MEET OUR VETERANS:
Tim Pennington was born April 12th, 1971 in Mesquite, Texas. His parents built a house in Canton in 1972 and Tim attended private school in Arlington where the family stayed in a small RV and commuted back to Canton each weekend to work on the family farm. His dad worked at Yellow Freightways in Dallas and on the weekends the family took care of the 80 cattle on their 92-acre farm in Southeast Canton.
This is where Tim learned how to use a manual clutch driving the old farm tractor at a young age of 12 or 13 when he could barely reach the gas or clutch pedals. He wanted to drive everywhere and everything.
Tim fished some for Bass and Gar and Quail and Dove hunting when they were available. He has two older sisters named Valerie and Tina. In 1989 Tim graduated from Burton Adventist Academy. He attended Tarrant County Junior College and TVCC in Athens and eventually took enough classes to get an equivalent of an Associate’s Degree in General Studies.
His dad Bob Pennington served in the Army during Korea. (His profile can be read here wwww.vzcm.org ). His family has a long history dating back to the Civil War, WWI and WWII and Vietnam. His wife’s son is currently serving in the Air Force.
JOINING THE MILITARY:
After taking college courses Tim decided he was not that interested in continuing school so he went over to Tyler and talked with an Air Force recruiter. He had talked to his dad about the Army and thought the Air Force was the right way to go. Tim scored a 93 on the test and had lots of options for a career path. The year was 1991.
He went to Boot Camp at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. “I remember the Drill Sargant came in and said, you may not be going to your tech school training, you may be going straight to Saudi,” said Tim. “Next thing I knew I was heading to Desert Storm as a 46150 Munitions System Specialist. He attended tech school training in a six-week course at Lowery AFB in Denver. I liked the idea of working with bombs and ammunitions. Hey, it makes things go BOOM, that sounds like a lot of fun,” laughed Tim.
“I trained on a lot of air-to-air and air-to-ground using Mark-82s and Mark-84s. The 82’s were the 500-pound general purpose bombs and the 84s were the 2,000-pound general purpose bombs. I also trained on the Blu-102’s which were both air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. I worked with some C-4 and small arms like the 556 and how to look for the rust and corrosion and some training on using grenades.
HAHN AFB, GERMANY:
“My first station was Hahn Air Force Base in Germany,” Tim said. “It was cool, but a little bit of a culture shock. Our Command was based in Ramstein and our over 100-acre bomb dump was in Morbach, Germany. I was single at the time and was moved to off base housing outside of Hahn after Hahn AFB closed down. It was nice over there, I liked it,” said Tim with a smile. “We were on 12-hour shifts, 7-days a week putting munitions together and sending them to the railheads.
I was usually running a 15K Forklift loading the railhead or riding in the government contracted German 40-foot flatbed trucks transporting the finished products from the bomb dump to the railhead.
The Mark 82 and 84’s they didn’t use in Desert Storm was sent back to us to repair and sandblast everything. I spent about a year and a half in Hahn. I was offered an early out of the Air Force if I wanted to go back to college. I would still be in the IRR, Inactive Ready Reserve. I liked the Air Force but realized I really didn’t like to work with bombs as much as I thought I did with the hazards and the short life spans working in that career. There are no mistakes you live from, or telling a story after the fact,” he said.
JOINING THE ARMY:
Tim received his early out and went back to college. “Still wasn’t thrilled with college,” Tim said. “I’ll go back to the Air Force and load bombs if I have too. Since my time out of the Air Force they had condensed all those 461 MOS’s into one career field. They would train an Airman to be “Jack of All Trades,” he said. “A lot more work load, more risks and more OJT, “On the Job Training.”
Six months later Tim was back to Tyler and the recruiting offices. They had Air Force, Army and then Marine recruiting offices. “I am glad the Army came before the Marines, or I would have been in trouble,” laughed Tim. “I started out as a Grand Ole PFC in the Army. I even had to go back to basic. I guess the Army didn’t think the Air Force basic was that hard. So off to boot again.
This time at “Fort, lost in the woods,” I mean Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I did both boot and AIT there. On graduation they gave me several options and I was not too thrilled. Then they asked me if I could drive.
Yea, I can drive. Well then you will be in 88-Mike and off I went,” said Tim. “The Army used mostly 5-ton, Humvee and the old 931’s which were basically the Deuce and a Halves,” Tim said.
