An Airman of Integrity Retires after 28 Years of Service

A man of integrity even when it was inconvenient and unpopular – a moral compass – a humanitarian: that’s how U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple was described at his retirement ceremony.

During his retirement ceremony, Maj. Susy Bogdan (Ret.) formally presents SMSgt. Rex Temple with the Army Bronze Star he and nine other members of his ETT team were awarded for their Afghanistan service.

Temple leaves the Air Force after more than 28 years of service which included 10 overseas assignments. His last deployment was to Afghanistan as part of an Embedded Training Team. It was a unique tour because he was an Airman under Army control and in combat situations that aren’t typical for Air Force personnel at least not when he joined almost three decades ago.

But then, Temple did a lot of atypical things while on his last tour in Afghanistan. He created a blog, Afghanistan: My Last Tour, where he chronicled his year training Afghan National Army soldiers, handling logistics and supplies for U.S. troops and going out on humanitarian village missions. The blog continues to get tens of thousands of visits despite Temple’s return a year ago. He also started a school supplies drive for Afghan children which he continued after returning to the states.

SMSgt. Rex Temple presents his father with a flag that he carried on more than 180 combat missions in Afghanistan. Temple's wife, Liisa Hyvarinen Temple, looks on.

I had the privilege to work SMSgt. Temple professionally during his deployment. He agreed to talk with WUSF 89.7 FM weekly while in Afghanistan. A commitment that he took seriously waiting in line for a  phone or patiently working with sketchy internet connections just to get in touch. But, he never missed a week unless he was on a mission.

Our My Last Tour news series brought the Tampa Bay community an understanding of what life was like on the ground in Afghanistan for the U.S. military and what life was like for Afghans. Between May 2009 and April 2010, our relationship – a seasoned reporter and veteran Airman – developed into a friendship.

I have learned so much from him and now see the world through new eyes.

Maj. Susy Bogdan (Ret.) gave the opening remarks and presentation of decorations for SMSgt. Rex Temple's retirement ceremony.

In an interest of full disclosure, you should know SMSgt. Temple included me in his retirement ceremony. An honor I wish my father, a WWII and D-Day veteran, was alive to witness. And he gave me a framed presentation of uniform patches: a US Flag, his name patch, his rank and the ETT patch, all worn by him while Afghanistan. It is a treasure more valuable than any journalism award.

But of even more significance is the time and effort SMSgt.Temple gave me and WUSF listeners. The Tampa Bay community that heard our stories and read his blog are the richer for it. Here’s wishing SMSgt. Temple a fruitful and joyous retirement. He’s certainly earned it.

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