To Honor, To Mourn

By Major Van Harl, USAF Ret.

In my short time in Altus, Oklahoma I continue to be amazed at the talent and caliber of people that the military has brought to this town. I meet people who have only been on Altus Air Force Base when there was an Air Show, but the reason they live in this town is because of that base. Grandfather came here during WW II and married a local girl. Dad was here during Vietnam and he too, met the love of his life in Altus and stayed. Then there was the military family that moved here having never been in south west Oklahoma, but when it came time to retire from the Air Force they elected to stay.

There are second, third and even fourth generation Altusions who live their life in Altus because the military originally brought their family into Jackson Country. These folks got on with their civilian lives and prospered in the community. These Altus families started out as imported new citizens, courtesy of the military, who over the generations have become part of the backbone of the community.

Altus has also been an exporter of talented members to our Armed Forces. Men and women whose families were local civilians and who rose to the needs of our Nation in time of conflict. On 2 February 2007 we honored one Altus veteran and we mourned another.

W.W. II, Army-Air Force Captain Bertram "Bert" E. Cole Jr., an Altus High School graduate & former Altus Junior College student, was inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame at Western Oklahoma State College. But Captain Cole almost did not make the ceremony. He was shot down over Yugoslavia in 1944 while flying on a bombing raid, attacking German oil fields. He spent four and a half months on the run from the Germans before escaping to Italy and returning home safely to Oklahoma. He came back to Altus, finished his college education and gave back to his community. There were four generations of Coles at the awards dinner, many still living and prospering in Altus.

Sadly on 2 February 2007, while one Altus citizen and his family were being honored another Altus family was saying their final goodbyes to a career Army veteran killed in defense of his country. Colonel Brian Allgood, MD was killed in Iraq when the Blackhawk helicopter he was flying in was shot down with all souls lost. He was at the time of his death, the senior US Army medical officer in Iraq.

Brian Allgood's grandfather was Dr. E.J. Allgood. He was a prominent physician in Altus, who served the community into his 90s. His three sons all left Altus to serve their country in the military. His son Dr. Richard Allgood is in medical practice in Lawton, OK. E.J.'s son's, Lt. Col. Ron Allgood, US Air Force Retired, lives in Altus and Col. Gerald Allgood, US Army Retired, lives in Colorado Springs. Gerald Allgood, is Brian Allgood's father.

There are three generations of physicians in the family. Col. Brian Allgood was born in Germany while his father was stationed there with the Army, but Altus was always his home town. Brian's family returned to Altus to see his grandparents, whenever Army leave allowed. Brian Allgood was a US Military Academy (West Point) graduate, and when the Army decided to send him to medical school he returned to Oklahoma for that education.

Reading information on West Point web-sites about Brian Allgood, you come to understand that his fellow classmates knew right away Brian was from Oklahoma. Four years at West Point was not going to change his Oklahoma outlook on life. Brian's wife is a fellow West Point graduate and a retired Army Colonel. This Altus family has given a lot to our country, through both medicine and the military. And now the Allgood family has given the ultimate sacrifice to their Nation, they have given the life of a son in its defense.

My wife the Colonel was in Washington DC the same week of Col. Allgood's memorial in Colorado Springs. She was attending a military medical conference. Both the US Army and Iraqi Armed Forces Surgeon Generals spoke at the conference and honored Col. Allgood. These two Generals had worked with Col. Brian Allgood and knew first hand of his efforts to help the wounded and suffering of American GIs and Iraqis.

We must honor our combat veterans who are still with us, and we must always remember those who never will come home. Thank you Captain Bert Cole for your service and God bless you and your family Colonel Brian Allgood.

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Copyright 2007, 2016 by Major Van Harl USAF Ret. All rights reserved.