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Tamaqua native to be borough’s Memorial Day speaker

Tamaqua’s Memorial Day guest speaker will be a Tamaqua Area High School graduate whose love of country has been fostered by generations.

Col. Curtis R. Hafer, U.S. Air Force, is a 1986 graduate of Tamaqua who now serves as chief of the Combat Aircraft Division, Directorate of Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection at the headquarters for Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia.

After graduating high school, Hafer entered the U.S. Air Force Academy, graduating as a second lieutenant in 1991.

Later that year, he graduated from the Aircraft and Munitions Maintenance Officers Course at Chanute AFB. His career has taken him around the globe, from bases throughout the United States to the United Kingdom, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Southern Watch. His assignments included positions with Air Mobility Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Force Material Command, Air Combat Command, Air Education and Training Command, Pacific Air Forces and Air Staff.

He has been responsible for equipment maintainers supporting the C-141B, KC-135R, F-16C, F-15C, F-15E and F-22 aircraft. Before his assignment at Langley, Col. Hafer was commander of the 325th Maintenance Group at Tyndall AFB in Florida.

The Hafer family’s military service goes back generations, from his grandfather, Paul Rice, who served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II, to his father, the late Russell Hafer, who served as a senior master sergeant in the Air Force until his untimely death when his son was 2. The military connection grew deeper when his mother, Elizabeth (Rice) Hafer, remarried after moving home to Hometown. His stepfather, Dale Schnell, was retired from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

Then there’s his wife, the former Cathy Kester, whose father retired from the U.S. Coast Guard after 20 years of service.

“Military service runs deep in our family,” says Hafer. “Many family members served before me and I am privileged to follow in their footsteps.”

The military connection didn’t stop there, as one of his three brothers is also a retired Air Force colonel and a nephew is currently a cadet at the Air Force Academy.

As for being asked to be the guest speaker at a very special Memorial Day service, the 150 observance of the national holiday, Hafer says, “I believe Tamaqua and the surrounding communities have made its fair share of sacrifices to our nation. Great Americans from this region have answered their nation’s call to duty in the past and many more continue to stand up today to carry the banner of freedom. The values instilled in us from previous generations have inspired us to be better citizens. We can never forget the sacrifices of those who have gone before us and we should strive every day to earn the freedoms they fought for.”

The service will be held at Odd Fellows Cemetery immediately following the Memorial Day Parade, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on May 28.

The parade and service are the culmination of a monthlong series of events being planned by the Tamaqua Remembers Committee.