“I had the opportunity to join the 82nd Airborne Special Forces and decided to give that a try. Off to Fort Benning, Georgia I went. It can’t be that hard,” said Tim. “I love to run and at Ft. Leonard Wood we ran, and ran a lot on rollercoaster roads. I was in good shape but ended up getting shin splints. They are hard to get rid of. When I got to Airborne School I ran every day. I made it thru the second week and I just couldn’t take the pain anymore. I got a release and the Army assigned me to Fort Eustace, Virginia, the 7th Group 10th Battalion motor pool.”
“I do remember looking at my records online and I came across my military career and saw where there was a completed certificate for Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. What the Hell? I thought. To this day I still do not know why they have me completing the course when I was only there for two weeks. I went thru my S-1 and told them it needed to be removed. They never removed it. I am not going to wear something I never earned,” stated Tim emphatically.
I did a lot of different training there including working with the HAGLAN Crane in Norfolk off the USS Independence. We did a 72-hour exercise where we loaded 949 vehicles and unloaded them. I was only one who knew how to drive the Deuce and a Half with a clutch. I eventually became the Battalion driver. I did that for about 2-years.
Tim got a letter from the Department of Defense and they said he had been selected to go to the White House Communications Agency in their transportation section. My security clearance from my time in the Air Force helped me to get this position.
I was then upgraded to a top-secret security clearance. This was during the end of 1995. It was good and bad times for me. I was married for about 18-months. I was gone a lot travelling and about this same time my wife decided to file for divorce. So, there were some happy days and some not so happy times during this period,” said Tim.
In the Fall of 1996 Tim was going thru a divorce and heading to Washington D.C. to work with the White House. Bill Clinton was the President and Tim worked with the Clinton staff for about three years.
It was a special assignment so Tim signed up for four-years of duty which paid for his move to Washington and costs for his top-secret security clearance. After the first four years he was involuntarily extended again, for the White House duty.
President George W. Bush was the new President. “I was pushing to get Crawford, Texas set up and maintained for the new incoming President, George W. Bush Jr. One of my side jobs working in Washington was working logistics and operations. I would travel with the Officer in Charge and we would go in advance to wherever the President was going to be visiting stateside or overseas. We provided all the communications for everybody and all the support required by the President. We worked with different branches of the military and different branches of the government,” said Tim.
“I was assigned to drive Fords and Volvos in the 48 and 53-foot Boxed and lowboy commercial government 18-wheeler trucks. The big rigs had a single sleeper in them for long haul runs. We drove them cross-country quite a bit. I saw parts of America I had never seen before. I had remarried in 1997 and those long road hauls were fun at first, but got old quick.”
“It was a great job travelling the world and not having to be in a uniform or being in the Middle East. I travelled to England, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Nicaragua, and Bangladesh. We spent a lot of hours in C-5s. I had never seen poverty and the extent of a people going hungry like I did in Nicaragua. I was traveling around in a rickshaw and could look down and see the dirt roads.
I saw so many kids begging for food. At night I would look up at these hills and all the lights. Those were fires inside the homes. They had no doors, windows or roofs, no running water or bathroom and they would have little campfires in the house where they cooked their food. Now, that is primitive. Here in America no one could survive in that type of environment. The country also some of the most active volcanoes in the world. The country had a bad mud slide when I was working with the Clinton Administration. They were flying over for a humanitarian aid visit and we rode along on some of the Helicopters and saw the devastation from the mud slide. Villages were levelled and so many people killed. Those sights made a big impact on me,” said Tim.
“On the bright side I enjoyed Ireland and England. Three times I spent three weeks at a time in England. We would usually arrive about ten days before the President and get set up. We worked a regular 8-5 job and had time in the evenings to visit the area. We visited the Parliament and Big Ben in England. Being in logistics I was able to assign what vehicles we would be driving around the country in. I picked a Jaguar. In most of the countries we visited we were assigned drivers, so I was able to enjoy the countryside of England in the back of a Jag. We wanted to visit the mom and pop places and not the traditional McDonald franchises.” Tim was King for the day.
“On my second stint is when 9-11 hit,” said Tim. It was just a normal day. My office was located right across from the Potomac from the Pentagon. We saw the smoke coming from the first tower and watching on the television. We all thought, this can’t be right. The consensus was this is a terrorist attack. Then our building starts to shake. This facility is concrete blocks and few windows. We all ran outside to see what was going on.
