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Great-grandson of base's namesake visits Vance AFB the first time during 80th Anniversary celebration

Nick Vance

Nick Vance Matthews, great-grandson of Lt. Col. Leon Robert Vance Jr., stands in front of a T-1A Jayhawk holding a photo of his great-grandfather holding Nick's grandmother, Sharon, in front of “The Sharon D,” a B-24 bomber the colonel ferried to England during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. James Bolinger)

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Nick Vance Matthews visited Vance AFB for the first time to attend the base’s 80th anniversary celebration Sept. 17.

His visit was motivated by a desire to continue the “living heritage” his family has with Vance AFB. It was named after his great-grandfather, Lt. Col. Leon Robert Vance Jr., a Medal of Honor recipient from World War II.

During his visit, Matthews, called “Vance” by those who have known him since he was a teenager, toured the base with his family. He flew in a T-1A Jayhawk trainer jet, met prominent members of the local community, and celebrated his great-grandfather’s service to the U.S. Air Force by attending a 1940’s themed heritage event and hangar dance. 

To Matthews the visit was more than just an anniversary celebration -- it was all about family. 

“When I think of Vance Air Force Base and Enid, I see a reflection of my family and all the challenges and triumphs that we’ve been through,” said Matthews. 

One of those challenges was the death two years ago of his grandmother, Sharon, the daughter of Colonel Vance. 

Matthews said his grandmother was “daddy’s little girl” and looked up to her dad with a great sense of love and pride. She often involved herself with the base and exemplified the “living heritage” he wants to continue himself. 

Continuing the Vance family involvement with the base and the Enid community is something Matthews promised his grandmother before she died.

Matthews said attending the 80th anniversary celebration let him witness the Enid community’s admiration for his great-grandfather’s legacy. Because of that, he plans to return at least once a year to stay involved and keep his promise to his grandmother.

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