenges he faced after losing his wife to breast cancer and raising two boys as a single father while simultaneously upholding his duties to the Armed Forces

Brian Beckcom: Highly classified stuff. But, so let me ask you this question. You get back to the United States and we're going to switch topics here a little bit. You get back to the United States. You're stationed in far upstate New York, Plattsburgh Air Force Base. At this point, it's not just me. You've got another son, Brett, two years younger than me. And then at some point you find out your wife has –you're on the fast track in the Air Force. What were you, a captain at the time? Major?

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Yeah, I was a captain. Nearly a major. 

Brian Beckcom: Nearly a major. You're in your, what are you, about 30, 31, something like that? 32? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Yeah, 32, 33, somewhere in there. 

Brian Beckcom: And you find out your wife has advanced breast cancer. So, what – tell us when you first got that news at such a young age with two young boys, kind of what that was like and how you ended up working through that? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, Brett was born on the 24th of October up in Plattsburgh and I went up to see him and he had the skinniest legs in the world, okay? He was kind of embarrassing. So, I said, “Cover up his legs, Linda.” Anyway, she covered up his legs and all my friend saw him. So, he straightened out pretty good so far, okay?

But anyway, we found out I guess about a year and a half after I was at Plattsburgh, and I was a major at the time, and she went over to have a biopsy taken of one of her breasts. And it was just a normal procedure. Wasn't a big deal. They were going to stick a needle in. Anyway, they found out she had cancer. And it was pretty upsetting, obviously. And it had gone to her lymph nodes and it was not – it wasn't like she was going to die in the next three days, okay? She had a little time. But that kind of throws a monkey wrench into all your plans.

But she hung on for five years and we went to Lawrence, Kansas. She did great. We went to Plattsburgh. Or, to Carlsberg. She passed away in Carlsberg approximately five years after she got sick. But, there's some real advantages to knowing it's going to happen and being able to make some plans, okay? And there's some real advantages so if it all of a sudden happened to me, you don't have to think about it.

We had to, every time she went to the doctor to be x-rayed, we always worried it would come back. And it did eventually come back. She had fantastic doctors, both military and civilian doctors. She was real trooper, plenty of support all the way around. She gave a number of talks to women's groups about breast cancer. So. She did a good job of serving her community and it just – she did pass away I guess the 11th of November, 1983.

We were living on base and I knew I was going to retire in ‘85. So, we moved off base relatively quickly after that. Not to – yeah. We were at Carlsberg, but we were off-base and we moved off-base about a year later cause I didn't want to disrupt you guys. I didn't want to start another job or retire from the – I didn't want to do three or four things at the same time. So, we tried to space things out.

But anyway, we took her up to Pennsylvania. And I don't know if you remember this or not, Brian, but we got up there. We go to the funeral home. And because she went in the same airplane we went in, I wanted to make damn sure that that was her, okay? So, I went in. I gave you guys the choice. I said, “You can go in, but you don't have to go in. Whatever you want to do.” You chose not to go in, Brett went in, okay? Which was fine. You felt more comfortable with that.

So anyway, the day before the funeral, I took you guys around and we did absolutely everything that we did on the day of the funeral. We drove to the funeral site, we drove to where the church was. We drove all the way, “This is exactly what's going to happen tomorrow.”

So, I guess it – and, you know, when something is going to happen to a loved one, and if you can kind of look out – have a little bit of time to plan. I really knew exactly what I was going to be doing when she passed, okay? From phone numbers, to what I needed to do, whoever I needed to call, it was – I had it a lot easier than a lot of people. But, for a bad situation, people up there were absolutely wonderful. And I had some Air Force friends of mine who had a daughter, and they came to the funeral. And I was still running at the time, okay?

So, anyway, she's buried in a very – well, you know where she's buried. or just [01:01:40] Cemetery. And I got two plots there. And I gave one of them to Jack, your uncle. And I said that, you know, that you can have that. He said, “I'll pay you for it.” And I said, “No way you're going to pay me for that.” So, that's where your grandmother's buried now.

