By Hayley Fedor
On April 15 at 1 in the afternoon, car horns sounded and American flags waved proudly as family, friends and fellow South Cove community members participated in a drive-by parade to honor retiring Air Force Lieutenant Colonels Michelle Williams and Nicole Makinde.
The two parade honorees, who also happen to be cousins, have proudly served their country for over 20 years; with Williams’ active duty beginning in January of 1998 and later Makinde’s in February of 1999.
Coordinated by Makinde’s parents, the drive-by parade took place at South Cove in Riverview starting at the community clubhouse and wrapping around to a finish in front of the family’s home. Even the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office made a special appearance in the parade to honor the lieutenant colonels.
“This is absolutely amazing. Very unexpected and it touches my heart. It is truly amazing and I am so grateful,” said Williams at the parade.
“It was very touching, very sweet and I really appreciate everybody’s support,” said Makinde.
In the Air Force, Williams served as a bioenvironmental engineer and worked in locations like Minot, North Dakota and the Pentagon in addition to her deployments in Iraq in 2003, the United Arab Emirates in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2009.
“The military motto, one of them is flexibility is the key to airpower, and that is something I have applied to my entire life because when things change or things don’t go as planned or as expected, instead of falling apart, you just go along with it,” said Williams.
During Makinde’s time in the Air Force, she served as a supply officer and will be ending her career as a logistics readiness officer. With the military, Makinde traveled around the globe from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to the Pentagon and even overseas in Germany and Qatar.
“One of the biggest things for me that has been so rewarding has been the ability to serve along with really great men and women,” said Makinde, “I’ve had an amazing career because I’ve worked with phenomenal people and I’ve worked with some not so phenomenal, but we learn from that as well.”
While Williams completed her official last day of service on April 1 and is already enjoying the retired life, Makinde looks forward to beginning her retirement after Saturday, July 31. Both plan to spend their new free time relaxing and reconnecting with family.