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Home : News : News Features
NEWS | Nov. 8, 2022

Family Serves Missouri National Guard Since the ’50s

By Michael Crane, 139th Airlift Wing

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – The Bigham family has served with the 139th Airlift Wing since 1953, when Jim Bigham joined the unit with his twin brother, Mort. Jim’s son would eventually join the unit and attain the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force.

His name is Chief Master Sgt. John Bigham, an aircraft manager assigned to the 139th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Early in his career, John Bigham deployed with his father for Operation Desert Shield. More than two decades later, he would deploy with his own son, now Capt. Riley Coats, who is serving as the wing’s plans officer.

All four of John Bighim’s adult children serve in the 139th Airlift Wing.

The first to join was Coats, who enlisted as a loadmaster and later received his commission. Staff Sgt. Braden Bigham joined next and works in aircrew resource management. Capt. Justin Bigham was the third to join and works for the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center. Tech. Sgt. Kacie McCullough, the last to join, works in the 139th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

“I cannot express how proud I am to have served with my family members,” said John Bigham. “The 139th has been such a huge part of my life and my family’s life. It has taken me places both good and bad that most people never get the opportunity to see. It has shown me how an organization cares about one another. I pray that my kids have a career that has been as rewarding as mine.“

John Bigham is retiring at the end of the year with 36 years of service.

“None of this would have been possible without the loving support of my wife, Kelly, who has supported me throughout my career. I have been very lucky and blessed,” he said.

Many other members of John Bigham’s family also served at the 139th. His stepmother, retired Senior Master Sgt. Rosalie Bigham; his stepfather, retired Master Sgt. Norbert “Bun” Bunkowski; his stepbrother, retired Maj. Steve Bunkowski; and his cousin Tech. Sgt. Greg Bigham.