by Sue Wolinsky, Family Member, Army IL National Guard
From Military Brat to Legacy Family
Diane Bebin (USAF, Ret. E-5) was a military brat who grew up to influence not only members of her family, but also her students, to serve our country. She ‘lived’ her love of country and others reacted to that; and she still lives it now.
She grew up on USAF bases across the country and abroad as her dad, (Eugene Danzero, USAF, Ret. E-7), was a flight engineer who moved from base to base during his 20 years, after surviving Pearl Harbor and flying missions in World War II. She respected and revered his service. Both she and her sister (Joan Seifert, USAF, Ret. E-6) enlisted in the USAF in the early 1970’s. She met and married her husband, Stan Bebin (USAF, Ret. E-7), while he was in the USAF and they married after he returned from duty in Vietnam and Thailand. Their son, Tom Bebin (Ret., USAF E-7) and his wife Maryanne enlisted in the USAF in 2000 and “made the 20;” now her grandson, (Kameron), plans to enlist when he graduates from college next year. That will make four generations of a legacy military family; four generations who Diane is very proud of. “The only black sheep we had is my nephew, who joined the Army,” she said, laughing. She also has a brother who did not enlist, she said. Diane also influenced others outside of her family to serve when she taught high school social studies and US history in Alamogordo High School after she retired from the USAF. (See details in Civilian Life section, below.)
EARLY LIFE: She was born in Joliet, IL before moving to Massachusetts, South Carolina, Maine and California, with a few years in Tripoli, Libya in between. Her dad retired in California, where she went to high school, junior college, worked and met her husband. She and her two siblings graduated from Wheatland Union High School near Beal AFB. She graduated from Yuba City Junior College in 1969 and worked as a short-order cook in the cafeteria on base. Stan Bebin proposed to her before he left for a one-year tour in Southeast Asia. “That was the hardest Christmas I ever spent,” she recalled. “I was worried because he was going to Vietnam, so when he was transferred to Thailand, I was a little relieved. It wasn’t until he got home in December 1972 that I learned he was actually in more danger in Thailand, where he was stationed near the border. If a chopper went down in enemy territory, he’d go to the enemy country in civilian clothes with a tool box, and he’d either repair it or blow it up!” They married a few days after he returned – in a double wedding with her sister marrying Stan’s roommate. “Our marriage lasted 50 years; theirs didn’t last three months,” she said.
Diane Bebin (USAF Ret. E-5) and her basic training class. She is in third row, third from left.
MILITARY LIFE: Stan got transferred to Germany, where they lived until she enlisted in 1974. “I was a military brat from the time I was born and damn proud of it,” she said, “so when I enlisted, I knew what I was getting into.” She flew back to the States for basic training and technical school before being assigned as a medic at Spangdehlam AFB in Germany, under joint spouse status. Two years later, she got certified as an EMT (emergency medical technician), meeting a new requirement for medics. In 1977, they came back to States, assigned to Holloman AFB near Alamogordo, NM. She worked in the obstetrical ward on the base’s then fully functioning hospital. That hospital has since been demolished, replaced by a clinic. “My son, Tom, was born in that hospital. When he served at Holloman, he went to the clinic they had built. He grabbed two bricks of the old building; he kept one and handed me the other one,” she said, proud of his thoughtfulness.
In 1984, she transferred to the Gila Bend USAF Station in Arizona, staffing a little 4-5 room clinic on a USAF radar station 65 m south of Phoenix. “I was getting itchy again and I wanted to do something more. I really didn’t have what was needed to get into physician assistant school; but there was another level – independent duty medical technician — that I qualified for. I went back to school for that (6-8 weeks). Then I went to the Bend. There were three of us out there and I was in charge. I outranked the other two techs. Tom and Stan stayed in Alamogordo. That’s when Stan found out what it was like to be a parent,” she said laughing. “Thomas was in first grade.”
