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R-MA Cadets Help Celebrate WWII Veteran’s 100th Birthday

On Saturday, January 25th, World War II veteran Senior Master Sergeant William Griffith, USAF, Retired, celebrated his 100th birthday surrounded by his family and friends, and a few extra guests. 

Spanish teacher Julianne Cochran P'12 and R-MA cadets Maggie Tewell '22, Ethan Park '22, and Shukriyah Hasanka '21 visited Hidden Springs Assisted Living to present an American flag to SMSgt William Griffith, USAF, Retired, on the occasion of his 100th birthday. 

Three Randolph-Macon Academy cadets, Ethan Park, Shukriya Hasanka and Maggie Tewell, and R-MA Spanish Instructor Commander Julianne Cochran, USN, Retired, were privileged to attend SMSgt Griffith's celebration at Hidden Springs Senior Living in Bentonville. The group presented him with a flag along with congratulations and thanks for his service. They were joined at the celebration by Col. Lalit "Pip" Piplani, US Army, Retired, who is the Sergeant-at-Arms of Giles B. Cook American Legion Post 53, located in Front Royal. Col. Piplani also presented a flag to SMSgt Griffith. Bill Churchwell, a security officer at R-MA, engraved and donated a nameplate that will be delivered at a later time. 

"In addition to thanking Master Sergeant Griffith for his service, I was very privileged to be accompanied by these three outstanding cadets," said Commander Cochran. "I am very proud of them and very grateful.

Carolyn Brennessel, SMSgt Griffith's daughter, had initiated the cadets' participation through a phone call to R-MA last week, and called afterwards to express her appreciation. "We have no words to express our gratitude. The presence of the cadets in uniform and the presentations of the flags were the highlight of his birthday celebration," she said. "He has not stopped looking at those flags."

R-MA cadet Ethan Park '22, on right, shakes hands with SMSgt William Griffith, USAF, Retired, and wishes him a happy 100th birthday.

SMSgt Griffith is one of the country's last living World War II veterans. His son-in-law, Dr. Warren Brennessel, gave this synopsis of his career: “During WWll, my father-in-law was stationed in England and assigned to a squadron of B-17 bombers where he served as a crew chief. He performed routine maintenance as well as repaired damages to aircraft that returned following a mission. Many planes sustained so much damage that he was amazed they even made it back. After the war, he was involved in the Berlin Airlift, at which time he was injured in a plane crash in France. As a result, he spent two years in hospitals undergoing multiple surgeries. He felt he was one of the lucky ones after seeing what other brave soldiers in the hospitals had been through. He remained in the Air Force, working on B-29’s and later B-52’s as part of Strategic Air Command prior to his retirement after 20 years of service.”