So, you know, you do the right thing and usually it comes back to help you out. I've probably made more mistakes than any human being alive, but, you know, I have done a few little things that are, you know, okay. But the thing about it is, I've never questioned one – we got back to Carswell. I never had any doubt in my mind that I could take care of you guys. You were 11 and nine. I didn't need anybody to help me. I did not need anything. I had a job that was very stressful, but I had a lot of flexibility in it, okay?

So, I didn't have to worry about a paycheck. I didn't have to worry about a lot of things that some little single mother is worried about whether she's gonna be able to pay the electric bills or not, okay? I had all that. So, as a single parent, I had it absolutely made compared to some of these little single mamas that have to worry about whether the electric bill goes up $10 a month. I mean, I was – and I would be of the opinion that actually a man who wants to raise his kids can actually do just as well if not better than a lot of times women can do that. So, it was not a problem. You know, I think the thing that I missed most of all is I didn't have anybody to talk situations over with.

But I had a lot of support, a lot of nice people. I think they thought I was totally helpless until I finally convinced them that I could handle it. You guys did well. And I retired in ‘85 and I had a couple phone calls. I could have probably gone to another assignment with the possibility to get promoted. Of course, they always tell you that. “Hey, if you take this assignment, you'll get promoted.” But I wasn't going to uproot you guys. I wanted some stability. I wanted you guys to go to the same schools.

So, you went to the seventh grade after I retired, Brett went into the fifth, and it worked out great. I was in Fort Worth, Texas where I wanted to be. If they had told me, “We'll give you four stars if you move,” I'd say, “You keep your four stars. I'm staying where I am.” I accomplished what I wanted to. And so, once again, I kind of look at myself as just the opposite of the guy that walks around with a storm cloud over his head. I've walked around and every time I fall into a pile of poop, I walk out smelling like a rose.

I’ve been very, very blessed in every conceivable way and I don't say that in a theatrical way. I mean it. Okay? So, anyway, you guys did real well in high school. I didn't have to worry about you. And I got the job at Western Hills a year later as the ROTC instructor. They just opened up a unit there and I interviewed, 10 other guys interviewed, a bunch of full colonels. And a guy named Quince Fulton, who was the principal at the time, hired me.

I'll always be indebted to Mr. Fulton. He passed away I guess last month. Yeah, last month, September. And one of the best leaders I've ever seen. But anyway, I had a great time. Kids were unbelievable. I love the kids to death. I got a lot of confidence in the high school kids. 90% of them are fantastic. I don't care where they come from. 10% of them probably should be on a chain gang for a year just to appreciate what they have. But sometimes the parents can be a little rough but the kids were fine and I had a great time for 16 years.

The value of staying positive, working hard, and keeping life simple

Brian Beckcom: So, let me ask you a couple of questions about – because one of the things that I remember when your wife, my mom, passed away was you sat down with me and Brett, your other son, my younger brother, and you said, “Guys, at some point I'll probably start dating again. But no matter what happens, the three of us will always be a unit.” And you went so far as to get a big magnetic sticker with the number three and stick it on the refrigerator.

So, I know you remember that, but I guess my question is more along the lines of, you know, right now, as we’re recording this, there is a lot of stuff going on in the country that's really tough on people. We've got this pandemic and the quarantine and people going out of business and the economy is bad. We've got protests, we've got issues with police violence. We've got the protests are sometimes getting out of control, the politics is totally crazy. It's a tough time for people, I guess, is what I'm getting at.

And you went through one of the toughest things I think anybody could imagine. And I know the way you tell the story, you tell it in a very optimistic, positive way, at least to the extent you can, but give us some tips, if you don't mind, like, what kind of advice did you get from people?

I remember you telling me, I think it was a Black master sergeant gave you some advice in the Air Force when you were going through – a guy who had lost his wife as well. But tell us how did you get through these very, very difficult times when your wife is extremely sick, you've got a job you've got to do, plus you've got to raise kids. Like, what are some of the pieces of advice you got? What was your mindset during this period? How did you get through that? 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Like I said, I had a very stressful job, but on the other hand, I had one where I had some flexibility. You guys were healthy. I had everything going for me. And it really wasn't that stressful that last two years or I guess two and a half years as far as raising you guys go, because basically you guys all did the right thing. I didn't have a problem a lot of people have. And I think that – I don't care what the issue is. I think you have to look at all the things you've got going for you before you worry about the things that you don't have going for you.

