Thomas Michael Besch
Thomas “Mike” Besch was born on 27 December 1945 in Tallassee, AL, to Thomas Heflin and Esther Coon Coan. After his father’s death, his mother married Donald Besch, who adopted Mike. Both “dads” were Marines and World War II veterans. Mike liked to say that he began his military career in the jungles of Southeast Asia and ended it in the deserts of Southwest Asia. He entered the service 26 November 1963. Immediately following training, he was sent to Vietnam as an Artillery Surveyor (82C20). He served two full tours in Vietnam as an artillery surveyor, forward observer and advisor. He was seriously wounded by mortar shrapnel during Operation Birmingham in May 1966 but recovered at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. After one of his tours, he married and raised two children, Ray and MeLynda Besch. The family accompanied him on tours in Germany and stateside. He attended Warrant Officer Basic School at Fort Rucker, AL, and the Mapping, Charting and Geodesy Officer Course at the Defense Mapping School (DMS), Fort Belvoir VA, before becoming a Survey Technician (215B0). His final assignment was DMS, where he met his second wife, Air Force Captain Ann Besch, and acquired a second son, Anthony Miano. He retired from the U.S. Army 30 September 1991 as a Chief Warrant Officer 4, following duty as Chief of Survey Operations in Operation Desert Storm. Mike began his second career, as an educator, after moving to Akron, OH, in 1992. He built the nationally recognized 4-year surveying degree program at the University of Akron. He also won several education awards, such as the Earl J. Fennel Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to education in surveying and mapping. He retired from the University in 2015 but continued to teach part-time until his death on 30 November 2016.