CHARLESTON, W.Va. – After some 48 years in the West Virginia National Guard, and 15 as the state's adjutant general, Army Maj. Gen. Allen Tackett was honored at an often-times emotional retirement a ceremony on Jan. 21.
On the occasion of his retirement, Tackett held the distinction as being the longest-serving adjutant general in the nation.
Several hundred people were in attendance, including West Virginia's two senators, the governor, members of the West Virginia legislature and other elected officials and civic leaders from around the state.
The chief of the National Guard Bureau was also there and spoke at the ceremony about the great journey Tackett and his wife, Sally Pat, embarked upon together in the 1960s.
"Allen Tackett has been a fixture in the West Virginia Guard since 1963, when he enlisted into the 19th Special Forces Group as a private," said Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley. "He and Sally Pat have served the state with honor and passion, and I'm sure they will continue as they begin the next chapter of their lives."
McKinley spoke about many of Tackett's achievements during his remarks.
"General Tackett started what has become a world-class Youth ChalleNGe program, setting the standard for other programs to emulate," McKinley said. "He opened the Center for National Response training facility in a highway tunnel on Interstate 77, providing first responders from around the world and from many emergency response disciplines a place to hone their skills in disaster response."
"General Tackett has succeeded at every level," said West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. "He faced every circumstance with determination. I am sad he's retiring, but happy for him and his family."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the senior senator from West Virginia, presented Tackett with a U.S. flag he had flown over the West Virginia state house and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.
"This is the first time I've presented anyone such a flag," Rockefeller said. "General Tackett is the best leader the West Virginia National Guard has ever had."
"Allen has become known to the servicemen and women of West Virginia as the 'Soldiers’ General'," McKinley said. "I can also say he is an 'Airmen's General as well," the four-star Air Force general continued.
After a moving pictorial and musical tribute, featuring photos capturing Tackett's life and career, it was time for him to address the gathering.
"I spent 25 years dreaming of becoming the adjutant general," Tackett said. "During that time, I was making plans to bring the West Virginia Guard into the 21st century."
He thanked the five governors he served for giving him the opportunity to be adjutant general, and for having faith in him and allowing him to continue in the job.
Then Tackett paid tribute to his wife, Sally Pat, his children and the rest of his family.
"This has been a labor of love," Tackett said. "I could never have achieved what I have without the tremendous support of my wife and family."
Tackett then turned his attention to his troops.
"This has never been about me," he said. "The West Virginia Guard is really a family. And, I have been honored to serve that family. It's really always been about the Soldiers and Airmen."