Among peals of laughter and more than a few tears, friends and coworkers bade farewell to not one but two U.S. Air Forces in Europe employees, who combined totaled more than 80 years of dedicated service.
John and Colynn Hamilton, a husband and wife duo working in USAFE as a management analyst and human resources specialist respectively, celebrated the end of their long careers in a dual retirement ceremony Feb. 24.
Having married in 1985, the ceremony reflected how they’ve spent the last 32 years: side by side.
“A mutual friend in Colorado Springs had us over for a dinner party, and from that day on we haven’t really been apart,” John said. “My favorite memory from my career was meeting her. I met the woman of my life, and we’ve been together ever since.”
Even though they will continue their journey in life together, there are many things they will leave behind.
“I will miss the people, the interaction on a daily basis,” Colynn said, wiping her eyes. “Even just thinking about it, I tear up.”
John was raised an “Air Force brat,” and was born at James Connally Air Force Base, Texas.
A Vietnam veteran, he served his country both in and out of uniform. After 12 years in the Army, where he served in Florida, Germany, and Colorado, he returned to the civilian world and was able to get a job at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. For 23 years, he worked off and on between Minot and Kadena Air Base, Japan, before returning to Germany in 2010.
Over his 42 years of service, John was in the Honor Guard, worked in electronic warfare and communications, was a project officer for air recruit training devices, and completed his career in USAFE.
“We’ve always worked our whole lives,” John said. “Now it’s time to relax and shift our focus, which is scary. I’ve been with the military my whole life.”
It was a different story for Colynn. Born in Ogden, Utah, her first government job was working for the Internal Revenue Service as a data transcriber. It wasn’t until she moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and was hired at Fort Carson in finance, that she began her career in the Department of Defense.
Alongside John, she moved between Minot and Kadena, but also worked at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. Each assignment found Colynn working in a new area, as she was eager to try something new. Over her career, she worked as a human resource specialist, personnel clerk, substance abuse control specialist, drug demand reduction coordinator, victims advocate, equal opportunity manager, and the chief of the quality of life section and sexual assault program.
“They’re going to be missed,” said Clint Lock, USAFE human resources specialist. “They don’t just talk it, they do it. I interact with both of them in different aspects professionally, and I’m going to miss them big time.”
Beginning the next chapter of their lives, the Hamiltons bought a home in North Carolina. With a river right out their front door, they plan to enjoy fishing along with other hobbies.
“Not having to get up and go to work will be nice, but at the same time it’s scary,” Colynn said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re unusual because most people won’t retire when they’re overseas. Usually you just walk out the door, go back to the home you’ve lived in for how many years, and continue on your way. We have to develop everything new. That adds a whole other level.”
Despite the uncertainty, John and Colynn look forward to having more time with their five kids and 12 grandchildren.
“I’ve only known them for two and a half years, but I’ve never, in the 30 plus years I’ve been in the Air Force, seen anyone so involved in the organization,” Lock said. “Everything from Colynn’s baking that she brings to every organizational function to them being Santa and Mrs. Claus for the children, they volunteer their time for the health, morale, and welfare of the organization. That’s really impressed me.”
Before they departed, John had a few words of advice for those who would remain behind and continue to carry the torch.
“Get involved,” he said. “Enjoy what you do and don’t be afraid to meet people. Take a vacation, enjoy Europe. Enjoy yourself. I don’t care what it is, get involved. Have fun. That’s the whole key to life, have fun.”
After at least 40 years of service before self each, John and Colynn are ready to hang up their hats and enjoy time with their loved ones.
“That’s the bottom line,” John said with a smile. “I love my wife and we’re retiring. We’re done.”