Retired U.S. Air Force pilot Ken Lang is quick to agree he is a lucky man. He flew 100 reconnaissance missions over Viet Nam and came home safe. So did his son, who was a U.S. Marine Corps pilot in Afghanistan. When he made this milestone 100th blood donation at the Dayton Community Blood Center (CBC) Monday, May 13 it was with the spirit that he must have more than enough luck to pass around.
“I don’t do a lot of charity work,” he said. “This is my one small way of helping out.” Ken, who lives in Beavercreek, has been helping out for a long time. In fact, his 100 milestone reflects only the blood donations on record with CBC.
“I used to donate when I was in the Air Force,” he said. “I was a flyer, so I had to make sure I wouldn’t be flying for about a week. They didn’t want you to fly right after donating. I started doing it to help out my fellow Air Force people and it went on from there.”
During his 15 years of active duty he flew trainers then piloted the RF-4C Phantom on photographic reconnaissance missions over Viet Nam. “I am lucky,” he recalled, “because there were a lot of good pilots who didn’t make it back.”
Back home again, he arrived at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in 1972. He flew VIP’s in the Lockheed T 33, a plane he noted was the precursor to the Leerjet. After active duty he joined the reserves and flew the big C-123 and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft for 10 years.
He recalled visiting his mother in California when she had surgery and needed blood. “When I was there I donated, and kept donating,” he said.
He retired from flying in 2007 and continued in the civil service as a contractor and finished his career as a “Beltway bandit’ consultant to the government.
“Since I retired, they ‘sweet talked’ me into platelets,” he laughed. “I can donate more frequently now. I have the time, so I said ‘Why not?’”
Ken is still fit and active at age 72. He wears a bright red cap from the Marine Corps Air Station in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, where his son (a Carroll High School graduate) was once stationed. Another reason he feels lucky is to have seen his son become a Marine pilot, fly missions over Afghanistan, and retire safely after experiences like landing a jet on an aircraft carrier off the San Diego coast in the black of night.
“I remember flying over Viet Nam at night and it was a black as being in a dark closet,” he said. “But my son was flying in the dark and had to land on just a speck in the ocean.” He shakes his head. He leaves with his red Marine Corps cap complementing his new jacket from CBC, with “Donor for Life – 100 LTD” on the chest.