And I think that applies to everybody. And right now, with all the stuff going on. With all the stuff going on. You wanna feel good? My suggestion is go to Walmart. Go to Walmart. There are all kinds at Walmart, okay? All kinds of races, religions, sexes, poor people, rich people, whatever.

People are nice to each other. People are good. People get along, okay? And there's a Black guy that takes care of all the grocery carts at Albertsons. And I've got on this Trump mask. And I walk up to him and say, “Would you do me a favor?” He said, “Sure.” He said, “Don't let them divide us up. The politicians are going to try to divide us. Don't let them do it, okay?” But, I would say that we're going to get through this. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. We're not sure when it's coming.

And I would just say that, you know, it's okay to sit around and suck your thumb sometimes. Everybody deserves to feel sorry for themselves. There's no doubt about that. But you need to get up and up and you need to press on for your country. Which, I don't care what anybody says, is the greatest, most generous and solemn nation on earth. We've got so many things going for us and you have to emphasize those things.

As bad as the virus is, as bad as the protests can get, as ugly as the election gets, I've got a tremendous amount of confidence in the American people. I have absolutely no confidence in the politicians in Washington. And that includes both parties. Or the elitists there. The American people are good. And get along. And they help each other. And so, we're going to get through this and I just, you know, it's easiest to have a positive attitude. I mean, everybody's going to give you that answer, but it's very true. Very, very true.

Brian Beckcom: I actually wrote an article a couple of years ago about having a positive attitude. And one of the points that I was trying to make in the article was, I mean, you know, of course you don't want to be overly positive. You don't want to be Pollyannish and, you know, stuff like that. But the point is, if you have a choice between looking at things from an optimistic, positive standpoint and looking at things from a negative, maybe a cynical, a skeptical standpoint, I mean, you're just going to be a lot happier. You're just, your days are going to be better if you try to look at things, to the extent you can, in the most positive way that you can.

And I'll tell, you know, you're talking about Walmart. I think that's a great point. And I'll tell you how I've experienced that, Dad. This is before the pandemic, obviously. We haven't been able to do this since the pandemic, but Vick and I at our work would do mock trials or focus groups once a month for our cases. And we intentionally try to get the most diverse group of people we can get. I mean, conservative, liberal, Black, white, Hispanic, women, men, old, young, you name it. We have a service and we say, “Get us the most diverse group of people you can possibly get.” Because when you do focus groups, you want to get as many opinions as you can get.

And in any event, what I started noticing is, you know, this is a group of 16, 20 people, most of which have very little in common before they come into this room, and they're arguing and discussing really, really important issues, some of which some of them feel very passionately about. And nobody is an asshole. I mean, everybody gets along and whether they agree with each other and not, when they're sitting down there face to face, they're polite, they're friendly, they try to work together.

And I'm telling you, people from the most diverse groups or the most diverse backgrounds you can imagine. They get along. As a matter of fact, what's super cool is sometimes, you know, you'll have a couple of people walk in there and you'll look at them. You'll say, “Man, those people have nothing in common.” By the time they're done deliberating, guess who the two best friends are?

So, I'm with you. And I'll tell you, I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I think this is such an important point. And I really want to emphasize it. I could not agree with you more that the average American is a good, positive person that will help people out, has good intentions. And I think the vast majority of the country is like that. What I worry about is the way that the internet and social media to some extent has kind of amplified divisions that I don't even think exist. Like, I think these divisions are fake divisions.

I mean, and, you know, it's not just social media and the internet. It's like you said, some of the politicians intentionally try to do this for their own – to try to divide us for their own best interests. But if you set aside what you read on TV, what you hear on the radio, what you see on the internet and social media, and you just deal with people face-to-face. Most people are just good people.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I agree with you there. And I think our political views are a little different and I feel real strongly about mine, you feel real strongly about yours. But, the point is this, and I want to tell you this. And I don't – when I work out now, I don't watch TV. I leave it off. I am so sick and tired of people just trying to trash, you know, everybody's trying to trash everybody. And I have a better workout. I mean, it's amazing. I've probably watched a little bit of news to try to see kind of what's going on, cause I want to know what's going on. 

