A first column calls for a needed introduction. I’m likely the most reluctant yet proudest Veteran you might meet. Yet it started back in 1949, when I just barely finished high school and enrolled at Wright Jr College in Chicago. This was determined by two major factors, bad grades and no money. I barely finished high school with a 2.01 average. I was a winning track and swimming team member, with Letters in both, all four years. With the draft catching up I felt a good place to be was in college. Deferments were easy to obtain, if you had excellent grades or excelled in sports.
Along came some friends from a neighboring high school and told me about a great option. Enlist in the Illinois National Guard and we’ll be cadre and teach the others if we enlist for 7 years. We all jumped at the opportunity. January 30 was our enlistment date and March 30 was our deployment date.
All of us in three months passed our 10, 20 and 3 Series of testing to become candidates for officer rank and promoted to corporal. Unbeknownst to us our enlistment changed from 7 years to 3 years, and off we were to Camp Stuart, GA. We had about 4 weeks of basic when the Master Sgt. Russell call all of us “college boys” out and we all were shipped off to school. Radar, Communications, Ammunitions, Cook and baking school and I was directed to Master Gunner School, Ft Bliss TX. A Master Gunner, surveys in a gun site, places the 90 mm anti-aircraft guns, supervises the line and wire placement, directs the care and handling of the 90 mm shells and ordering supplies plus, supervising training and drills.
It was time for hard intensive study and shaping up and learning how to study and be an intensive and excellent student. That was an assignment I was not prepared for by any standard. Arriving at Ft. Bliss with 54 others, our first week was classes from 8 to noon, return at 1pm till 4 pm and return again from 6 to 8 pm. The classes were intense, and comprehensive and I learned to learn and retain our training material. At the end of the second week there were 34 (of 54) of us left. I finished the program, graduated in a shorten down class size of 21 with only 11 that were certified. That’s one of the many reasons I’m a proud Vet to have served and benefited for my service.