Lawrence family travels to Pentagon to see exhibit

Published 12:10 am Saturday, July 29, 2017

An Opp man is being honored throughout fiscal year 2017 by the U.S. Air Force.

Retired Lt. Col. James D. (Jim) Lawrence, an Air Force command pilot, educator, and author is designated as one of 144 veterans for the USAF “Veterans In Blue” program, Volume VI, run by the Air Force Public Affairs Agency.

Per their latest announcement, “Volume VI features leaders in government, multiple industry CEOs, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, as well as veterans from World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and many others who continue making an impact on society long after their Air Force careers are finished.”

Lawrence and family were able to travel to Washington, D.C., to the Pentagon to see his portion of the exhibit.

“The security getting in the Pentagon was very tight,” Lawrence said. “My son-in-law works there full time as a civilian in the office of the secretary of defense, and my daughter frequents the Pentagon with her civilian job at Fort Belvoir, Va. Gen. Robert Ferrell hosted us in his office near the Chief of Staff of the Army. He devoted about 45 minutes of his time to our visit. I presented him with a signed copy of my Airman’s Odyssey book plus an Air Commando coin, and he gave me one of his personal coins, as well as a shadow-box encased American flag that had flown over the Pentagon. He escorted us to the display wall on the fifth floor on a hallway between corridors 8 and 9 for photographs. Gave us all the royal treatment, we talked about our common Alabama roots. All-in-all, it was an exciting and rewarding day for someone from Covington County.”

Since its inception in 2010, the program previously honored veterans such as Test Pilot Chuck Yeager, WWII P.O.W. Louis Zamperini, Texas Congressman John M. Hayes, Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and other significant Air Force figures for their life’s work.

A four-man public affairs team from the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron visited Lawrence in his home near Pike Road in June, 2016, to produce a video and still shots from their interviews about his 26-plus years of military service, as well as his service in post-retirement environmental work, his writing to honor veterans, and his contributions to education services.

Lawrence worked seven years as a contract employee at Maxwell AFB and two years part time at Keesler AFB, Miss., in the environmental business.

He has written two military books, his memoir, “Airman’s Odyssey: An Air Force Special Operator’s Incredible Journey,” and “American Veterans: Their Stories of Service and Valor.”  Lawrence currently works with Auburn University’s College of Liberal Arts in a Wetumpka area program for war veterans known as “Dialogues On The Experience Of War.”

He facilitates discussions with veterans to mitigate the effects of PTSD.

The Auburn program of Dr. Mark Wilson is funded via a grant from the National Endowment For The Humanities.

Col. Lawrence is a graduate of Opp High School Class of 1965 and Troy State University in 1969.

He was honored at the Pentagon on Dec. 16, 2016, with a ceremony and presentation of an American flag previously flown over the Pentagon by Lt. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell, who heads the Army’s Chief Information Office (CIO/G-6), reporting to the Army Chief of Staff.

A display of still photos and video interview of Lawrence and other veterans is being displayed on a fifth floor corridor wall of the Pentagon through October, 2017.  Lawrence has been a guest speaker at the LBWCC Andalusia campus, the local Lions Club, and the Covington County Historical Society.

In August 2015, he assisted John Vick and other sponsors in honoring Covington County’s WWII veterans at the 70th Anniversary of “VJ Day” at the Eglin AFB Armament Museum in Shalimar.

He is married to the former JoAnn Lee of McKenzie, and they have two daughters and three grandchildren.