CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — Sixty Independence Days have come and gone since Airman 1st Class Richard Albright and his crewmembers were shot from the sky on July 4, 1952. Sixty years have passed since news of his death traveled from the jungles of the Korean Peninsula to the doorstep of those he loved, and 60 years have passed since Albright's wife was presented a flag, folded 13 times, by white-gloved hands.
A road at Cannon Air Force Base was renamed Monday in honor of Airman 1st Class Richard Albright Albright, who was killed in action while serving in the Korean War. Cannon leadership renamed Trident Avenue to Albright Avenue.
Honoring a promise never to forget the fallen, members of Albright's family and airmen from the 27th Special Operations Wing endeavored to immortalize the man behind the sacrifice by changing the name of Cannon's Trident Avenue to Albright Avenue
"As we looked back at our history, we discovered a hero from right here in Clovis," said Col. Buck Elton, 27 SOW commander duirng Monday's ceremony. "Richard Albright was born just south of Clovis on Aug. 4, 1931. He attended Clovis High School and was a member of the Future Farmers of America. He was a very good looking man, which helped him win the heart of a young lady named Sharon Tucker."
In the summer of 1950 North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel, invading South Korea and starting a deadly proxy war that involved the Unites States, China, the Soviet Union and the fledgling United Nations Security Council. A few months later, on Sept. 1, 1950, Richard Albright left Clovis to join the newly formed U.S. Air Force and was assigned to the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron as a tail gunner in the RB-29 Superfortress.
"During training, he returned on leave to marry his high school sweetheart in early 1951," Elton said. "The young couple then moved to their first assignment at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash.
While at Fairchild, Richard and Sharon were blessed with the birth of their daughter Jacque."
For Jacque Ricci, who was just 9 months old when her father was taken from her, the memorial is an opportunity to remember the man she never knew.
"He was good looking with blond hair and green eyes," she says. "He was a real practical joker, or so I'm told, and he loved to laugh."
Airman Albright's squadron received orders to support operations in Korea and they arrived at Yokota Air Base, Japan in April of 1952. On the evening on July 3, 1952, Albright the crew of the RB-29 aircraft known as 'So Tired' prepared for what would be their 15th combat mission. While over the objective area, the crew was attacked by a Russian-piloted MiG-15.
When the aircraft began to careen toward to ground, many members of the crew were able to bail out. Upon reaching the ground, the surviving airmen were captured by the opposition and placed in prisoner of war camps. For one year, they remained in captivity until the Big Switch, an operation that led to the repatriation of thousands of American prisoners of war.
Years later, William Koski, who was aboard the 'So Tired' that day, journeyed to Clovis with the intention of paying his respects to the family Albright left behind.
"It was the first time we heard what actually happened that day," Ricci said. "Bill remembered the glowing, orange balls of artillery floating up from the ground as beautiful, though he knew they would bring nothing but destruction."
During the course of their meeting, Koski, who had never spoken of the events of that day before, was able to give Ricci and her mother the closure they had been longing for since that fateful Fourth of July.
"Bill saw my father get hit," Ricci said. "He was able to give us the certainty no one else could. While it was difficult to hear about my father's death, the knowledge that he didn't die a POW was freeing. I hated to think that he might be alive out there, suffering and waiting to be rescued."
Though Albright, who was only 20 years old at the time of his death, is the epitome of a life interrupted, his death serves as a continual reminder to the living.
"We remember the sacrifices of the fallen heroes, including the nearly 24,000 servicemen who died in Korea," Elton said. "Today, we remember and honor our local hero from Clovis with this street memorialization ceremony. Airman 1st Class Richard L. Albright, United States Air Force, was a husband and a father, a friend and a farmer, a gunner and an airman. We will not forget him."