Brian Beckcom: Do me a favor, Dad. Do me a favor.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: What’s that?

Brian Beckcom: You have not gotten on social media yet. Please do not get on social media.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: No, I won’t. I won’t. I won’t

Brian Beckcom: Yeah. Please, please, please stay off social media. Your chain emails are plenty. Social media is not a good place.

By the way, I think we would be remiss if we did not talk about – we were talking about your wife and my mom and Brett's mom dying, but I think we'd be remiss if we didn't talk about the fact that you have been remarried now for, has it been 30 years, almost?

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: I think about 25.

Brian Beckcom: 25 years to just an absolutely spectacular, spectacular lady. So, you know, you’ve been blessed, you know, you had some challenges in your first marriage with what ended up happening, but you've also been, well, we've all been blessed to have Janiece as part of the family.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: She's a remarkable person. In every conceivable way. And if you take her background, she had a loving family, but they had nothing, okay? 

Brian Beckcom: Yeah. As poor as poor could possibly be.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: She is the only one in her family that has a high school diploma, and that was a GED. And now she's got an associate's degree in criminal justice.

Brian Beckcom: A highly decorated law enforcement officer for 25 plus years. And I mean, and, you know, when you say poor. Poor. Not many Americans are truly poor, but her family literally had just about nothing. And what she's made of her life is –

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: It's phenomenal. And let me put it this way. If she doesn't get a free lunch or a biscuit, she didn't eat at school, okay? I mean, that’s how she grew up. But she's – I like to say this, without being theatrical about it. I've had two great wives. I've had two great jobs. I've got two great sons. Two great step-kids. 10 fantastic grandkids. I've had good health. I've been able to pay my bills. And everybody in the family is still speaking to everybody. And I've had a few little lumps and bumps along the way, but, you know, that's a good learning experience. I mean, that's what you want to do.

Let me hit on one quick point here. I know we've gone a little long, but I don't have another meeting to go to. I had my executive secretary clean my schedule off for this afternoon. You mentioned – right after I went back to work, your mother had passed away, this Black lieutenant colonel, Chuck Cuthbert was his name. He graduated from Prairie View A&M, by the way. Super, super, super, super guy. He took me aside and said, “I've got one bit of advice for you.” And he was single at the time. He said, “Keep your life simple.” And that really hit home with me, because life is simple. People make it complicated. You know, you just got to keep things simple.

And I say this in jest, like, “Yeah, you need one credit card. You need one wife. You need one girlfriend.” I mean, you know.

Brian Beckcom: One plate, one spoon, one fork.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Yeah. I mean, any more than that just gets complicated. But that's some of the best advice I've ever had. And I know sometimes things get kind of complex and there's nothing you can do about that.

Do we have just a little bit of time? Cause I made some notes.

Brian Beckcom: I do, if you do. I have a couple more questions I was hoping to ask. I know you've got – you're probably bumping up against your nap time and your Luby’s time.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: No, I made a couple little leadership notes since that's what this basically should be about. Things I've observed over 77 years that a lot of people already know.

Brian Beckcom: Let's talk about it. I want to hear it. Let's talk about it.

The characteristics that make someone a good person and a good leader

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Okay. I'd say the very first thing that people, if you're a leader, first thing in my opinion is you should keep in mind – I think I mentioned this to you the other night – is leadership starts with caring, okay? Leadership starts with caring. That means caring about getting the job done. That means caring about the people that you work with. And that means caring about the community, okay?

And I'm convinced that someone in a leadership position, if they can kind of keep those things in mind, it'll keep them out of trouble, okay? But anyway. These are just some things that I've picked up: Be nice. Don't be a jerk, okay? All leaders are nice and if they're not, they don't last very long. And I was in a strategic air command and the motto was, “To err is human, to forgive is not policy [01:19:35], okay?