We saw large black smoke come up from the Pentagon. Then we hear the sirens and a jet buzzed right over our heads heading to New York. At this point there is mass chaos. Everyone was told to get out of D.C., civilians, tourists and government. I was put on the night shift and slept as much as I could during the day. They needed people who knew the roads of D.C. and I knew them very well. None of us knew what to expect next. We shuttled civilian and government around D.C. where there was limited parking and dropped off and picked up at central locations. We did that from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday thru Friday. We lived in Maryland at the time and sometimes it would take from 1-3 hours for the trip to the office. There were a lot of 12-hour days,” said Tim.
“The sheer panic on people’s faces is what I remember most. The confusion and fear. The horror of the whole thing and people’s lives were so disrupted. They all have nightmares, most have PTSD,” said Tim looking down at the floor in his own thoughts.
From a Patriotic and Military standpoint, Tim went on to say he saw people lining the streets holding American flags, there were flags all over the bridges. “It shouldn’t take an attack on American soil to bring out the love for this country. We have become so complacent in this country and not thankful of what we have. A month or two after 9-11 people were right back to their lives before the attack. They forgot so easily,” said Tim solemnly.
WORKING IN CRAWFORD, TEXAS:
“I was still working logistics for President Bush as I was for Clinton,” Tim said. “It was right after 9-11 and I received another involuntary extension and was assigned my next four years to go to Crawford, Texas. It was nice since I was closer to Canton. My parents were able to come down and stay in the same hotel I was in and able to eat dinner and visit. I was a Sergeant now and feeling more comfortable in my role and job working alongside the White House and the Senior Officers,” he said.
Tim can’t talk a lot about the logistic of working in Crawford where he became very close to President Bush and his wife Laura. “I can say that he was always and still is a big supporter of the military,” said Tim. “There were a lot of pre-checks and going into certain facilities within the ranch. Normally, there was always an escort. But, because of the trust I had earned thru different agencies, I was able to do many of the pre-checks without an escort. It was an honor, but also made me a little nervous. We are talking about the President of the United States here,” he laughed.
Tim had close or direct contact with the first family. He worked hand in hand with the Ranch Manager, the Deputy and Chief of Staff at the White House. Tim was the go-to person if there was any problems with a building, vehicle, hotel, tv, or any issues within the ranch. With his hands-on experience, background and top-secret security clearance Tim was a very trusted person around the President.
“I guess since I was “good ole country folk” and from Texas I fit right In,” smiled Tim. “Where the trust came in, was when I went down and I proved myself on the first couple of trips. They got feedback from the Chief of Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff, the Ranch Manager, Secret Service and even the President himself. That reinforced to me and everyone that, “hey this guy must know what he is doing.”
For his service Tim received a very nice citation and letter from the White House for his service. It read:
Sergeant Timothy B. Pennington, United States Army, distinguished himself by exceptionally meritorious service as Crawford Communications Detachment Operations Noncommissioned Officer, Special Missions, Command, White House Communications Agency, from 3 December 1996 to 1 July 2005. Sergeant Pennington obligated over 1.8 million dollars in business contracts supporting 40 Presidential missions to Crawford, Texas, including 12 Heads of State visits.
He was solely responsible for travel plans and lodging arrangements for over 1,000 personnel that deployed to the ranch in support of these visits, receiving praise from the White House Travel Office for his diligence in accomplishing the mission. Sergeant Pennington volunteered for and assumed duties as facility manager of three additional mobile homes worth over 100,000 dollars on the ranch after the White House Military Office representative departed unexpectedly. He was commended by the White House deputy chief of Staff or his 3 years of outstanding service and support. Sergeant Pennington worked around the clock identifying damaged equipment and ordering 70,000 dollars’ worth of repair parts after a catastrophic lightning strike crippled multiple communications systems 48 hours prior to a Presidential visit. His efforts resulted in a 100 per cent communications restoral. He navigated congested streets transporting 117 mission-critical personnel to the white House complex during 1999 North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit. He taught drivers training, which resulted in 102 newly assigned personnel becoming licensed drivers. He drove over 80,000 miles in 5 years while transporting 15,000 people without incident. The distinctive accomplishments of Sergeant Pennington reflect credit upon himself, the United States Army, and the Department of Defense.
Signed: The White House
KUWAIT ( June 2005 – June 2006 ):
Tim spent five years of his career working in Crawford and kept up little with what was going on in other parts of the world. “I had no clue what was going on in Kuwait when I got my orders,” said Tim. “I was assigned the Brigade driver.
