HARKER HEIGHTS — Retired 30-year Army veteran Joe Bufford Jr. added another accolade to his list of recognitions Sunday afternoon, when 13 of his Masonic brothers presented him with a framed 25-year service certificate at Indian Oaks Living Center, an assisted living facility where Bufford has lived for 1½ years.
Wearing white gloves, metal-plated necklaces, and blue and white aprons, brothers of the Pride of Killeen Lodge 620 stood behind Bufford, as Worshipful Master Johnny Perez, lodge leader, presented the recognition and a Texas Masons lapel pin to him. The commendation brought claps from the more than 30 people in attendance.
Joe Bufford Jr., 79, earned a Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Vietnam Service Medal during a career in which he rose to the rank of command sergeant major, the senior noncommissioned officer of the 13th COSCOM, now the 13th Sustainment Command, said his brother-in-law, Alphonso Davis.
He served in Germany, Korea and Thailand, and fought in Vietnam, before retiring in 1982, said his son, Joe Bufford III.
During the honoring, Joe Bufford Jr., reclined in a wheelchair, silent, eyes half open, but showed a smile after relatives asked him if wanted to cut the cake.
Joe Bufford III said the image isn’t indicative of his father’s story.
“It was hard at first, but we’re coping,” said Joe Bufford III. “It’s hard seeing him like this, as active as he used to be.”
Before Joe Bufford Jr.’s dementia diagnosis 1½ years ago, he dedicated himself to the military and civilian community, said his son.
Joe Bufford III said his father organized Easter egg hunts for children in his Willow Springs neighborhood, and would plant American flags in yards “all over Killeen” the nights before Independence Days, staying awake during most of the holiday to drive his children around.
In his various military roles, Joe Bufford Jr. was a “disciplinarian,” but a motivator as well, Davis said. Joe Bufford Jr. gave on-the-job training that allowed struggling soldiers to change their military occupational specialties, and counseled them.
“His first consideration was the Army’s needs.” Davis said. “After that, he would satisfy soldiers’ needs. … He got people where they wanted to go.”
The Killeen Daily Herald named Bufford “Mr. Fort Hood” in 1983, as he served 20 years of his military career in Central Texas.
From 1984 to 1997, Bufford owned Joe Bufford Real Estate in Killeen, said Davis.
Past Master Willie Fields said he didn’t know if Joe Bufford Jr. had any hobbies because he spent “all his time” selling houses during those years.
Joe Bufford Jr. was also active in the NAACP and sponsored a little league baseball team, his son said.
Joe Bufford Jr. has lived in the Killeen-Harker Heights area 57 years, after being born in Camden, Ala., Davis said. After 52 years of marriage, his wife, Odessa Bufford, died last year.
The gathering communicated the depth of his father's impact on others, Joe Bufford III said.
“Usually when people get older, people get left on the shelf,” he said. “This shows that people don’t forget. They still appreciate what he’s done.”