But one of the commanders of SAC – Commander and Chief of SAC, General Russell Doherty. Basically told all of his commanders that he was not going to rate them on being a jerk. And in SAC, they had a lot of people like that, that the more they could intimidate you, the better commander, they thought. You be nice to people.

And something else I've come across that somebody was asked: “Do you treat everybody the same?” Then the guy said, “No, I don't treat everybody the same. But I treat them all fairly, okay?” Because everybody's not the same. Everybody’s not.

Another good example I can think of: there were two four-star admirals over in Brussels at NATO headquarters, and one of them would come in the office and he would go immediately to this office, shut the door, and stay there all day. The other guy would come in, wander around and talk to everybody, see how their family was doing. You know, “How's Betty Sue doing? I know she had a concert.” He showed a real interest in the people he was working with.

Tom Landry had something very interesting and he was a good leader. He said, “God should come first. Family second. And football’s third, okay?” And what he really means is God first, family second, and then whatever your passion is is next.

Your grandfather was a good leader. When he became director of the SPCA for Dallas County, he talked to the outgoing guy and the outgoing guy said, “Boy, your secretary is not – she just can't get anything done, okay?” And my father figured out, your grandfather figured out that the reason she couldn't get anything done was because she couldn't get anything done if he gave her more than one thing to do at a time. If you gave her one thing to do at a time, she finished it and did a great job, ended up the Secretary of the Year for Dallas County, okay?

I think that the example there is you got to get the right people in the right jobs. Everybody's not the same. You got to learn to delegate. If you don't delegate, you're in trouble, even though you think you can do everything better than anybody else. And a good leader can walk away and be gone for two months and the organization keep running because the people there know what decisions he or she would have made .

Brian Beckcom: Part of that, too, as somebody who's run a business is, you know, I can tell you, I think – and I'm sure it's the same way in the military – some people feel like that if they don't have to be there, if there aren't people constantly relying on them and stuff like that, you know, they don't feel very good about themselves. But I actually think what you're saying, a really good leader essentially makes him or herself almost irrelevant to the business at some point. Like, you should be able to stand up, walk out the door, and come back in two months and everything – if you've designed, you know, a good organization or a good business or whatever it is, you ought to be able to walk away for two months, come back, and everything is essentially running fine. Right? 

 Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: No, you're exactly right. 

Brian Beckcom: But there's this ego, I think, that some people in leadership positions have. Their ego won't let them feel that way, won't let them do that, because if they're not constantly making every single decision, no matter how big or how small, their ego gets damaged.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Yeah. I think so, too. And that's a matter of insecurity, as far as I'm concerned. But, you know, it's the whole thing about it's not about winning, it's not about me. You got to share the wealth. And I saw something on an Arkansas businessman that owned a large company, and this was two or three years ago. Well, he was shutting the company down. He wasn't selling it, he was shutting it down. And this is what he did. He took all the money that he had in it and he put bonuses in envelopes for the people that had been with him for so long that it made the business, okay? And there were people opening up these envelopes getting 100, $150,000 checks.

Brian Beckcom: Wow. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: But you know who got the most money? The secretary that had been with him for 30 years. Not the engineer that he had for five years. He put a high priority on loyalty, okay? And I thought that was really, really, really, really good.

And the other thing is, as we talked about, you gotta listen to your people. I had a buddy in the Air Force, a retired brigadier general. Super guy. Played at the University of Florida in football. And he told me after he retired, he said, “You know, Ed, I went to work for a guy, some hotshot out of Nashville that had his own private airplane. And, you know, he knew more than anybody else in the staff meetings. You know, he totally controlled them, asked for nobody's opinion.” And he said, “You know, after about a month, I gave him my opinion in a staff meeting.” He said, “I gave it to him in the right kind of way. ‘Hey boss, you need to take a look at this.’” He said after the meeting, the guy walked up to him and said, “I don't need your input.” Gerome said, “If you don't need my input, I don't need to have this job.” The point is, you really gotta listen to your people. 

