As the events of 9/11 unfolded, Gary Lane sat in a room at the U.S. Strategic Command with then President George W. Bush.
Lane, then a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, was part of the group running a major global exercise at the Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, when terrorists struck in Washington, D.C., New York and Pennsylvania.
“I watched the president ready to shoot down an aircraft because [the pilot] was ignoring an order to turn around,” Lane said. “[Bush] said ‘give [the pilot] one more chance, if he doesn’t shoot him down.’
“I watched the president become the president that day.”
Lane, whose service spans more than 35 years - from the Cold War to the War on Terror – will speak at annual Veterans Day Assemblies at Grove Mid-School and High School, both on Friday, Nov. 10.
The high school assembly is set for 9:30 a.m. in the new Performing Arts Center, while the mid-school assembly will take place in the auditorium at approximately 1:30 p.m. Both events are coordinated by Joe Wilhelm, high school band instructor.
Lane, with a background in public speaking, will deliver two distinct messages. Both are designed to talk about the freedoms guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.
At the high school, he plans to address the role of patriotism in today’s society, while at the mid-school he will talk about American patriots.
“You don’t have to be in the military to be a patriot,” Lane said.
Lane has a history of military service in his family with a grandfather in the Army during World War II and a brother who was in the Tet Offensive in 1966.
Joining the Air Force wasn't Lane's first choice, but with a high draft number, and wanting to marry his wife of 45 years Laquita, he decided to enlist in 1972.
Starting as an air craft mechanic, Lane got his degree at night which upon completion earned him a commission.
As a second lieutenant, he was sent to Little Rock Arkansas as an ICBM Launch Officer for the Titan missiles.
Lane’s job, should war break out and the order come down from the president, was to execute the launch of his crews Titan missile.
He was attached to the same squadron, who a year prior has narrowly averted a nuclear disaster, during a slight accident involving one of the missiles.
During his four years in Little Rock, one full year was spend underground next to a live nuclear weapon.
After moving around for a bit with the Air Force, Lane and his wife found themselves in Spain when the call for war went out.
Now a captain, Lane deployed with his air craft maintenance unit to support American and coalition forces in Operation Desert Storm.
His unit had a total of 24 F-16 fighters, flew 1303 combat sorties and dropped 3.7 Mil pounds of bombs during the time he was deployed.
“I was most nervous when he left, but I had to learn to deal with it," Laquita said, recalling the deployment.
After his deployment in Operation Desert Storm, Lane transferred to Aviana Italy.
“When we were stationed in Italy we could hear the bombs dropping in Croatia," Lane said.
Lane finished out a 10 year tour overseas in what his wife refers to as, “our European vacation.”
His first duty station back in the United States was at Whiteman Air Force Base, near Knob Noster, Missouri, where the B2 stealth bombers are based.
Lane explained the first time his wife saw the bombers, “she thought she had a UFO.”
After a few more years at various duty assignments for the Air Force Lane arrive at Offutt Air Force Base.
The base located in Omaha, Nebraska, was headquarters to U.S. Strategic Command and featured a building with five stories below ground.
During the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Lane said his troops were working, just like any other day.
"We were doing a major global exercise," Lane said. "After the morning briefs I saw the first plane hit the towers and a few minutes later the second one hit.
“I told the Admiral they we might need to reconvene shortly before we received a call from the commander. We knew we were under attack, there was no mistake something was happening at that point."
Lane, with his fellow officers, monitored the unfolding situation on a bank of television screens.
“The president went to Barksdale then to Omaha," Lane said. "We didn’t think they were going to bring him down, but they ushered him right down in front of us, 20 feet in front of me.
“He was concerned, he was ready, and he wanted to do something."
Lane said it was the first time, in American history, all aviation had been grounded, and the U.S. Military provided combat air patrol over many cities in the following hours.
“Many of the fighter aircraft we had in the states were involved in protecting our city’s after 9/11,” Lane said.
After holding a unique front row seat to the events unfolding on 9/11, Lane’s career continue for another six year.
After more than 35 years of service, Lane retired honorably as a full Colonel out of Minot Air Force Base, in Ward County, North Dakota.
Lane continued to give eight more years of service, this time as a civilian contractor, working for the military in Offutt Air Force Base.
His wife moved to Grove in 2013 to work with contractors building their home on Grand Lake.
Veterans Day Events in Grove
High School/Mid School Assemblies
Gary Lane will be the guest speaker during the 2017 Veterans Day Assembly on Friday, Nov. 10, at Grove High School and at Grove Middle School.
Lane is a retired United States Air Force Colonel.
The event begins with a breakfast for veterans and their families, followed by the assembly. Veterans are asked to gather in the high school library at 8:45 a.m., for presentation of certificates and breakfast. The assembly will begin at 9:30 a.m., in the new performing arts center.
A shuttle will be provided beginning at 8:30 a.m., from the Cinema Six Theatre parking lot. Veterans are asked to contact the high school office by 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 9, with a number of how many will be attending in their group.
The middle school assembly will start at approximately 1:30 p.m., at the Middle School Auditorium.
Grove Veterans Day Ceremony
Members of the Grove Ritual Team and the American Legion Women's Qualate-Pritchard Unit #178 Auxiliary will hold a short Veterans Day Ceremony, at 11 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, at the honor walk on the Grove Community Center lawn.
During the event, the members of the auxiliary will place a memorial wreath on the Veterans Memorial. with a guest speaker. For more information, persons interested may call Roger Cook at 918-257-5898.
Third Grade Veterans Concert
Grove Lower Elementary third graders, under the direction of Lisa Lovelady, will present a veterans program at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the new High School Performing Arts Center.