Airman leaves his mark on Jones Hall walls

  • Published
  • By Steve Hoffmann
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Airman 1st Class Terry Lee Jr., 338th Training Squadron, has been accepted to the Air Force Academy and will be leaving for Colorado Springs in July. But Staff Sgt. Geoffrey Gagnon has one last job for him to do before he goes -- paint the walls at Jones Hall. And not just any color, something with a little style.

"If you started chipping away at these walls, they would read like an archeological dig," Sergeant Gagnon mused. "Layer of beige, mural, another layer of beige, mural, beige, beige and more beige.With all the paint on these walls, they're probably a quarter inch thicker than they were when they were first built."

Right now the walls are beige, but underneath are murals and works of art from ages past. Airman Lee has begun to freehand the words of the Code of Conduct on the 2nd floor of Jones Hall. Around the corner, he has been instructed to paint the old Hap Arnold Wings while juxtaposing the new Air Force emblem with brief descriptions underneath explaining the symbolism behind each. Motivational phrases will be scattered throughout. When complete, the walls at Jones Hall will have entered the Age of Airman Lee.

"He's a talented artist and these walls are kinda lifeless," explained Sergeant Gagnon, his instructor. "We have him until July so we thought we'd put him to work."

To say Airman Lee is a talented artist is an understatement. Were it not for a lack of available arms, he'd be a walking orchestra.

"I play the piano, guitar, violin, cello, clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone, trumpet and ukulele," Airman Lee rattled off the top of his head. "And, uh, there are a few others."

Airman Lee is largely self-taught. Music, painting and drawing are just talents he's always had.

"I like the classic stuff -- abstract and Van Gogh. I like color," he said. Airman Lee's passion isn't confined to a blank wall or a sheet of music either. He's a second degree black belt and instructor in tae kwon do and will be joining the academy's team. He enjoys tennis and played on his high school soccer team.

"My ultimate goal is to become a doctor in neurology in the Air Force," said Airman Lee.

Before that happens, Airman Lee will be obtaining what he describes as one of the best educations in the world with a four-year degree from the Air Force Academy.

"This will allow me to put my training, talents and abilities as a leader to better use as an officer," he said.

"This is the kind of guy we want other Airmen to emulate,"said Sergeant Gagnon, who recently gave Airman Lee the opportunity to speak to a class of new students about how he got accepted into the Academy. "I was amazed at how he changed from softspoken Airman Lee to a mentor and leader for these students."

Airman Lee will actually be starting over in his pursuit of a four-year degree when he enters the academy in July. Due to financial constraints, he was forced to abandon an earlier attempt at a college degree at another institution.

But having a father, three uncles and an aunt in the Air Force, joining the Air Force seemed like a natural choice for Airman Lee. Knowing the challenges of an enlisted member becoming an officer, Airman Lee was undeterred and began his application last September. Prior to that though, Airman Lee had developed some important and influential relationships with his commanders which helped Airman Lee and his application stand out from the crowd.

For now, rather than move to another base only to move again in July, Airman Lee has been ordered to stay at Keesler and stay busy. Along with expressing his artistic nature on the walls of Jones Hall, Airman Lee has been a general handyman, fixing things, patching holes and applying a little beige paint where needed. Still, he keeps his sights set on July. When asked how he got accepted into the Air Force Academy, Airman Lee replied, "I guess I just got lucky."