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The sky’s the limit for the Bradford brothers

photo composite of two men
Left: During a visit to the San Marcos Campus, David Bradford visited with Army and Air Force ROTC students. Both Bradford brothers were career Air Force officers after graduation from Texas State. Right: Don-Michael Bradford explains to students the work he and his brother, David, are doing in Mississippi.

The sky’s the limit for the Bradford brothers

By Dan R. Goddard

Military careers take twins around the globe, now they are building a business to help veterans, environment

Twin brothers who grew up in Japan, Dr. David Bradford (B.A. ’70) and Dr. Don-Michael Bradford (B.A. ’70) both earned degrees from Texas State University that propelled them in different directions around the globe.

From writing speeches for presidents and overseeing the handover of the Panama Canal, to supervising operations for air bases spread around the Pacific Rim and helping rebuild Bosnia, each had distinguished careers in the U.S. Air Force. Now they have reunited in Mississippi to develop a business aimed at employing wounded warriors.

These sixth-generation Texans and fourth- generation military officers were raised in Tokyo, where their father served in the military and also was active as a Baptist missionary. The family had a guest house where many visiting dignitaries stayed.

“The Rev. Billy Graham and Charlton Heston were among the guests, and we had a bunch of athletes during the Olympics, including Bill Bradley (U.S. senator and basketball Hall of Famer) and Bob Hayes (Dallas Cowboys great),” Don-Michael says. “Being around celebrities while we were growing up made us comfortable dealing with senior people.”

Both graduated from the American School in Japan and attended Howard College in Big Spring before arriving in San Marcos in the fall of 1968.

Don-Michael graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas State. “I took an advanced government class, and President Nixon had just signed the National Environmental Policy Act,” Don-Michael says. “Our professor told us we were going to devote most of our time to studying the new law, which got me in on the ground floor of a career in environmental science.”

David, who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in English, served as editor- in-chief of The University Star. He also worked as a campus aide responsible for scheduling visits and lectures by the university’s most famous alumnus, President Lyndon B. Johnson. “One day I was sitting in The University Star’s office and LBJ comes in and starts talking about what we’re doing with ‘his paper,’ ” David says. “I said, ‘Mr. President, you were the editor in the 1920s and now it’s my paper.’ We got along fine after that. Japan prepared us to do what we needed to do, and we’ve never had a fear of being outspoken.”

Spurred by their father’s military service and a grandfather who served in World War I, the brothers joined the military during the Vietnam War. David began his Air Force career as a deputy missile combat crew commander in the Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile nuclear strike force. His technical background eventually led in 1984 to him becoming one of the first joint staff officers, serving as deputy foreign policy advisor to the commander in chief of the Pacific Command. As a treaty implementation director, he was tasked with turning the Panama Canal over to the Republic of Panama.

Primarily an educator, David once taught at nearby San Marcos Baptist Academy. He would go on to earn a master’s in public administration from the University of Northern California and a doctorate in education from the University of Central Florida. After leaving the Air Force in 1997, he taught high school English in Florida before becoming a professor at Barry University’s graduate program in public administration.

Don-Michael earned a master’s degree in environmental and community planning from The University of Texas at San Antonio, which led to a nearly three-decade military career as a civil and environmental engineer officer. His assignments included overseeing operations for the Pacific bases, serving as senior engineer for NATO’s Mediterranean region, and directing the nation-rebuilding program following the Bosnia Wars. With a doctorate from the Air Force Institute of Technology, he rose to the rank of colonel before being wounded and medically retired in 1999.

“I had a long recovery and while I was recuperating, I began to think about ways I could apply my skills after leaving the military,” Don- Michael says. “I had been building recycling plants, and thought, why don’t we build one for ourselves?”

The brothers have teamed to run National Security Assurance Inc., a total destruction system facility in Leland, Mississippi, for the federally mandated destruction of classified electronic storage devices (e-waste). When it opens, it will employ about 100 security-cleared, service-disabled veterans. The brothers are currently forming a nonprofit organization with a mission of helping retrain wounded warriors for careers in environmental recycling.

“Mississippi has one of the highest unemployment rates for veterans, so we know this is the place where this program is most needed,” Don-Michael says. “But we’re also looking at other sites around the country, including Texas. Besides the military, there are banks, corporations, hospitals, and other companies that need a reliable and trustworthy process for disposing of sensitive data storage devices.”

The twins are also working together doing the master planning and design work to transform Mississippi’s former Greenville Air Force Base into an aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul base. Both Bradfords live by the credo “that sleep is overrated, services to others is paramount, and service to the nation is critical.”