A Pennsylvania native found his way to Indiana to provide security at an Army airfield that was being constructed during World War II.
While he was over the guards who built Freeman Army Airfield in Seymour, Clifton B. Long met Sarah Haas at a social at First Baptist Church, and they went on to get married there.
Long, who was in the U.S. Army Air Force, was transferred to Alaska until the end of the war.
Making his way back to the Hoosier State, he remained living and working in the Seymour area until he died in 1997.
Sally Acton said her father never really talked much about his time in the military, but she always knew he played a big role.
“Back then, that was a big deal because all of the things that happened at Freeman Field, you had to make sure that the enemy wasn’t coming in there,” she said. “This was World War II. Somebody could have bombed it, somebody could have infiltrated and he was over the guards that kept that from happening. It was a pretty big job.”
Her older brother, Clifton Ray Long, was a forward air controller for the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam and didn’t like to talk about his time there, either.
They, however, were proud to have served their country, and that’s why Memorial Day is special to the family.
Acton’s military lineage goes back to the American Revolution on her mother’s side, which is why she has long been an active member of the Fort Vallonia Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution. Plus, her son, Luke Acton, served in the National Guard and was in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm.
“That’s one reason I joined the DAR because it’s all about the Constitution and God, and if you believe in the Constitution, you have to believe in protecting our rights,” Sally said. “What it means to me is my family has helped protect the rights of what we have today. … I think it’s our responsibility to contribute.”
Clifton B. Long was born in Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania. He later became a farmer and was 24 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, but after basic training, he went into the Army Air Force and was assigned to a guard squadron.
His first posting was in Dothan, Alabama, and he was there when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. After that, he transferred to Freeman Army Airfield while it was under construction to provide security.
He and Sarah got married June 17, 1943, at First Baptist Church, which at that time was at Walnut and Tipton streets.
When he was in Alaska in 1943, he missed the birth of his son, Clifton Ray.
Once he returned home and was out of the military, he bought one of the barracks at Freeman Army Airfield and had it moved to Jennings County.
“He saw how they were built. They were built so well,” Sally said. “It’s still standing. I just got a call (recently) from somebody in my high school class that has lived there for 25 years in that house.”
Sally was born in 1956, and when she was in second grade, they moved from Jennings County to Seymour and lived in a home at Poplar and Tipton streets. That’s unique because Sally spent lot of her younger years and adult life working at the nearby hospital.
“It’s so ironic because I grew up at the hospital,” she said. “I started as a candy-striper when we lived on the corner of Poplar and Tipton, and then I ended up being a nursing assistant and then a student nurse and then a nurse there for 41 years. (Former hospital president and CEO) Gary Meyer was like, ‘Yeah, you’ve just always lived here.’ ‘Yeah, I know I have.’”
Luke was a nurse at Schneck Medical Center for a while and now is a nurse practitioner there, so that makes it even more special for Sally.
In 1970, the Long family sold the home to a filling station and moved to the Crestview neighborhood.
Out of the military, Clifton B. owned a soft water company in Columbus until selling it to Culligan. He also went to Purdue University and studied agriculture and worked for the parks department.
Sarah earned a degree from Franklin College and then taught English, French and journalism before working for the Seymour newspaper for 35 years, where she was the society editor.
“She did all of the weddings, all of the parties,” Sally said. “They called her with everything. Every single bridal shower was in the paper.”
After leaving the newspaper, Sarah went back to teaching for a while.
Sarah died in 1986, and her husband died 11 years later. They always had one thing in common: They were born on the same day, Dec. 12, 1916. Sally and her brother also shared the same birthday, March 23.
Today, Freeman Army Airfield is home to Freeman Municipal Airport, and there are also is a museum that pays tribute to the airfield that was in Seymour from 1942 to 1946. That’s all within the Freeman Field Industrial Park, which is home to several industries and other types of entities.