NWA veteran to be buried at Arlington National Cemetary

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Col. Batson is being honored for not only his life and service in Northwest Arkansas, but his quick thinking that some say prevented us from going to World War III.

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (KNWA) — A Northwest Arkansas man is being honored as a hero after his service in the Air Force.

Before he is laid to rest at the Arlington National Cemetery, he was honored in Eureka Springs where he spent his final years.

“He’s a true hero of the United States. An American hero,” said John Gibson, the minister of First Presbyterian Church.

“He was my boss and I thought a doggone good one,” said Larry Bonham, who served with Col. Billy Batson. “I’ll always remember. I salute him.”

Inside First Presbyterian Church in Eureka Springs, a room full of people preparing to say goodbye to Col. Billy Batson.

“He served in the Vietnam war, he flew 150 combat support missions, he also spent a year on the ground with the army,” said Joe Batson, the son of Col. Batson.

He was a Fort Smith native, Fayetteville resident, and extremely active in the Eureka Springs community.

“Well he’s pretty well known in these parts here,” said Joe Batson.

Graduating from the ROTC program at the University of Arkansas, he went on to the Air Force in 1956.

Col. Batson is being honored for not only his life and service in Northwest Arkansas, but his quick thinking that some say prevented us from going to World War III.

Joe Batson, pointing to an article by the Omaha World Herald detailing the moments it appeared Soviet missiles were headed towoard major cities and military bases in the U.S.

“I guess you’d have to say his biggest accomplishment is manning the SAC strategic command post in Omaha underground and diverted a nuclear war by his cool thinking,” said Joe Batson.

Gibson said, “It was such a tense time in history that there was always missles pointed between Russia and ourselves and so there was always a finger close to that button.”

Batson was also revered for his efforts in the Iranian rescue attempt.

“They did return those 52 hostages from the United States,” said Gibson. “They got to come back and Bill was a part of that.”

“I was given a task, which turned out to be a mission of the Iranian rescue attempt,” said Bonham. “It was almost an impossible mission, a refueling mission, and I needed some help. I didn’t know where to go get it except to go back to my boss Col. Batson.”

Larry Bonham served in the Air Force for 26 years, and stood by Batson’s side during his time in Strategic Air Command in the tanker division.

“He was very supportive and said he’d have my back and let’s get it done,” he said.

Joe Batson, hoping his father’s legacy lives on after he’s buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.

“He was just, he was a wonderful man,” said Joe Batson.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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