Veteran who served at Selfridge takes Honor Flight

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published October 6, 2021

 Last month, Ronald Navickas took an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. He said the experience made him feel like a kid walking into Disneyland.

Last month, Ronald Navickas took an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. He said the experience made him feel like a kid walking into Disneyland.

Photo provided by Ronald Navickas

 Ronald Navickas was stationed at Selfridge from November 1953 to November 1954, assigned to the Air Force reserves with the 439th fighter and bomber wing. He is seen here in 1955 at a camp in Canada.

Ronald Navickas was stationed at Selfridge from November 1953 to November 1954, assigned to the Air Force reserves with the 439th fighter and bomber wing. He is seen here in 1955 at a camp in Canada.

Photo provided by Ronald Navickas

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — To Ronald Navickas, Selfridge Air National Guard Base is a spot he can go to relive old memories

If he goes through the main gate now at the base in Harrison Township, not much is recognizable to how it looked in the ’50s.

But once he gets to where the hangars are, “it’s like home.”

The 84-year-old was born in Pontiac and now resides in Shelby Township. He recently returned from an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., last month.  

The Honor Flight Network’s mission is to transport America’s veterans to the nation’s capital to visit the memorials dedicated to honoring those who have served and sacrificed for the country.

The group of about 115 veterans, including Navickas, spent Sept. 16 in Washington, D.C.

“On a scale of 1-10, the trip was a 15,” Navickas said. “It knocked my socks off. I was like a kid walking into Disneyland. I’m still in awe of how they took care of us.”

The group departed Chicago Midway International Airport, where they were given a proper sendoff.

Flying into Dulles International Airport in Virginia, the veterans were given a police escort into Washington, D.C.      

The group toured the capital, visiting the Marine Corps Memorial, Air Force Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

Navickas enlisted in the Air Force Reserves in 1953 and was stationed at Selfridge from November 1953 to November 1954.

“Being 17, it was almost like a fun thing to do, not paying attention to commitments or knowing what a commitment was at that age,” he said.

In a reserve capacity, Navickas said he assisted others, learning his trade as he went along. He became an Air Force policeman at 17.

At Selfridge, he remembers being on guard duty at the main gate.

“As a reservist, if they needed individuals to drive trucks, they drove trucks and you learned your trade,” he said. “Selfridge was an active base, and you’re looking at squadrons that had gone to Korea. We had permanent party, meaning individuals who lived on post, of all ranks.”

While at Selfridge, Navickas did not permanently live on the base. The only time he would stay there is for training weekends.  

He described Selfridge as a small city.

“You had families live there, had a golf course and everything on posts was spick-and-span as it would normally be on any military installation,” Navickas said. “I loved the base. It was self-sufficient. It was a community within itself.”

He was assigned to the 439th fighter and bomber wing, part of the 439th’s honor guard and drill team.  

“Our team represented the Air Force and the nation at various functions throughout southeastern Michigan,” he said. “One such representation was in July 1954 on the Ambassador Bridge, representing the U.S. where dignitaries from both nations, Canada and America, met.”

After his time at Selfridge, Navickas entered the “regular” Air Force, no longer in a reserve capacity. He attended school in Denver, Colorado, and became a thermonuclear weapons mechanic. In 1955, he was sent to Goose Bay Air Force Base in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Navickas was discharged from the military in 1958. He later worked, among other places, for an armored car outfit, at the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command during Operation Desert Storm as a provisioner on the M-1 tank, and at General Dynamics.

He married his wife, Lois, in 1970 and retired in 1998.

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