By Jane Schuchardt
Special to the Elgin Review
PAYNE PROUD of country and community. With certainty, that could be the slogan for Elgin’s own three-generation United States of America armed forces enlistees, past and present.
Percy, the grandpa; Ray, the son, and Kix, the grandson, have nearly 11 years active duty amongst them, and Kix, who joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 2017, stands ready to up the tally. Except for the Marine Corps and the new Space Command, all military branches have experienced the Payne trio — Percy, Navy; Ray, Army, and Kix, Air Force.
Since Kix, 28-year-old son of Ray and Peggy Payne, lives half a country away, getting him in the same room with his dad and grandpa for an interview wasn’t feasible. Come October, they will be together when Kix, a 2013 graduate of St. John High School, brings his fiancée, Cari, a California nurse, to Elgin for their wedding. “I keep trying to convince her to move back here,” Kix said via video chat from his home in Sacramento, CA.
Kix (his given name and, conveniently, his Air Force call sign) was named Airman of the Year in December 2015 for the 349th Air Refueling Squadron. He stands tall in his demeanor and voice when asked about service to country. “This (the United States) is a bastion of freedom. I want to help protect it, to be an example for the rest of the world,” he proclaimed. He also is adamant that, for some, the military is an excellent start out of high school for learning priceless, lifelong skills.
Inspired by childhood visits to the Strategic Air Command near Ashland, NE, Kix said, “I always wanted to fly.” As an in-flight refueling specialist, otherwise known as a boom operator, his enlistee job was to refuel massive aircraft in flight. At 2,000 feet, traveling 400-500 mph, with only a few feet between the aircrafts, Kix’s job was to connect a massive tube to the adjoining plane and offload jet fuel at 1,000 gallons a minute. He said a large bomber requires 13,000 gallons of fuel.
Percy, 91, and his son Ray, 62, also stand proud as military veterans. Speaking around the kitchen table at Percy’s farm home northeast of Elgin, both shared detailed stories of war and peace many have only seen in action movies.
For the full story, see this week’s edition of the Elgin Review.