Brian Beckcom: You know what I tell my people? I have a rule at my office. They don't follow this 100% of the time, but 99% of the time they do. Don't come to me with a problem unless you also have a proposed solution. Because, like you're saying, like your buddy, I didn't hire – there's nobody in my office that I hired to sit there and just take orders. Everybody in my office, I hired for their intelligence and for their brains. And I want their opinions badly because I know that I don't know everything. A matter of fact, there's a lot of stuff I don't know anything about.

I can, you know, my office manager, Patty, has been with me over a decade, frankly knows a lot more about some of the stuff going on at the firm than I do. And I would be a complete idiot not to listen to what she has to say. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Well, you know, when you ask them to come up with a solution, that's not being a bad guy. That's saying, “I have confidence in you to come up with a good idea.”

Brian Beckcom: For sure. For sure.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: I mean, that's a compliment.

Brian Beckcom: Anybody can tell me the problems, but I didn't hire you to tell me the problems. I hired you to propose the solutions. And you know what I found, by the way? Most of the time, the solutions that are proposed are as good or better than the ones I would have proposed. You know what I mean? I'll be like, “Wow, that's a great idea.” 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: “Thank you for that idea. I won’t tell you the stupid idea that I had.” So, you got to listen to your people, and you've got to stand by them during the tough times. A good squadron commander, by golly, will be there when one of his underlings shows up in front of the wing commander to get his rear end chewed out.

When we were at the University of Kansas, they switched presidents, okay? And I think this is a good leadership trait. Gene Budig was the guy's name. And he ended up being a brigadier general in the Air Force Reserves. Dr. Budig was, like, 39 years old. And I went up to talk to him one day and I could barely hear him because he talked so softly. Not loud like me, okay? But he did that intentionally so you would listen to what he was saying. And I think that's a tip that good leaders, if they'll make people kind of strain just a little bit to hear what they're saying.

I had a wing commander named Martin Ryan. They called him Rip. Ended up as a two-star. When your mother was sick, he called me up. He said, “Ed, I know you're an independent guy. I want you to know I'm here in case you need me, okay?” And I saluted proudly and said, “Thank you, sir.” The point is this: I knew I could depend on him if I had to. And that's the thing that, as a boss, you need to tell people, “I’m not going to try to solve this problem you got, but if you need me, give me a call.” It makes so much difference. It makes so much difference. You never have to call them, but you know they’re there. That's the significant thing. It makes you feel like you got a bridge to go across.

A couple of examples: When I was at Eighth Air Force, we had a guy that was Eighth Air Force commander. We're talking about three stars. We're talking about a big boy, okay? And every time somebody would come see him, whether it was the lady from the local florists, he would get out of his office, go down three stories, and meet her down at the front of the office, okay? And escort her back up. That's what a real leader does, okay?

And we had another commander there that he would bring his German shepherd in and let him loose in the briefing room. And can you imagine a young captain up there trying to brief a three-star general with a German shepherd sniffing his leg? I mean, that’s not cool, okay?

Brian Beckcom:  Yeah, that’s not cool.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: That's pretty bad. Dr. Loftin, gotta give him a lot of credit. He decided to move the Corps back under the vice president of student affairs at A&M. And he went over and he talked to somebody over there and said, “We're going to do that.” And they said, “Well, I'm going to resign,” and gave Dr. Loftin a note. Dr. Loftin said, “I'll keep this for 24 hours.” And I'm not going to tell you who the person was. It was not the commandant, okay? It was somebody else. But anyway, Dr. Loftin was smart enough to know that people make split second decisions that they regret later on. 

 Brian Beckcom: That's right. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: He said, “I'm gonna keep this for 24 hours. I'm not gonna submit it. You're okay. Get back if you need to.” And the guy ended up deciding that, “Well, maybe I shouldn't do that.” So, I think a good boss, if someone's having a bad day, comes in and wants to quit, stuff like that, you need to let them have time to cool off a little bit. So, I would suggest that as a good boss. 

