By Lucky Kidd
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Each year the Kansas State Fair hosts a Veterans’ Breakfast where those who have served their country in the armed forces are honored. At the 2023 breakfast Wednesday it was necessary to change speakers due to illness of the person who was scheduled to speak. Change from original plans and expectations would be a theme of what turned out to be two speakers.
US Air Force Technical Sergeant Tyler Herz, who is currently assigned as a recruiter in the Wichita area, and Retired US Army Colonel and current State Representative Pat Proctor of Leavenworth both told the veterans and spouses in attendance their military careers were full of experiences that were not what they were expecting.
Herz, who enlisted in the Air Force after graduating from high school, had hoped to work on and perhaps fly airplanes, but during induction that was ruled out due to color-blindness.
“Thankfully, I was raised in a fashion where I could figure things out, that life hands you a bad hand or something comes out of the corner, then we can at least still recoup, regather, reassess, and that’s what I ended up doing,” Herz said. In his 12 years with the Air Force, he served in the air transport unit, twice serving in Afghanistan, before taking his current assignment three years ago.
Col. Proctor, who retired in 2019 after 30 years in uniform, had a number of experiences in his career where things didn’t go as he expected. One of those was when he was a newly assigned battery commander with a unit stationed in Hawaii which had been designated “first to go” if something happened.
That something, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, potentially should have been that, but he would initially handle other tasks, before eventually serving in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. That morning, he received a 4 AM wakeup call from his executive officer, which usually often times involved a member of his unit getting in some sort of trouble. This time, it was different.
Proctor was told “hey sir, turn on the TV.” His first thought was that somebody had done something really bad, and he asked which channel. The executive officer said any of them, and he turned it on just before a jet hit the south tower of the World Trade Center.
“We all knew how we felt that day. I knew everything had changed, but I didn’t know how it changed,” Proctor said has his unit began preparations to head out, which never happened. On a number of occasions, he had orders to go overseas, but they were canceled before he did eventually go over.
Col. Proctor completed his military career in Kansas at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley, eventually earning degrees in history from Kansas State University. Proctor and his wife also own Thai restaurants in both Leavenworth and Manhattan.
Following their presentations, both speakers were presented quilts by fair officials.
Ad Astra News recorded the remarks of Herz and Proctor, and you can hear both in their entirety here.