Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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November 16, 2011

First of the oral history

Veterans can now share their history with the Library of Congress

Athens — A story in last Thursday's Veterans Section in the Athens Daily Review detailed a new partnership effort between the Texas Court Reporters Association and the Texas State Bar Association to acquire the oral history of veterans from all branches of the military.

That process began in Athens Wednesday morning at 392nd District Court. Representing the Bar Association was Athens Attorney Steve Stark, while Melanie Oldham served as the court reporter during the interview.

As a result, transcripts of an oral interview between Stark and Norm Tumlinson of Athens was recorded. Oldham says she now has a couple of weeks to edit the report, and get it to the American Folklore Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The story told by Tumlinson covers a rare time when there was relative peace in the country, and when Tumlinson was a highly-regarded aircraft electrician in the U.S. Air Force. You may recall one of the stories in our special Veteran's Section about Tumlinson, one written by his son, Rick N. Tumlinson.

During the interview, he recounted many of the things his son wrote about in his emotional biography of his father.

But Ole' Sarge, as his son called him, didn't just keep important fighter planes in the air. He was continually sent to different locations around the globe for his ability to repair and wire airplanes, and get them back in the air, or just into the air for the first time.

He also came in handy when one of two U.S. Command Posts in the U.S., this one at the SAC base in Omaha, Neb.

They needed a quality electrician to repair a problem in one of their panels. They passed over 26 other Air Force electricians before allowing the  Tech Sergeant into their inner-sanctum.

Surrounded by security personnel, his small tool box checked to see if he had a bomb or anything suspicious inside. Ole' Sarge was taken into the bowels of this command zone, where once again, he proved to be up for the job.

Because it wasn't hand-to-hand combat in the trenches, Tumlinson's story might, at first, seem mild in comparision to others. That's what his son thought growing up, until a pilot set him straight one day.

Nobody flies heroic missions in the air in Vietnam, or earlier in Korea, or World War II without heroes like Tumlinson. The more people read his oral history in D.C., the more they'll learn about the “team” that is the U.S. Military, and the intense pressure those on the ground were, and are under, to make sure the equipment in the air works the way it's supposed to work.

They may not have had John Wayne to play them in his war movies, but you can bet Ole' John and the real heroes are quick to thank the guys like Sarge, who make it all happen.

And as they say, the rest is all history – now even oral history.

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