In 1985, Stan got orders to England AFB in Louisiana. “At the time, I was in Michigan on a short TDY on another radar station, like Gila Bend,” she recalled. “He called me there in Michigan with the news of our upcoming move to Louisiana. That year, I moved three times in a month. I packed myself out of Michigan, Stan picked up half of my stuff in Gila and I took the rest from there. He had most of the house packed up at Holloman AFB before I even got there. 1985 was not one of my better years. Tom was in second grade. It was a tough year.”
“My year in the Bend was just about up, so I landed an Assistant NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge) in the primary care clinic at England AFB. I had people under me. We were there December 1985 to 1992 (the year the base closed). I only worked Monday through Friday and loved it. Stan now had regular hours too. That was good for both of us,” she said.
“In that time frame, Stan made Master Sergeant and Operation Desert Storm came along. That was not a good time for us. When Desert Storm first started, Tom came to me as he came out of his room with a backpack. He said, ‘I’m going with you, mom, even if you have to pack me in your duffel bag.’ I thought I was going to get deployed, but I was not and I was mad. I was only one of five left at what was left of the hospital. I thought that was a bad decision because I was an EMT for 16 years and they left me home. We were not happy with the colonel. It didn’t make sense,” she said.
“After that, I became NCOIC of the primary care clinic at England AFB. I had eight doctors and six techs to worry about but I’d have a new worry as Stan rather quickly decided to retire. It was 1988,” she said. They stayed at England AFB until 1992. The base was closed as part of the realignment program.
“I tried to get back to Holloman but the closest I could get was Canon AFB (233 miles away). I spent two years there. I found myself a small one-bedroom apartment. I was up there Monday to Friday. I ran pediatrics in the clinic hospital. On Fridays, I would come to work with the car packed and head home after work. I finally knew how Stan felt all those years being away from the family,” she said. “Tom was in eighth grade down here (at Holloman). Tom started high school in Alamogordo in 1994, the year I retired.”
“Would you do it all over again?” I asked her. She answered quickly: “I probably would. I really enjoyed the camaraderie in the military. Whether you’re male or female, you go through the same training. You do the same jobs. That’s what I miss,” she said. “Sure, I went through some tough times as a woman in the service, but I know I paved the way for the military women of today. Now when I see the girls in flight suits, I have to stop them and shake their hands. I tell them, ‘when I first got in, you were rarer than hen’s teeth.’”
Diane Bebin (USAF Ret. E-5 and past officer of American Legion Post 34(right) with then-active duty daughter-in-law Maryanne and son Tom Bebin, and granddaughter Lilly.
CIVILIAN LIFE: After getting out of the military, Diane kept up her busy pace. She earned a bachelor’s degree from New Mexico State University on the GI Bill, taught social studies at Alamogordo High School from 1999 to 2002, completed the coursework for a master’s degree in history, and got active in American Legion Post 34 in Alamogordo.
She enjoyed her teaching experience. She taught social studies and US history to sophomores, juniors and seniors. She replaced a retiring teacher and brought a fresh, new life to her classes. She automatically shared her love of country, memories of her 20 years in the USAF and a sense of civic responsibility. She showed them documentaries of important US historical events in the 20th century. The students warmed up to her easily (even the “problem students”), which became important when 9/11 hit. She cried when the second plane hit the World Trade Center as she watched it on TV. Students asked her a lot of questions; she helped them personalize the experience. This relationship encouraged about 10-12 of the boys (more than usual) to talk to the recruiter during their senior year.
She held all five offices in American Legion Post 34 at one time or another until new officers took over. (Click here American Legion Department of New Mexico for more information about the American Legion in New Mexico.) When COVID-19 hit, it almost decimated the group and its profits. She continued to attend meetings as the post secured new meeting and storage space. The group is picking up “slowly but surely,” she said, adding that she is running to become the post adjutant (secretary) now. “I missed those days when I was active in the Legion. I missed the camaraderie, the same camaraderie I had when I was in. That’s what I got out of the legion when I was active. I’d like to have that back. Besides, I have too much education to just sit on the sidelines,” she concluded.
Click here American Legion Department of New Mexico for more information about the American Legion in New Mexico.