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Q and A with Rick Shea

By Jeff Holt

Published August 18, 2022 in The Burg

Rick Shea was not a star athlete in high school.

But to his credit, he's kind of a throwback to one who joined the military right out of high school.

He was just 17 years old when he joined the Air Force and he made a career out of it. Shea eventually returned to Galesburg and is currently leading the way as the Commander at the Galesburg VFW.

Shea took some time to answer a couple of questions for The Burg's Military Page.

Q: It sounds like in high school you decided that you wanted to sign up for the Air Force. How did that come about?

SHEA: At the tender age of 17, having no idea that there were student loans, grants and academic scholarships available, plus the fact that my father told me he could not afford to send me to college, I felt the only alternative (and my chance to leave Galesburg) was the military!

Q: Can you talk about what your 20 years was like on active duty in the Air Force?

SHEA: Eye-opening! The Air Force taught me a much higher level of responsibility and accountability than college ever would have at that stage of my life. Within our first six weeks, our Training Instructor informed us of the one constance we would experience throughout our time in the Air Force would be that of education. He was right! After basic training it seemed that formal education was non-stop. From learning and advancing skill levels within our AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) to leadership schools (of which there were five levels for varying lengths, to studying for promotion through different study guides, to off-duty education (college courses). The Air Force requires its senior NCOs to now acquire, at a minimum, a Bachelors Degree, to which they pay 75 percent of.

Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting to join the Air Force?

SHEA: Join. The bottom line…the long term benefits of serving your country are unbeatable!

Q: You said that you retired from the Air Force at just 37 years old. What was life like for you after retirement?

SHEA: Well, it’s my belief that anyone retiring on an enlisted money cannot afford to completely retire. So, I went to work as an Air Force Civil Servant.

Q: You said that the VFW is hosting some pretty big events coming up. Can you elaborate on that?

SHEA: We have our annual car cruise-in on September 18th. All are welcome! We also are planning a pig roast in the near future open to any and all!

Q: What was your favorite memory of graduating from GHS in 1975?

SHEA: Graduation night, man, what a party!

Q: Who is someone you always looked up to when growing up in Galesburg and why?

SHEA: My Grandfather! Whether in G’Burg or overseas he was the man!

Q: The maintenance and trying to upgrade the building of the Galesburg VFW has always been a big concern. What are you hoping to do in the future for the building and what would you like to say to the community?

SHEA: We are about to embark on a fund-raising campaign in order to raise the funds necessary to expand and renovate our current building.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to say?

SHEA: Yes, if you are reading this and are a member of the National Guard or Reserves WE NEED YOU! The National Veterans of Foreign Wars annually has a day in front of Congress to promote issues important to U.S. Veterans, however to keep that date we (VFW) need membership. So, I implore all combat veterans to come by 1001 Michigan Ave. and join. You pay the first year’s membership and we’ll pay the second!

(You can reach Jeff Holt at

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