On the other side of Arnold “Arnie” Bunch Jr. stood his proud wife, Caroline, who pinned a single star to his other shoulder signifying his rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force.
The ceremony marked another in the many milestones in the career of the Morristown native who rose rapidly through the ranks in a stellar career symbolic of the star he worked tenaciously to earn.
Gen. Bunch was born in Morristown in 1962 and earned his degree in civil engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1984. Bunch married the former Caroline Jones, daughter of pharmacist Bud Jones of Crescent Center Drugs.
Bunch joined the Air Force immediately after college and began his meteoric rise.
“He was always goal oriented,” Arnold Bunch Sr. said. “I remember watching ‘60 Minutes’ with him and he saw the Air Force Academy and he said ‘That’s where I want to go to college.’ He soon started the application process.”
The ceremony was attended by numerous military officials and dignitaries including several retired generals. To the right of the Grande Ballroom sat more than 50 members of Bunch’s family and friends who came in from across the nation for the crowning moment in the life of a small town boy who made it big.
Following the arrival of the official party, the colors were presented by the color guard followed by the singing of the National Anthem.
Retired Gen. Curtis Bedke, Bunch’s former commander and longtime friend, delivered a light-hearted speech in which he humorously recounted many anecdotes that kept the event lively and the guests amused.
“Arnie was always tough on Blackberries,” Bedke said. “I remember one time he left a Blackberry in the trunk of his car in the desert in more than 100 degree weather. It melted. Another time we were golfing and I’m not sure how it happened, it may have fallen out of his pocket when he teed off, but the Blackberry ended up flying down the fairway and was busted.”
Bedke discussed Bunch’s biography and remarked on the lack of insight by one of Bunch’s former English teachers, who failed to see potential in the youth.
“Arnie grew up in Morristown,” Bedke said. “He was a good kid who never got into trouble. An English teacher once told him he would never amount to anything. I wonder where that English teacher is now.”
Bedke joked about Bunch’s thick southern accent and his use of southern expressions. He presented the General with a copy of “A Guide to Correctly Interpret Arnold Bunch.”
The guide contained translations to many of the colorful expressions Bunch frequently uses such as “Gerberize.”
“That word means to translate the complex to the simple,” Bedke mused. “And of course my favorite expression is ‘That dog don’t hunt.’”
Bunch then stood at attention in a solemn ceremony to await his pinning.
As is custom, his parents and wife came to his side to pin the general stars to his coat lapels. He then removed his jacket and his sons, Lewis and Arnold III, stepped up to attach the epaulets to their father’s shirt.
Bedke then stepped forward and administered the oath of office to the man who will assume Bedke’s former position as commander of the base. The color guard then stepped forward to formally present Bunch with his flag.
The flag, emblazoned with a white star on a blue field, will fly at all official ceremonies and will be displayed in his office.
“This is a great day for Arnie Bunch and a great day for the United States Air Force who will benefit from his leadership and experience,” Bedke said.
He then snapped to attention and saluted the newly commissioned general who returned the salute. Bunch then spoke to the audience, thanking former commanders for their guidance.
“Thank you for that guidance,” Bunch said. “All I ever wanted to be was a commander. There is nothing I could have accomplished without your support.”
He then had some personal business to attend to, expressions of gratitude to his family members. He presented a bouquet of roses to his mother who he said had been “a true inspiration to me.”
To his father, he gave his commander’s pin.
“You have prepped me better to be a commander than anyone else,” he said.
To his father-in-law, he presented his colonel’s medallion.
“Bud has been big about getting me in the press,” Bunch said. “Yesterday, they were talking about me on the radio in Morristown.”
Following Bunch’s speech, Bedke led the audience in the singing of the “The U.S. Air Force.” A reception was then held in which Bunch met with family, friends and supporters and took photographs.