Brian Beckcom: You know, the other thing I was told when I – and the conversation I had with Dr. Loftin was yesterday. We're filming October 13th today. It was yesterday. And one of the things he said, and you mentioned this earlier, was when he was president at A&M, and I think when he was chancellor at University of Missouri, he made a point every day to get his butt out of the office for at least an hour or two to walk around campus and to hang out with his people. He said there's a lot of people in leadership positions that he had been around that would literally show up, they'd go into their office, lock their door, and you wouldn't see him for eight hours.

But, you know, Dr. Loftin made the exact same point you made that he made a real effort to get out there amongst his people. You know, and I told Dr. Loftin, when I first started working as a lawyer at Fulbright & Jaworski, I had a mentor who was a very prominent partner at Fulbright & Jaworski. He was the head of the appellate section, which was a big deal. And he used to tell me when I first started, “Need to make your own copies. You need to staple your own papers. Need to make your own coffee. You need to know how all this stuff works.”

And it's not just knowing how it all works. It's also, like some of the Marine Corps officers I've talked to on the podcast have said, you also need to make sure that your folks know that you would never ask them to do anything that you wouldn't be willing to do yourself.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Sure, sure. Sure. No, I think that's an excellent point that when the boss comes in, I don't care how much rank he has or how big a title he has, if he makes the coffee one day, or if he empties the garbage can, that's such a small, teeny thing, but God, it means so much for your people. 

Brian Beckcom: You know what Dr. Loftin, you know the story he told yesterday? He said, and I didn't realize this, but his wife's a big equestrian. She likes riding horses. And so, she actually got, I don't know if you ever saw this, but she got to ride in with the Parsons Mounted Calvary on a horse. And Bowen Loftin walked behind her and shoveled the horse crap behind her horse.

You know, he was telling this story and he said, “Man, there were a number of people that said, ‘You know, you're the president, you shouldn't be shoveling horse crap in public like that.’” And he goes, “No, I want to show people that even though I'm the president of the university, I'm willing to get down and do the dirty work.” And I thought that was, you know, literally shoveling horse shit. I mean.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: I figured he was going to say, “Hey, when you're a president of a major university, you do this every day.”

Brian Beckcom: Yeah. Well, that's what he said. He goes, yeah. He did kind of say that. He goes, “That is kind of your job, just shoveling shit all day anyways.” But anyway, great points.

Mentorship and the lasting imprints great leaders leave on others 

Brian Beckcom: Well, let me ask you a couple more questions before I let you go. So, who have been – and this is a question that I don't think you and I have ever talked about. Who have been the biggest mentors that you've had in your life?

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Okay. Well, my father was, up to a very, very large degree. But he was a little bit more private man than I am, okay? I mean, that was just his age. But he set a great example for me. Gave me every single thing that I needed.

This is gonna sound kind of weird, but when I went on to cruise and navigator, my radar navigator was a major named Don Wagner. Don was the most talented human being I've ever met. About 145 pounds. He was the best pool player in Louisiana. He was a professional boxer, could pitch baseball, scratch golfer.

He, like a lot of people with so much talent, had some other issues, okay? But, he took me around for about a year and a half and he taught me a lot. I went to pool halls. He taught how to, you know, when you go in and you want a bunch of money off people. And he lost too. I mean, but when he won, you don't rub it in. You know, because if you rub it in, you're going to step outside. There's going to be some guys there and they're going to break a beer bottle, and they're going to cut your throat with it.

So, there's ways to do things. And he was calm and cool under all circumstances. Just, I learned so much from that guy. I also learned a lot from Mr. Fulton, my principal at Western Hills, who would literally go down the hall and he would forearm these 300-pound football players, okay? Say, “You better win tonight or I'm coming after you.” And it worked. It absolutely worked.

But he got out and talked to everybody. The teachers would stop him in the halls and say, “Mr. Fulton, I need to talk about something.” He said, “Well, come in my office.” And he’d take the time to do that. He was a good listener, okay? He was a tough guy, but he was a good listener. And so, he was also a good role model for me.

Former Chief of Staff General David Jones, who I never actually knew, the example that he set in so many ways – I mean, he flew with us one day. This staff car drives up, this three-star gets out. He introduces himself to everybody on the crew. Goes up, sits in the left seat, flies an eight-hour mission. We do everything from refuel to low-level bombing. He doesn't miss a lick, okay? He gets out of the airplane and does not shake hands with anybody. Doesn't say thank-you, doesn't say anything.

