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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Air Force veteran Bill Sachse displays a shadowbox featuring memorabilia and medals from his days of service while taking a break from his job working at the Chattanooga National Cemetery on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021.

In his 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, Bill Sachse trained in logistics, worked on a top-secret project and traveled to 11 countries.

It's no wonder why he chose to enlist instead of working what many considered a dead-end job at a Chattanooga cotton mill, but he still can't remember why he went into the recruiting office that day, no matter how hard he tries, he said.

Sachse, who turned 23 four days into basic training, said his plan was to learn a skill and stay for four years. But he continued to re-enlist.

"The next thing you know, it's 26 years later," he said. "It's a good life, and if you want to, you get to see a lot of the world. It's a good way to serve your country and make an honest living, and I'd recommend it to anybody who wants to join."

Sachse spent the first part of his military career working in a supply warehouse. Then he spent most of the next 16 years in Nevada, working at Tonopah Test Range, aka Area 52, on a top-secret assignment involving stealth fighters as well as at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

BIO

Name: Bill Sachse

Age: 61

Branch of military: Air Force

Years of service: 1982-2008

From there he was deployed to Saudi Arabia twice, Kuwait once and Turkey twice. He was also sent to Uzbekistan, with a short move to Afghanistan for a few days, then back to Uzbekistan and later to Iraq and Qatar. For his final four years, he was stationed in Mildenhall, England, and had the opportunity to travel with his family to multiple countries in Europe, including Italy, France, Germany and Scotland.

Sachse said he was patriotic before he joined the military, but those feelings only intensified — so much so that when he left the Air Force, he got a job at the Chattanooga National Cemetery to help ensure all veterans are honored in the way they deserve.

"I feel like I'm still serving because I get to help the families of the veterans that have passed," Sachse said. "That's something I'm proud to do."

Sachse also volunteers his time with a Hospice of Chattanooga's program that pairs veteran volunteers with patients who are veterans. He performed more than 40 "pinning" ceremonies between 2015 and 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. For each ceremony, he presented a veteran with a certificate and pin from their branch of service, as well as a quilt stitched by a local group of women, he said.

"I'm proud to be an American," Sachse said. "Just thinking about it I start getting emotional."

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com.

Veteran Salute will be published daily through Veterans Day on Nov. 11. Read about more Chattanooga-area veterans at timesfreepress.com/veterans/2021.

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