Since my last release I've been asked by several folks to expand upon my years in the military. To understand my service you have know about my father's military service. My Dad was a WWII Marine who fought in the South Pacific on the islands of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian. Dad talked a lot about the war, so I grew up knowing a great deal about the pain and hardship of combat. More than most people. I knew combat wasn't like the movies. Along with hearing stories about war from Dad he always, always stressed how much he wanted me to go to college. That was the number one priority with my parents.
After high school graduation I went to jr. college in Canton, Illinois. At that time the Vietnam War was just getting going. The war was to become a central part of my life. After I graduated from Canton College I attended SIU. In those days I was not a particularly good student. By 1967-68 the War was a real distraction for me, as it was for most students. After the summer of 1968 I was tired of college life, with the riots and the wholesale cheating by students, so much so, that I didn't return in the fall of 1968, much to my parents' dismay.
By not going back to school I was no longer deferred from military service and rather than be drafted onto the Army I was considering enlisting, like Dad, in the Marines. My close friend, Arley Abraham from West Virginia, was a Marine, fighting in Vietnam and hating it. I know that, because he sent me a letter telling me how bad it was. I didn't know it, but as I read his letter he was dead, having been killed by a sniper on Friday Sept 13, 1968. Losing my buddy was a shock to me, but his death made me want to be a Marine even more. My parents were dead set against it. Mom wanted me to join the National Guard and Dad wanted me to join the Air Force.
In October of 1968 I drove to Springfield intending to join the Marines,not being able to find the Marine recruiting office I stopped at the Air Force recruiting office looking for directions. I walked in a Marine and came out an Airman. The recruiter and my Dad were good salesmen. I often wonder about that decision; how and why it happened.
By the summer of 1969 I was stationed at Cannon AFB in New Mexico. At about the time Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon, I was volunteering for Vietnam, but I never received orders. After supporting the Vietnam War from Cannon AFB, for four years, I separated in 1972. I reentered the service in 1976 with the Illinois Air National Guard in Peoria. I started working full time in 1980 and retired a Master Sergeant in 1995 with 26 years of military service.
I may be biased, but I believe the Illinois Air Guard in Peoria, Springfield and Scott AFB are the very best military units active or guard. I'm glad I was a part
of them. A truly great group of people.