Veteran of the Week: Vic van Leeuwen
Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Madison.
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By Nick Sellers | Staff Writer
MADISON – No matter how long veterans serve, many find great satisfaction in service, and Madison resident Vic van Leeuwen is no exception, declaring that his four years in the United States Air Force allowed him to “get ahead” and enjoy a long career as a civilian worker with the United States Army.
For myriad reasons, van Leeuwen decided to drop out of Huntsville High School and went straight to the Air Force. His father and older brother both spent time with the Air Force, and van Leeuwen was attracted to the branch.
He did basic training at Lackland Air Force Base for the standard five weeks and then went through technical electronics training at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss.
After going through technical school for “about nine months,” van Leeuwen was assigned to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana near Bossier City, La., where he served as a repairman and technician for the control tower located there.
“Those were three glorious years,” van Leeuwen said.
Four years after he enlisted in the Air Force, in 1966, van Leeuwen weighed his options and opted to re-enter civilian life, earning a job at Marshall Space Flight Center. During his time with Marshall, van Leeuwen worked on a project that helped send Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon in 1969.
For much of his professional life, van Leeuwen worked on Redstone Arsenal as a civilian employee with the Army. From 1977-85, van Leeuwen worked with the Patriot missile systems after earning an undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama; he later earned a master’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology.
“It’s all due to the Air Force,” van Leeuwen said.
These days, van Leeuwen volunteers with the Optimist Club of Madison and with the local American Legion Post 229.