I was the personal protection for Senior Officers and civilians for the Brigade. I was also the driver and every civilian that came thru had to go thru a driving course. I was their instructor. We did both air and ground ops over Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait and Afghanistan and other duties assigned as needed. I was driving around in an upper armored Tahoe. BIG difference from being in Crawford, Texas to the Middle East,” Tim laughed.
Tim was transporting several VIP’s all around the area. On one particular assignment he was driving the Tahoe. On the side was his 12-gauge tactical shotgun. In the vehicle with him were an outgoing and incoming Sergeant Majors, Captain and a Major. Three in the back and one in the front. All had on seatbelts except Tim. “I never wore my seatbelt over there because If I needed quick access to my shotgun I wanted to be able to exit the vehicle quickly. We were headed to one of the bases near the Iraqi border for a meeting. There had been a sandstorm the day before and was difficult to navigate. I wasn’t really familiar with the area and rarely drove that far north. We finally saw the base and had gone too far so we had to cross back. We were late for the meeting and I saw this hump in front of us. It was like a big sandhill and I was going to slow down. The Sergeant Major yelled “speed up” and I gunned it to jump over the hill. At the last second, I saw there was about a two-foot-wide by four-foot-deep ditch. I yelled, “hang on.” I floored it and jumped it and cleared it. The back end came up and threw me into the headboard. It crunched my neck and I started seeing stars. The Sergeant Major was yelling, coffee flying and computers banging all over the vehicle. I just kept my mouth shut. I was pretty dizzy and had an extreme headache. I couldn’t just stop and yell time out and get another driver. I was it.
FT. MEADE, MARYLAND ( 2006 – 2009 ):
In 2006, Tim received his orders to become a Department of Defense Courier Service at Ft. Meade, Maryland. He did a lot of travelling across the U.S. and Canada transporting small boxes and using forklifts.
We transported nation’s secrets all over the world. We never knew what we were transporting. Sometimes we would hop in a vehicle and deliver the package and sometimes we would hop on a plane and make the delivery. We lived on base and met a lot of good friends. Once again, I was the trainer for lot of the drivers who did not know how to use a clutch. I never owned a CDL, a commercial driver’s license. I saved the government $3,000 by not ever having to take the course.
FT. HOOD, TEXAS ( 2009-2012 ):
In 2010 thru 2011 Tim was sent to Iraq. He was working in the G-3 operations working mainly inside the wire. His main responsibility was supporting the MSL mission support orders and assigned the tasks to our units or battalions. We handled and assigned the casualty notifications, blotter reports of all types including suicides.
During this period Tim was stationed back at Ft. Hood in Texas. He was having a hard time with PT, his physical therapy tests. Tim finally realized he needed to get profiled. “Every time I put my gear on I felt a numbness in my hands and arms,” Tim said. In January 2012 he went thru the MEB, a Medical Evaluation Board. It took about eight months and his top-secret clearance became in-active.
Tim has thought about that incident in Kuwait in 2005 and asked himself why he didn’t get checked out right after the incident? Why he did not document what happened to him? “It is the stigma attached to it,” Tim said dejectedly. The stigma of asking for help and getting judged, declared a bad person and you are screwed. Your career is screwed and your security clearance is pulled because they can’t trust you. Getting rank, getting promoted and you won’t be put in leadership positions. I had that fear of asking for help. I had a top-secret clearance my entire career. There was a lot of pressure on me. You could not be in debt. Once you lose your security clearance, you will never get it back. That was my biggest fear and getting stuck doing something, I had no experience at.”
Tim did not qualify for combat compensation pay. Kuwait was a combat zone at the time he was stationed there. In 2012, seven years after the incident in Kuwait, Tim was given a medical discharge and diagnosed with PTSD. He has no documentation of the accident in Kuwait.
With the VA, it is a revolving door. No documentation, therefor no proof. “During that seven years, I never felt like I did anything to stress it. When I got back to Ft. Hood and started exercising more it seemed to aggravate it more.”
Tim received an initial PTSD rating with 80% disability. Travelling to Nicaragua, in Bangladesh when an F-16 from an air show slammed into the hotel next to where he was staying, the 9-11 aftermath, a decapitated body in Kuwait, and being stationed at Ft. Hood during the shooting incident all cumulatively added to his PTSD diagnosis. He was reevaluated later for knee, neck and PTSD and the disability was raised to 90%. In 2015 Tim received a full 100% disability with a 3rd diagnosis. For Tim Pennington, getting past the pride and realizing his trigger points, help him get to the next day. He understands drugs and alcohol, for the most part, only mask the pain.
