ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A couple of retired Dyess Air Force Veterans aren’t quite finished. After dedicating decades of their lives to the US Air Force, their journey from the battlefield to serving the heart of Abilene show an unwavering commitment to both the country and the local economy.
For Pete Leija, his military service took him to some of the world’s most dangerous and challenging locations. With deployments that included about six months in Baghdad and a year in Afghanistan, Leija’s journey in the military was marked by dedication and sacrifice. He retired from Dyess Air Force Base (AFB) in 2020 after an illustrious career which took place over more than three decades. During his time at Dyess, he served as a squadron commander in the 317th.
“I was in the military for 32-and-a-half years, my family arrived here in 2017, and I was a squadron commander in the 317th here at Dyess, so I knew we were going to retire here,” explained Leija.
However, it was in Abilene that Leija and his family found a profound sense of community and belonging. He expressed his appreciation for Abilene to KTAB/KRBC, describing it as “phenomenal” with all the amenities of a big city, but in a more intimate and manageable setting.
Upon retirement, Pete Leija joined forces with Glen Pugh, who also had a strong military background.
“He inspired me a lot,” Pugh referenced his World War I Veteran grandfather as to where his drive came from, alongside his uncle who retired from the army in 1973.
Pugh also served a 30-year career in the Air Force and retired in 2018. His expertise in the military centered around fixing weapon systems on aircrafts, which spanned from E-10s and F-16s to culminating with the B-1 at Dyess AFB.
Together, Leija and Pugh leveraged their military backgrounds to embark on a new venture – an innovative security business known as Lone Star Tactical Solutions.
“Because we were both instructors in the military, it was a really easy transition,” Leija said. “A lot of the things we did in the military are very relevant to what we are doing now.”
These Vets’ journey extended beyond merely running a business. Leija emphasized that Abilene’s welcoming atmosphere made it easy to connect with other Veteran-owned businesses, creating a sense of camaraderie and support.
“When I see people who own other Veteran-owned businesses, I like to talk to them and let them know, ‘hey, there is a community here that is there for us, and let’s make ourselves known because we did a lot. We served our country, and now it’s time to serve the community,'” expanded Leija.
Leija said his and Pugh’s collective aspirations for their security business go beyond just financial success. Instead, they said the goal is to contribute to the Abilene economy and provide a local option for security services, reducing the need for residents to look elsewhere, such as Dallas.
“We can bring this back to Abilene and keep the money in Abilene, and people who want security don’t have to go to Dallas,” Leija added.
In their own way, Leija and Pugh continue to serve their country, now by safeguarding their community and fostering a network of Veteran-owned businesses in town. Their journey can certainly be construed as a testament to the dedication and sense of duty that Veterans carry with them beyond their military careers.