Master Sgt. (E7) USAF
Medals: Distinguished Flying Cross, Four Air Medals, Two Meritorious Service Medals, Vietnam Service with One Oak Leaf Cluster, Two Presidential Unit Citations, Two Outstanding Unit Awards
Service dates: 1966-1974 1976-1988
I joined the United States Air Force in 1966 and ended up doing 20 years for my country. It turned out to be a very rewarding and interesting experience.
After basic training I went to aircraft mechanic school for several months to learn about B-52 bombers. My first assignment was in the state of Washington; from there I started to see the world.
I was stationed in Thailand and also Okinawa, Japan. After returning to Washington, my next tour was an island called Guam where “I spent a year there one day.”
The next part of my career was the most interesting. After signing up for another tour, I was assigned to a different command, which I did not see coming. I was assigned to rotary aircraft – helicopters – a totally different concept of aircraft. I was assigned to Tacoma, Wash., as a crew member to an H-43 and started my flying career.
After a year, I received orders for several survival schools and training on a new aircraft. I attended survival/POW school along with water survival training and then was sent to aircraft (HH – 53) maintenance school.
This took about six months, while also seeing many different bases all over the country. My final school was in Ogden, Utah, for the flying training. This was all volunteer training and about half way through my roommate quit, knowing we were going to Vietnam upon completion. My last training was at jungle survival school in the Philippines and then off to Danang Air Base in Vietnam.
The next year was the best time of my career. I was assigned as a flight engineer with the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery at Danang to fly rescue missions for downed pilots in North Vietnam. I ended up flying 77 combat missions and made several rescues along with the crews that I was a part of.
A lot of friends were made for life and we still meet in Florida every year for our “Jolly Green” reunions. We are known as the “Jolly Green Giants” and our motto is “THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE.”
I went on to finish my schooling with an A.A.S. degree and a B.S. in education. I was able to travel and see the world for free.
Oh, by the way, did I mention that I did not do so bad for a young man who had no family at 18, had no idea what I wanted to do in life and had no plans. There was one saying that kept me going, “When fear knocks at the door and courage answers … There’s no one there.”