By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Bob Farrell retired in 2011 after working 41 years for the Air Force, both on active duty and as a civilian employee.
But since he retired he hasn’t exactly been sitting around with his feet up.
Farrell volunteers for a number of organizations throughout Enid, a labor of love that began during his 25-year active duty Air Force career, at which time he rose to the rank of chief master sergeant.
“Most of my military assignments were kind of brief, here and there, or there was a lot of temporary duty, so it didn’t give me an opportunity to do a lot until I came to Enid,” said Farrell. “I was on active duty when I started volunteering.”
Volunteering. he said, gives him a chance to “feel like I’m giving something to the community, but I’m getting so much more than I’m giving. It provides me an opportunity to give back, to say thanks in a lot of different ways.”
On the ground
He worked with Cimarron Valley Chapter of American Red Cross, emceeing the group’s annual fundraising extravaganzas. He also served on the group’s board of directors and later became chairman of the board.
On April 21, 1999, he and other Red Cross volunteers responded when a tornado hit Carrier.
His most vivid memory of his Red Cross days involved “going over there and working and helping to clear debris and doing assessments in families’ homes,” he said. “They were just glad to see people there that were willing to help.”
A little TV time
PEGASYS, Enid’s public-access television station, was another of Farrell’s volunteer projects, and he sat on that group’s board, as well.
“I think the community is missing the boat here when they don’t really pay attention to things that are on PEGASYS,” he said.
Special place in his heart
Farrell spent many years working with Cherokee Strip Area 6 Special Olympics while serving as community relations chief at Vance Air Force Base.
“The people who are out there volunteering are just so thrilled to be able to give those kids anything that they possibly can for the day to make that their day,” Farrell said. “It was just a time to give.”
Farrell was in on the ground floor of the Vance Partner in the Sky program, which honors civilians who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to support the men and women of Vance, as well as the base’s Honorary Commander Program, which invites local leaders to get an up-close look at what goes on behind Vance’s gates.
“While I was on duty out there I had 168 honorary commanders come through the program,” he said, “which is 168 key individuals within the community that have had the opportunity to see, grass-roots, what Vance Air Force Base is all about. They really have become ambassadors for the Air Force and for Vance.”
Farrell also helps with Enlisted Appreciation Night, sponsored by Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce. The event is a free event for enlisted personnel serving at Vance, offering fun, food and prizes.
“I’ve been doing that since 1988,” said Farrell. “I do have a soft spot in my heart for the enlisted community because I know what they go through.”
Enlisted Appreciation Night has been held for more than four decades.
“When I came into Vance in 1988 I had never seen anything like it anywhere I had been,” Farrell said. “And since we’ve had a lot of bases call and ask about it, they had heard about this night the community puts on through the Chamber of Commerce.”
Information about Enid’s Enlisted Appreciation Night was relayed to other bases and communities, Farrell said, but “they eventually come back and say, ‘We can’t get it done.’ Other bases don’t have the support of the community that Vance Air Force Base does.”
Farrell also serves on Vance Development Authority, the board charged with improving the ties between city and base, as well as helping protect and enhance Vance and its mission.
“It’s another tie-in to how blue my blood is, I guess,” he said.
The Vietnam Wall connection
More recently he has been co-chairman of the committee charged with raising funds to bring a retired traveling replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall to Enid.
Dan Ohnesorge, former vice wing commander at Vance, asked Farrell to help him raise the $250,000 needed to purchase the 80 percent replica of the wall.
“When Ohno called me and told me what he had been asked to do and asked if I would be involved with him on this project, there wasn’t a thought that said no,” said Farrell. “I’ve seen what the wall can do for people. I’ve seen how it honors Vietnam veterans in a way that is totally different from any other memorial you’ve ever seen.”
The wall has been purchased and ground has been broken for its placement on the grounds of Enid Woodring Regional Airport near the Woodring Wall of Honor, but Farrell and Ohnesorge are trying to raise $100,000 to present the wall in a first-class manner.
“Neither of us wanted to just have this thing on a concrete pad, sitting on the ground out at Woodring Airport, just there,” said Farrell. “We wanted to do it right. We thought the people of Enid and surrounding communities would want that brought in here and displayed in a proper manner.
“It’s going to be a place where people can go and they don’t just have to stand out there and look. They can sit, and they can think, and they can meditate, if they want to, and they can cry all they want to.”
When the wall is finally dedicated next Veterans Day, Farrell said, “it’s going to culminate a lot of hard work, and it’s going to mean a lot to me to be able to say I was heavily involved in getting that wall here and seeing it properly erected.”
Our Daily Bread
As if that weren’t enough, Farrell and wife Nancy volunteer at Our Daily Bread, which dispenses free meals to the needy under St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church sponsorship.
“We’ve been doing that for about the last year,” he said. “Since I became fully retired, my wife and I wanted to do something we could do together, something for the community and also through our church.
“I handle what I would traditionally call the military job, pots and pans.”
Farrell says Our Daily Bread “has a good group of folks that work together to serve a lot of meals to a lot of people that need it.”