He remembered attending World War II reunions with his father, who had parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. And he decided to follow in his dad's footsteps.

"When I volunteered to join the Army, I asked to go to the Airborne and Ranger school and be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division," John Oxford Jr. said. "The Army obliged. It has been gravy since then."

Oxford became a colonel who has retired as deputy director of the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center after 29 years in the Army. He served as the center's deputy director since June 29, 2009.

"John was always that solid, quiet force in the background that made everything happen as I went through the transition into my new job as the director," AMRDEC director Eric Edwards said. "He led by example."

The same can be said about Oxford's father. Oxford reminisced about his childhood days traveling with his family for their vacations going to the World War II 82nd Airborne Division reunions with his dad. During the Battle of the Bulge, while riding in a jeep carrying wounded to an aid station, Oxford's father was blinded when the jeep ran over a land mine. Oxford remembered vacationing with his dad at the yearly Blinded Veterans of America Conventions.

Oxford spent two years as an Army medic sergeant in the Georgia Army National Guard. He was commissioned from the University of Georgia's ROTC program into the regular Army in 1984.

After holding a variety of staff and command positions, he earned a master's in management from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1996.

During his retirement ceremony, Edwards presented him with the Legion of Merit. He was awarded the Presidential Certificate of Appreciation along with numerous certificates of appreciation from Alabama senators and congressmen.

One of the most sentimental moments was the presentation of the flag. By tradition a U.S. flag, which is flown over the Capitol in honor of the retiring member of the armed forces, is presented as a gift from a grateful nation.

This flag was flown over the Capitol at the request of U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks and presented on his behalf by Edwards.

During all his assignments, Oxford said a particular one stands out -- his time at Fort Bragg, N.C., when he met his future wife.

"I was going for a swim and I noticed Michelle, she was a lifeguard at the pool," Oxford recalled. "I guess you can say she saved me and she's been there for me ever since. I'm really thankful she is."