Base to name gate after retired sergeant

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Woodruff
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Soon, drivers entering base through the Midwest Boulevard Gate near Bldg. 9001 will be driving through Piazza Gate.

Retired Senior Master Sgt. William "Pete" Piazza will be honored May 15 when Gate 31 is dedicated in his name at a 10 a.m. ceremony.

"Usually you name streets, buildings or gates after someone who is dead," said Mr. Piazza. "I'm not dead, not planning on dying -- so let's not go there."

Mr. Piazza said he knows it is an honor. "But it feels weird because I drive around here so often, and then all of a sudden there's a gate named after me, and my name is up in lights," he said.

It is unusual, but not unheard of to name something after a person who is still living. The process for naming a facility on a military installation for someone who is still living is long and must be approved by the Air Force Chief of Staff. The process to name the gate after Mr. Piazza has taken two years to complete, said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Porter, 72nd Security Forces Squadron.

The intent of the Memorialization program is to pay tribute to deceased or living Air Force military and civilian personnel with records of outstanding and honorable service.

Mr. Piazza certainly fills that bill. He is one of the highest decorated Security Forces individuals in the Air Force. He earned the Silver Star for gallantry in action during his second tour in Vietnam for his actions during the TET 1968 attack on Bien Hoa air base.

On Jan. 31, 1968, a vicious rocket and ground attack was launched by hostile forces. Then-Staff Sergeant Piazza drove through a hail of machine gun and sniper fire to resupply the defenders who were quickly running out of ammunition.

After the officer-in-charge was killed, Sergeant Piazza assumed command and rallied with his troops in a show of stamina and force while they counter-attacked during an eight hour assault. The position was held and in the end numbers of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in aircraft and supplies were spared.

Mr. Piazza is still very active within Security Forces. He is the president of the Vietnam Security Police Association. In 2001, he established the Oklahoma "Heartland" Chapter of the Air Force Security Police Association. Mr. Piazza and his group from the Heartland Chapter visit with Airmen to encourage and spend time with them. "We like to see the new 'kids,' take them food and to exchange war stories," he said. "Not that much has changed except for the weapons."

Mr. Piazza's wife, Gloria will join him at the ceremony. Also, his five children -- David, Tiffani, Jeffery, Mary and Sarah -- hope to attend with their families.