PTSD is a daily struggle, there is no cure. You just have to cope with it the best way possible. I don’t like crowds, I don’t like to be in an area where kids will be screaming and hollering. It reminds me of kids starving, bleeding, missing limbs or parents killed.
Having PTSD, and being deployed for long periods, was very difficult on his marriage and his children. “The spouse has to play both roles at home,” said Tim. “They become heads of the house, take care of the medical needs, the kids, go shopping, they too become secluded and have no help. That is a lot to deal with.” Many marriages don’t survive and in Tim’s case two failed marriages. “I saw that so many times at Ft. Hood. A vet comes home, sees his bank account empty, no one at the house and a manila folder with the divorce paper’s inside. Next thing we hear is he has taken his own life. Unfortunately, I have seen it too many times, said Tim.”
MEMORIES FROM THE MILITARY:
“My fondest memories of the military was working down at the ranch in Crawford and meeting a lot of neat people. I was only an E-5 and got to see and meet people and have that opportunity. It was a lot of work, but it sure was rewarding. That was the “High Point” of my career. Feeling part of a mission in the military was really important to me. Being part of something bigger than I could have imagined. I wouldn’t trade the comradeship and the structure of the military for anything. I learned to hang low and your ass lower,” he laughed.
“One of my special missions was providing transportation and security for a group of military senior officers to meet/dine with Senior Kuwaiti officials. This meeting was held at the Prince of Kuwait compound. I had two marines to help me with security. Once the dignitaries finished eating and moved to a man-made grassy area, my Colonel signaled me to have the two marines come and get something to eat, after they got done eating, I went to get a plate.
The Prince of Kuwait came over and introduced himself, asked if I would like something to drink, I said sure, he came out with what looked like milk, it was… it was goats milk. He asked if I had kids, I spoke of my daughters and it happen that he had several kids and several wives, but that wasn’t the point. The point was he had a son about same age as my oldest, and I caught on quick to what he was trying to hint, so did my Col who squeezed my shoulder as he knew how my mouth sometimes got me in bit of a bind. Well back to the milk, the milk was goats milk, so the Prince asked if I wanted more, I said sure and my Colonel thumped my ear in a reminder to mind my manners. This party didn’t start until 10pm due to the heat and I think we finally got back on base around 6 a.m.,” said Tim.
Today, Tim is happily married to a wonderful Christian woman, with two beautiful daughters and a stepson in the Air Force. “I want to take my wife to London, England for a couple of weeks,” said Tim. “My wife and I got married October 22nd 2016 in Hawaii. She is my Angel, without her, I do not know where I would be. She has been understanding about my trauma and very patient with me. She has also never been out of the country. I spent several trips to London when I was in England and it has a lot of places to see without leaving the city. Even though I am a good driver, it is a little different driving on the wrong side of the road,” he laughed.
Tim likes to hunt and has started a Facebook page on hunting and fishing with veterans called Van Zandt County Veterans Alliance. “ I have always wanted to go Moose hunting, I could build a house around one of their racks,” he laughed.
“I have been involved with non-profits that take out disabled veterans and combat veterans on deer-meat hunts. The hunt is secondary where being together with vets and the campfire, drink a few cold ones and just the comradeship is the goal. If a veteran is struggling, that is when they will likely talk about it. A chance to open up with like-minded veterans. It helped me thru my dark times. This page is for veterans in Van Zandt County to go off on these hunts and fishing trips, to try and get them out from the “dark side.” We want them to realize that there are other veterans and people who care,” he said.
The Veterans Memorial in Van Zandt County has teamed up with Tim and Veterans Alliance to help veterans in the county have an opportunity to hunt big game, meat-hunt or book a group fishing trip.
Please visit Tim’s Facebook page at Veterans Alliance. if you want to learn more about Post Traumatic Stress please visit our webpage at www.vzcm.org and click on the top, 6-Part PTSD series.
Tim Pennington, thank you for your service to our country while serving in the United States Air Force and Army. Your courage and bravery will not be forgotten.
“Every Veteran has a story to tell.” Phil Smith
(ALL photos on this Facebook page are ©2020, Phil Smith and Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial. NO unauthorized use without permission) All Rights Reserved.