During his 28-year career in the U.S. Army, retired Lt. Col. Bud Connally was leading and training combat troops in various military theaters around the world and on home soil, starting the day he was commissioned as an officer on the stage of the Tivoli Theatre on June 6, 1965.
Connally — a native of Villa Rica, Georgia, who lived most of his youth in Atlanta — trained his sights early on a military life starting with seven years of ROTC in high school in Atlanta and at the University of Chattanooga. He continued his link to the service after retiring, he said recently at his home just over the Georgia state line in Rossville.
The 77-year-old's home on Georgia's end of Missionary Ridge now overlooks the land where his grandparent's farm stood.
Military service is instilled in the Connally family, he said. His father served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and others attained ranks as high as general during their service, "so it's in the family," he said. A brief civilian experience working in the sporting goods department at Sears and Roebuck in downtown Chattanooga didn't change his track, though.
"The military was just much more of what I wanted to do at that point and time, and I had so much more responsibility than I would have in some kind of civilian industry," he said. "It was a wise decision, for the most part."
Name: Sharon Cornelius "Bud" Connally III
Branch of military: U.S. Army
Years of service: 1965-1993
Connally was first assigned to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, where he had charge as a quartermaster officer over four dining facilities that fed 4,400 people per meal during the Vietnam War years, when training and meals were taking place around the clock.
The next stop in 1966 was Vietnam, where the young lieutenant and fellow soldiers took flights to Saigon to get "goody items" like tape recorders and softballs, usually considered "luxury items." He said some strange items showed up, including pool tables one senator thought were good for troops, he said.
Connally found his second tour in Vietnam more rewarding because he got to know the Vietnamese people as not too different from himself, he said.
While Connally was not engaged in direct combat, the compound where he and others were stationed was the frequent target of North Vietnamese who fired rockets or sneaked close to toss satchels of explosives into the protective enclosure where they worked.
During wartime, Connally served two tours of duty in Vietnam from 1966-1967 and from 1969- 1970; two tours in Germany from 1976-1979 and from 1984-1987; and one tour in Desert Storm from 1990-1991.
In peacetime, it was Connally's job to ready troops for the next time bullets fly. During these periods, Connally and his family lived in Huntsville, Alabama; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Fort Lee, Virginia; Monterey, California; Brooklyn, New York; and Atlanta and Savannah in Georgia.
Much of Connally's service involved leading and training combat service support soldiers in support of combat units. He reached the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1981, which he held until he retired 12 years later.
Connally went through training at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center while learning the Vietnamese language, giving him expertise in logistical support that led to his being tapped by the Pentagon to take on distribution of crucial supplies, such as fuel and water, for 710,000 coalition forces serving in Desert Storm.
Connally said some of his proudest work came after he retired in 1993, when he was active in local civic groups, his church and as a businessman. His support of the military remained part of his life through his involvement in the Military Officers Association of America, a nonprofit association with more than 150,000 members strong across the U.S.
Connally rose through the ranks as a lifetime member of the local chapter to serve as president, then was selected as president of the State of Tennessee Council of Chapters twice, serving two terms from 2011 to 2014.
Now, Connally said he's happy to stay home, enjoy retirement and the view. Veterans Day is a time to remember, he said.
"I tend to believe it's something very simple; if you don't remember history, you repeat it," he said.
Contact Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.
2 Bronze Star medals
5 Meritorious Service Medals
Army Commendation Medal
2 National Defense Service Medals
Southeast Asia Service Medal w/3 SB
6 Vietnam Service Medals
Army Service Medal
2 Overseas Service Ribbons
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Kuwait Liberation Medal
Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal, First Class
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation w/Palm