May 22, 2009
For more than 50 years, Robert McAllister "dedicated his life" to helping others, ensuring his co-workers'' safety and serving his country in many different ways.
And now, a recently constructed fire station at Columbus Air Force Base will forever be dedicated to McAllister.
More than 40 Air Force firefighters and McAllister''s family members and friends gathered Thursday morning at the CAFB Fire Station as base officials unveiled gold lettering on the side of the station bearing the former CAFB fire chief''s name.
"I could stand up here all day and try to explain how great of a man he was," said CAFB Fire Chief Charles Byrd, who worked with McAllister for many years. "But I just can''t bestow enough honor on him."
McAllister, a Virginia native who passed away in 2005, served several capacities at the CAFB Fire Department between 1972 and 2002 during his more than 50-year military and civilian career with the Air Force.
During his time at the base, McAllister served as a firefighter, crew chief, rescue officer, rescue specialist, station chief, assistant chief, fire inspector, training chief, deputy chief and fire chief.
While serving in active Air Force duty, McAllister received a silver star, two distinguished flying crosses, two bronze stars, 33 air medals, a Vietnamese Medal of Honor, six meritorious service medals and six Air Force commendation medals.
And although McAllister retired from active duty in 1980, he returned to CAFB a year later as a civilian shortly before being named the base''s fire chief.
Before retiring from the department seven years ago, McAllister took steps necessary to ensure the base would have one of the most well-equipped fire stations in the country, Byrd explained.
"It takes a lot of hard work and paperwork to get a station like this built," Byrd said as he spoke in the large, multi-garage CAFB Fire Station completed July 2008. "But in 1997, he pushed all of that up the ladder. Eventually, his work caused this station to be built.
"The leadership of Chief McAllister is what finally got this station funded," Byrd added. "This is the first fire department in the country to be named after a fire chief."
The sound of shrieking jets filled the sky as several base officials stood next to a few of McAllister''s family members while they unveiled the station''s new name.
"Words just can''t describe how proud we feel right now," said Janet Williams, McAllister''s daughter. "It''s such an honor to have a father that dedicated so much of his life to serving this base and his country.
"It''s just incredible," Williams added as she gazed at the station''s freshly unveiled lettering. "I am just speechless right now that they would honor our family like this."
1. 'He never stopped' STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
2. Local church hosts tent revival COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. CMSD, Hickman deny lawsuit accusations COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. ELL bridges gaps in language, culture COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY