Darrell Todd Maurina
Cannon Air Force Base commander Col. Robert “Rowdy” Yates knew Doc Stewart was popular at the highest levels of the Air Force. So when Cannon decided to host a reception for Stewart on Friday evening, Yates asked 15 Air Force generals formerly connected to Cannon to write letters he could read at the reception.
Yates didn’t expect to get all 15 back. in fact, 20 generals, including four-star generals at the top levels of the military command structure, decided to write back and congratulate Stewart.
“We sent out a message to all generals in my chain of command and former commanders at Cannon,” Yates said. “We sent out messages to 15 but we got 20 because they told their friends.
“The long arm of Doc Stewart extends throughout the United States Air Force.”
Others speaking at the base reception shared those generals’ opinions of Stewart’s usefulness for the Air Force.
“I’ve known Doc and (his wife) Martha since I was a small child and that was many, many years ago,” said Committee of Fifty chair Mike McDaniel. “You can’t act the way he does and believe the way he does if you don’t believe in what you’re doing, and you sure don’t do it for 50 years.”
“Doc sees what is good in all of us, not what’s wrong with us, and that’s what makes him so special,” said Clovis Mayor David Lansford.
Others spoke, came to show their support, or wrote letters, including both of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators as well as eastern New Mexico’s congressman and most area members of the state house and state senate.
Yates said he’s seen firsthand how influential a call from Stewart can be in Washington. Base commanders periodically visit with congressmen and senators from the states in which their bases are located, and while the visits are often social, getting Congress to spend more money on their base is often important.
“Ultimately, one of the major reasons I am there is we want to get funding for a project,” Yates said. “When I go, the Washington Committee (of the Committee of Fifty) has already been in there the day earlier and the senators and representatives tell me Doc Stewart explained to them why Cannon needs what I came to tell them about.”
Yates said Stewart’s motivations are easy to spot.
“It’s not selfishly going after government funds, it’s because he’s a patriot and he wants what’s best for the country and the Air Force,” Yates said.
After listening to all the good words about himself, Stewart didn’t want to add more of his own.
“The base was so nice to do this for me, I was so tickled that if I didn’t live in Clovis, I’d move here,” Stewart said. “I don’t deserve it, but I sure appreciate it. Without the help of all these people, we couldn’t do what we do for the Air Force.”