We all pack up, get out of the airplane, and he's standing down there waiting on us. He remembers our names, okay? And says, “Thank you for the flight. You guys did a great job.” Here I am, a first lieutenant navigator telling a three-star general when to turn and when to do this. I mean, that’s the kind of thing that a real leader does. And so, he made a big impact on me.

Something General Doherty used to say I thought was really interesting, and this gets discussed across all professions. He would tell us, he would say, “Look. Keep my weekends as clear as you can for my family, okay?” Because he had so many obligations. And you can't keep every weekend clear, but I thought that was pretty good. I felt that was really, really good advice.

I would say that people overshoot for making a – not making an impact on people, but making an imprint. You make an imprint, don't make an impact. In other words, you really try to leave something. And I think most leaders do that.

Brian Beckcom: I think that is the perfect way to wrap this up. And let me tell you why I say that. You probably know to some extent, but probably not to the full extent, how much of an imprint you've had on hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of people. I mean, when you talk about all the kids you've influenced as a high school ROTC instructor. When you talk about all the people you've influenced in the Air Force. When you talk about all the people, I mean, we didn't even get a chance to talk about the fact that you were one of the five founding members of a group that basically helped to resurrect the Corps of Cadets at A&M when it was down.

And so, the imprint you’ve had on people stretches far and wide, certainly on your family, certainly on me and Brett. That goes without saying. We didn't get a chance to talk about General, our adopted older brother, your adopted son, basically. And the imprints you've had on him and his family.

And so, I really, really, in all seriousness, all kidding aside, I really appreciate your time. And I know that there is going to be a ton of people that are going to hear this episode, and you're going to have yet another opportunity to put a positive imprint on thousands of more people. So, thank you, Dad, so much for who you are. Thank you for all the lessons that you've given me and Brett and everybody else. And I had a great time.

And it's kind of – interviewing your dad for a podcast can be a little different. But I really, really, really enjoyed this and, you know, the other thing I'll say is I appreciate you being so well-prepared. I mean, it's obvious you spent some time thinking about these things. 

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: Janiece said she’d be glad when this is over with because I've been so uptight about it. You know, you took a lot of my last stuff [1:39:30]

You know, I'm gonna get the last word in and then we'll hang up. But, I just want to tell you that I'm very thankful for being on this. I'm honored that you asked me to do this. This doesn't happen all the time, okay? I'm sorry, but there's a lot of estrangements in families and things like that. I'm very, very honored to be on it. And I'm very proud of both you and I'm very proud of Brett. And that's a note that I wanted to make sure that I jotted down because I think you guys were fantastic. Not perfect. Thank God you weren't perfect. And nobody is, and that's the way to be.

But I really think it's these podcasts, and I've listened to just about all of them. You've had a lot of great people on here that have had a lot of great ideas and a great, what I call “food for thought,” okay? Food for thought. Everybody can pick out different things. So, I think you're doing a big service. You can talk about influencing a lot of people. I think that these podcasts are going to give a lot of people a lot of things to think about and hopefully, you know, they can do a little better from what you're doing and learn something from it.

Then I guess the last thing, I got to say this once again, since we're talking about leadership. Leadership starts with caring. Caring about the job, the people that you work with, and your family. And if you can just – I think a good leader thinking, if they can keep that simple, I think that they'll go a long ways towards being successful.

And the last thing I want to say, and then I'll let you finish up, is that in the Bible, it's either 3:12 or 12:3, Ecclesiastics. Basically, God tells you to do those two things: be happy and do good. So, be happy and do good, and everybody knows what that means, okay?

Brian Beckcom: I just have one more thing to say, man.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: What's that?

Brian Beckcom: I love you.

Lt. Col. Edwin Beckcom III: I love you, too. I appreciate that very much. And, like I say, there's nobody more blessed than I am. You take care, all right? 

Brian Beckcom: All right. You too, man. Talk soon.

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