PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA — Colonel (USAF Retired) Herbert D. Kalen, 87, passed away unexpectedly after a short illness on Aug. 27, 2016. He was born March 12, 1929, in Tarrytown, New York. He graduated from Denver University in 1953, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts and enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Air Force on Sept. 18, 1953. He was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings on Dec. 18, 1954. He had a distinguished military career until his retirement in 1979.
After retirement, Herb built a series of homes in Angel Fire where he lived for 30 years. He enjoyed life to the fullest with his passion of skiing, backpacking, hiking, and tennis.
In 1988, Herb, wife Kathy and others formed the Moreno Valley Trekkers. In October that year, they began work on the trail they named for the late Elliott Barker. (Barker, a conservationist, author of seven books and the state’s first game warden, who is best known as the man who made Smokey Bear famous.) He volunteered many hours building trails around the Angel Fire area. He also skillfully conquered 33 of the 53 tallest mountains in Colorado towering above 14,000 feet.
In 2011 they moved to their “retirement” home in Panama City Beach. He loved walking on the beach and spending time with his friends in this wonderful community.
Herb is survived by his wife, Kathy and daughter Kristi, both of Panama City Beach.
After cremation, internment will be in Arlington National Cemetery on a future date. A Celebration of Life memorial service planned for Nov. 11, 2016, in the Panama City Beach area.
Herb’s military career
Kalen enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Air Force on September 18, 1953, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings on December 18, 1954. Lt Kalen then completed helicopter pilot training and served as a helicopter pilot until June 1957, when he transitioned into fighters and joined the 6520th Test Group at Hanscom Field, Massachusetts, where he served until January 1964. He next served with Air Force Systems Command at Eglin AFB, Florida, from January 1964 to January 1967. While at Eglin AFB, he met the love of his life, Kathy. They were married in 1966 and soon deployed to Southeast Asia as an HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter pilot with the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS) at Da Nang AB in the Republic of Vietnam until January 1968. Maj Kalen then served with the 48th ARRS at Eglin AFB, Florida, from January 1968 to February 1971. Their daughter Kristi was born in 1969. During this time, he participated in the Son Tay Raid on November 21, 1970. His next assignment was as a staff officer with Headquarters Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service at Scott AFB, Illinois, where he served from February 1971 to April 1974. Col Kalen’s final assignment was at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, where he retired from the Air Force on September 30, 1979. His awards include, the Air Force Cross Award (Throughout the history of the USAF only 197 have ever been awarded), a Silver Star; which is the third-highest U.S. combat-only award, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.