TOPEKA (KSNT) – This week 27 News is saluting U.S. Air Force Veteran Colonel Clayton Childs.

From the Cold War to Afghanistan, Childs’ military career as a pilot has spanned nearly 30 years. He grew up on a farm in Kansas and was inspired by other family members who served to enlist.

“We’re blessed to live here and we should pay back,” Childs said. “Was a challenge at times, but rewarding. I felt like I was doing important and good things for our country.”

Childs went through Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in Manhattan, but knew that college was also a dream. When finances were a roadblock for his family, he found a way to accomplish both.

“I wanted to go to college and I wanted to serve my country, so it was a good fit for me,” Childs said.

After graduating from Kansas State’s ROTC program, his military career officially began during Air Force pilot training in 1984. From there, he honed his craft by flying and refueling jets around the globe.

“Making sure that people get where they need to be able to be so that the United States can respond to any type of threat or any type of diplomatic or emergency situation in the world at any time,” Childs said.

Childs explained how crucial the job is to keep people safe.

“Without the air refueling tankers, airplanes would have to stop, crews would have to get rest, it would take much longer for us to get there,” Childs said.

His first duty was acting as a co-pilot during the Cold War and their job was to prevent a nuclear war following WWII.

“Whether they be fighters, bomber, transport aircraft,” Childs said.

Desert storm was Child’s first deployment to conflict – when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He came back after the fall of the Berlin Wall and when the Soviet Union dissolved; he said the world felt safer and went back to a more normal work life where he trained others.

The biggest deployment of his career would shatter that safety net after the 9/11 attacks. He acted as Squadron Commander in Afghanistan and ended his career during one of the most significant times for the U.S. Military.

Childs’ Military experiences gave him new perspectives in life and hopes by sharing his story others are inspired to push for more unity in communities around the world.

“No matter where you’re from in America, we can all come together and we can work together to accomplish big things and to serve our country,” Childs said.

Colonel Childs did 14 years of active duty – and then spent 13 years in the reserves in Wichita. His love for flying then led him to fly commercial for Delta Airlines. He took early retirement when the pandemic hit. Now, he spends his time volunteering with American Legion and American Legion Riders in Emporia.

We’re highlighting veterans in our community every week just like Clayton. If you’d like to nominate someone for our Veteran Salute Segment, please email with the subject line VETERAN SALUTE. Include the veteran’s name, military branch, and rank, years of service, a short biography and a number to contact them.