Flag Flies for Jackie McKay

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In continuing its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to U.S. Air Force veteran Jackie McKay by flying an American flag in her honor throughout the month of June. 

“The Hampton Bays School District is proud to honor Ms. McKay for her service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen. 

The American flag was raised during a Flag Day ceremony at Hampton Bays Elementary School on June 14. During the event, second graders read McKay’s biography and celebrated the flag by singing several traditional, patriotic songs. 

McKay was born in Nassau County and moved with her family at the age of 11 to North Sea. She graduated from Southampton High School.

After high school, McKay worked at both Suffolk County National Bank and John Ducks, a renowned restaurant that was a longtime favorite in Southampton. Eventually, she decided to take a different direction in her life, and her sense of patriotism and love for her country drove her to consider joining the military. It wasn’t long afterward that she found herself in a conversation with the Air Force recruiter in Riverhead to join the military branch.  

McKay was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, for training. She had a unique situation at Lackland in that her younger brother, Scott, was also stationed there as an airman. Scott kept an eye on his sister and visited her every so often, and while it appeared to be an ideal situation, it did get McKay into a little trouble on a few occasions.

After completing training, she was transferred to Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier Parish, Louisiana. There, McKay discovered the real meaning of the terms “hot” and “humid.” This base was known for its 11,758-foot runway that was required for the big, lumbering B52s. It was at Barksdale that the Air Force discovered McKay’s skill in driving military vehicles, so she was assigned to teach airmen how to drive military-grade tractor trailers, “deuce and a half” (2.5-ton) trucks and transport buses.

McKay’s role was to support the base’s primary mission as determined by the Strategic Air Command. The SAC’s responsibility was to ensure that the Air Force B52 bombers were armed with a nuclear capability to strike America’s enemies in the event of an attack on the U.S. The big fixed wing aircraft were known as BUFFs (Big Ugly Fat Fellas). It took an armada of trucks and drivers to keep that B52 fleet armed, fueled and ready to fly anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.
While at Barksdale, McKay performed her work in an efficient and professional manner and was twice recognized as Squadron Airman of the Month and nominated as Airman of the Base. In addition to B52s, she was associated with KC110s at the SAC attack base. After completing active duty, she was assigned to the inactive reserves for three and a half years. She was based out of New Jersey and Westhampton.

Working around B52s was one of McKay’s proudest accomplishments, especially since they supported both the U.S. SAC mission and NATO. She was always impressed with the majesty and power of a fully loaded and armed B52 ready for takeoff. She also fondly remembers an event called “Holiday in Dixie,” where the Barksdale personnel hosted air force personnel from all the NATO countries in a good old-fashioned American party. 

After leaving the Air Force, McKay settled back on the East End, working at the Southampton Inn and again at John Ducks. Finally, she found herself working for the Town of Southampton courts system. She never lost her love for vehicles, though, and is now working toward becoming a member of the American Legion Riders with her own bike.