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Last remaining veteran of Pueblo Crisis retires

Master Sgt. Jerry Buehner, a veteran of one of the Kentucky Air Guard’s most historic operations, closed two decades of military service last month after a nearly 20-year break in service. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora, Kentucky Air National Guard)

Master Sgt. Jerry Buehner, a veteran of one of the Kentucky Air Guard’s most historic operations, closed two decades of military service last month after a nearly 20-year break in service. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora, Kentucky Air National Guard)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Jerry Buehner was just 18 years old in 1968 when he and his fellow 123rd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing Airmen were called to duty for the historic Pueblo Crisis.

After returning to the wing in 1992 following an 18-year break in service, the master sergeant retired Oct. 5, becoming the last remaining member of the Kentucky Air Guard to have served during that era.

The Pueblo Crisis occurred four decades ago when the USS Pueblo, a spy ship, was captured by the Democratic People's Republic of China. More than 80 Americans were held prisoner by the communists for nearly a year.

"I was in jet school when we were activated, and I thought that it was the end of my life," Sergeant Buehner recalled. "I talked with my father and he said that the end was later than you might think."

As a result of the international incident, Sergeant Buehner was deployed as an RF-101 Voodoo crew chief. The Voodoo was the world's first supersonic photo reconnaissance aircraft and was used extensively to monitor the situation in Korea.

After six years of service, Sergeant Buehner was discharged and became a full-time civilian. But the military called him back 18 years later.

"Most of us would ask, 'Why in the world would someone return after such a long break in service?'" said Col. Neil T. Mullaney, commander of the 123rd Maintenance Group.

"I believe we are called into service. This calling is what led Jerry back to service in 1992."

According to Colonel Mullaney, the sergeant has set an example for his fellow Airmen.

As a quality assurance inspector, his "quiet and professional" approach and "infectious, positive attitude" have contributed immeasurably to the unit's legacy of excellence.

"I thank all of you for all you have done for me," Sergeant Buehner said during a retirement ceremony held in his honor last month. "Thanks for the memories. It's been very rewarding for me personally, and I'm just glad that I had the opportunity to be here with all of you."