Beaumont’s naval officer returns home one last time

On Monday, Navy Lieutenant Commander Carl Stewart Jr. made his final flight – he landed at his home in Beaumont ahead of his impending summer retirement.

Stewart and Captain Ken Dittig, a reserve pilot, flew to Jack Brooks Regional Airport in a McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk this overcast morning, had lunch with Stewart’s family and friends, then refueled for return to their duty station in Pensacola, the base from which Stewart will retire. He’s served in the Navy for 26 years, and when he strips off his uniform, there’s one thing in particular he looks forward to.

“I want to try growing a beard,” he laughed.

He also started a trucking business and hopes to get it off the ground. When he returns to Southeast Texas, he is happy to be able to see his family more often than just coming for funerals. But the 41-year-old Navy flight officer has only a collection of hair on his upper lip and he wants more facial hair.

“He wants to look like me,” his fully bearded dad said, and that might not be too far off base. The couple have more than a love of facial hair in common. They also share a name and a flight jacket.

On the day he came to see his son fly over, the eldest Carl Stewart Sr. was dressed in a brown leather jacket with two patches sewn on his breasts – one of a horse commemorating Combat’s ‘black stallions’ HC-4 Support and the one that says “Carl Stewart, US Navy.”

“When you do your initial flight training, they give you a leather flight jacket. So when I was an aircrew, that’s the one they gave me,” said Carl Stewart Jr. “It was the first squadron I went to as an aircrew. helicopter. I did two tours in this squadron in Sicily. When I got my wings and everything from flight school to become a naval flight officer, they gave me another jacket. So I have two. I gave him this one. I can’t wear both at the same time.

Stewart Jr.’s career in aviation has taken him across the country and around the world. After graduating from West Brook High School, he knew he wanted to join the military like his cousin, and so he enlisted.

“Ever since he was a baby, he always wanted to play with planes,” said his mother Linda Randolph. “I took him to the recruiter.”

He was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina; made two tours to Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily and several more to Pensacola, Florida; went to Leemore Naval Air Station in California; then moved to China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in California. After that, he spent time at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia before returning to Pensacola. Along the way, he was commissioned and earned his degree in aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, graduating in 2005.

Stewart Jr. has also deployed several times over the years, and it has been the hardest part of his career.

“The hardest thing for me was having to leave my children behind,” he said. “Having to go on deployment, you have to say goodbye to your children. You’ve always had that in mind – “I may not be back, so this could be the last time I’m with my child.” It has always been difficult.

It wasn’t just hard for him. The deployments made her mother nervous, she said, and caused her to pray.

“Some of the things he did, they called and said, ‘He’s going on a mission and if he’s shot, don’t tell anyone until the military contacts you,'” Randolph said. “They were calling me and calling his wife. Thank God he always came back.

And now Stewart is coming back for good. His last official day in the Navy is August 1, but he takes time off because he has accumulated many days. His last day of work will be May 10. That day, he will take a final flight to Pensacola and be relieved of his duties. On landing, a small ceremony will take place next to the plane.

He will also have an official retirement ceremony in Beaumont in July.

“I didn’t want to do that there,” Stewart said. “If I’m going to do a full ceremony, I want my family to be able to share that and spend that time with me.”

As his son’s career draws to a close, Carl Stewart Sr. laments the end of a special chapter.

“I won’t be able to see those things when he leaves the Navy,” his father said, looking at his son’s helmet and gear, then looking away.

But they still have some lore to look forward to, like a flight event called Top Gun taking place in Florida.

“It’s an annual event that we go to every year. They are model airplanes on steroids,” he said. “That’s how it all started. We fly these model airplanes. This year it is the last week of April, the first week of May.

And on this last day of March at Jack Brooks, the eldest Stewart was happy to see his son fly for Navy overhead. The two officers accelerated just over the terminal and flipped the plane over so anyone watching on the ground could see the outlines.

“Ooo that was exciting!” the father said, drawing his arms and knees to his chest and beaming. “Oooh! It gives me chills!”

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