Benjamin Thomas Wayne Sutherlin PhD
Brigadier General (CSMR - Ret)
CAPTAIN (USN - Ret)
"My grandfather is an American hero, as the men of my generation can only dream to be. He loved my grandmother more than anything, as is evident by his passing in such proximity to hers". Cameron Sutherlin McLeod, age 22
Benjamin Thomas Wayne Sutherlin was born in Fairfield, Iowa on September 6, 1931 - the third son of Ruth and Ralph Sutherlin. Raised on the family farm with his older brothers, Billy Bruce Koons and Robert Ralph Henry Sutherlin. Ben graduated from Fairfield High School at the young age of 15. He then attended Parsons College until 1950, when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Aviation Cadet. Thus began a highly accomplished 48-year military career that saw him rise from Ensign to Captain (USN) to retirement as Brigadier General (CSMR).
Ben proudly served in two wars for the United States of America: the Korean and Vietnam wars. Completing officer and flight training in the SJN "Texan" and F6F "Hellcat" aircraft, Ben was stationed on aircraft carriers and flew fighter jets, including F9F "Panther" (aboard the aircraft carrier USS Princeton (CVA-37), TF1 "Trader" (USS Shangri-La (CVA-38), and the F-8 "Crusader" (USS Forrestal (CVA-59). As a highly trained and accomplished pilot, with over 4,000 flight hours in his Navy logbook, Ben was selected numerous times to serve as a Commanding Officer and flight instructor. Ben received numerous awards and medals including the following: the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, multiple Air Medals with Combat "V", the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V", the Navy Unit Commendation, the China Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation during the Korean war; the Bronze Star, a second Navy Commendation, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Armed Forces Honor (First Class), the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, and five Vietnam Campaign Awards. Additionally, his Fighter Squadron 103 (VF-103) received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; and VT-25 was recognized as the top jet squadron in the Naval Air Advanced Training Command while under Commander Sutherlin's leadership.
Ben was an avid life-long learner which was demonstrated in his always taking on new, challenging Navy assignments as well as mastering flying the latest Navy fighter jets. Early in his military career, Ben graduated in absentia from Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa with a Bachelor's of Science Degree. In 1964, Ben reported to the American University in Washington, D.C., for duty under instruction and received a Masters of Arts in International Relations. Later, in 1982 while serving as the Professor of Naval Science Commander for the NROTC at the University of Southern California, Ben earned a second graduate degree, a Master's of Public Administration (Health Services Administration). During retirement, he earned a Ph.D. in Human Behavior from William Lyons University.
With a military career that spanned almost five decades, Ben made his mark not only through his skills as a fighter pilot and squadron commander, but as a strategic leader and military attaché. He served in 1972 in the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Command Center in Washington, D.C., and the Defense Intelligence Agency. There he was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Joint Service Commendation Award. In 1975, Captain Sutherlin reported to the American Embassy in Canberra, Australia where he served as U.S. Defense/Naval Attaché, until 1978.
When Captain Sutherlin retired from the U.S Navy in 1982, he received his Certified Flight Instruction rating and accepted a California Governor's Commission as Colonel in the California State Military Reserve (CSMR). He was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Ben Sutherlin spent 48 years (1947- '95) in the military service of his country: as a Sergeant in the Iowa National Guard for three years; as a Naval Aviator (Captain, USN) 1950- '82; as a Brigadier General, Deputy State Commander of the California State Military Reserve 1982- '95. In 1999, he was appointed by the President, upon the recommendation of the Governor, as California Deputy State Director, National Selective Service System.
While his military and academic accomplishments illustrate a full life, Ben was most proud and happy that he met and won the heart of Twila Vivian Linthicum. Ben knew as soon as he met Twila that he wanted to marry her, though it took a few months to win her hand. Married for 58 years, she was the consummate life partner that he truly cherished. Twila provided the support, home, and love that enabled his successful military career. Together, while living in various places around the world, they raised three children. Kim and son-in-law David Watts live in Australia; Kelly and son-in-law Steve McLeod live in Long Beach, California; and T.J. and daughter-in-law Randi live in Seal Beach, California. Ben and Twila were also blessed with four granddaughters, two grandsons and one great-granddaughter. Ben is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Dr. Robert and Darlene Sutherlin of Anchorage, Alaska.
As a testament to their great love for each other, Twila left this earth in February 2013 and Ben joined her in heaven 7 months later on October 23.
Ben and Twila both believed in community service and were active in many organizations. Ben, from the age 15, was active in the Masons, and later the National Sojourners and Hero's of '76. In these organizations, Ben rose to the highest levels of leadership and earned their top honors including 33rd degree, Patron of Collingwood, and past National Presidencies with 55 years of service.
Since 1978, Ben and Twila lived in Los Alamitos, California and were devoted members of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, where Ben served as an elder. Ben was a former chair and a sitting member of the Los Alamitos Planning Commission; an involved member of the Chamber of Commerce, and an active member of the Regional Military Affairs Committee at the Joint Forces Training Base. Twila and Ben Sutherlin were also involved with many of the non-profit organizations in Los Alamitos, including Precious Life, CASA Youth Shelter, the Los Alamitos Youth Center and the Los Alamitos Museum.
Ben, as with Twila, is remembered for his life-long dedication to God, Country and the American people in his tireless, outstanding and numerous activities in service to others. A hardworking, dedicated and intelligent citizen; a loving husband and wonderful father who cared for his family immensely - especially the grandchildren who brought him tremendous joy, Ben gave them all the gift of believing in them, and loving them unconditionally.
On October 23, 2013 a private Memorial was held at Ben's bedside, with his family and Pastor Paul White in attendance. A public Memorial will be held at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Los Alamitos on Saturday March 1, 2014, at 2pm to celebrate the lives of both Ben and Twila Sutherlin. Twila and Ben will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with military honors, on April 10, 2014 at 9 am, alongside their two children who were lost shortly after birth - daughter Carol Lynn and son Benjamin.
To honor Ben and his passion for flying, his selfless dedication to the Navy and country and in special recognition for his expertise with the F9F-2 Panther jet in the Fighter Squadron (VF) 151 (while deployed on CV21 USS Princeton during combat operations off Korea) Ben's family is underwriting sponsorship of the Panther aircraft installation at the Naval Aviation Museum. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in memory of Captain Benjamin T.W, Sutherlin, USN (Ret) at: Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, Inc., 1750 Radford Blvd; Suite B, NAS Pensacola, FL 32508.
A "Twila Sutherlin Memorial Fund" was established at Good Shepherd Church. Donations may be made in Twila's name, to Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, 11600 Los Alamitos Boulevard, Los Alamitos, CA 90720. Please sign the guestbook at presstelegram.c
Published in the Long Beach Press-Telegram on Feb. 9, 2014