Story by William Hughes
In our conclusion of Henry Passi’s interview on his life in the Air Force, the expressive storyteller is a true one of a kind gentleman with goals in mind. He went after and achieved greatness, has a keen memory for names and stops along the way, a love of Cecil County, the respect for our veterans as he is one and a love for his wife Sylva who played an important part of his military career and his own life. He not only talks about history, he lived it firsthand.
“All wars are terrible, I’ll tell you that. When we arrived at Travis Air Force Base (California), our own Air Force people, I don’t know by what authority, suggested to us when we go to San Francisco, do not wear your uniforms because of all the demonstrations against the war. That was unbelievable. It really took me. I went in, took a shower, put on a clean uniform, shared a ride with three other guys to San Francisco Airport. My family was in southern California, they were waiting for me to get back. On the way, I was reading the San Francisco newspaper in this taxi. Reading the reports on Vietnam, how our troops were ready to rebel because they were being forced to go into Cambodia. Less than 72 hours prior to that, I had flown in there with them. I saw with my own eyes how high the moral was. This is a classic example of how the press mislead the American public. Well I was at San Francisco Airport, marched around a couple of hours waiting to catch a flight to where my family was at, but I was really upset about that reporting. Got home, had dinner, I couldn’t sleep that night. Just anxiety with the time change and everything, but it really bothered me.”
“Our next assignment was at Andrews (Air Force Base, Maryland). I picked up the family in southern California and we took some leave. When we got back here, we lived in Silver Spring (Maryland). We took verbal abuse from our neighbors because of this situation in Vietnam. Silva had been verbally abused by our neighbors in California who didn’t know the situation. That’s how bad that misreporting affected our nation.”
“I became a veteran on the 3rd of February, 1983. I’ve completed 30 years in the Air Force. The retirement ceremonies and activities were at Andrews Air Force Base. A lot of classmates from high school, county officials came to the retirement. It was a lovely day. My mother was still alive, so she was there and Sylva was there. I will tell you to this day, Sylva was an important part of my life and my Air Force career. Besides handling all 18 of our movies, taking care of three children who all made out very well, she got more involved in the social aspect, she made a big difference. Very few veterans wives really get active, but my wife did. A lot of people believe that in military careers, wives aren’t important in it. Women don’t get the credit they deserve of taking care of their family’s and taking care of their husbands. I feel this very strongly.”
“When we came back here (Cecil County), I immediately became a life member of the VFW of North East. Got involved a couple of years later with the Rising Sun American Legion. The thing that we were proud of is that we started the Salute To Veterans and the veterans organization sponsors it on the 3rd of July, always the evening before the 4th of July with a big fireworks display in North East. We’ve done that for 20 years now. Carol England and I were first there, now it’s changed leadership. Because of my health and Sylva’s health last year, I resigned from it, but I still support it.”