By Kim West
Reflecting on her 27-year Army career, Stormy “Sandi” McLemore Ripley could not recall the last year she shared a Thanksgiving and Christmas with her husband, son and parents, Melvin McLemore and Wanda McLemore of Athens.
Ripley, who served in Panama, Iraq, Haiti and Egypt, officially retired April 1 as a chief warrant officer 4, senior safety officer and pilot for the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“Being away from family is just the price some people have to pay. When I went into the military, I was single and not looking to get married. It was just something that happened along the way, and my husband understood because he was in the Army, too,” she said.
Ripley flew UH-1 Hueys early in her career and then UH-60 Blackhawks, and logged 21 years at the controls of a helicopter. Her last official flight was Sept. 7, 2012, as she flew a “60” from Fort Bliss to Roswell, N.M.
She said her retirement decision was based on the desire to be able to spend quality time with her 13-year-old son, despite lingering injuries from making airborne jumps throughout her career.