November 4, 2009

Publisher’s Corner

RMyersBy Russ Myers

(Note:My friend, Jim Graham had a real love for America! He would have enjoyed reading this article. He probably is….)

This is the second part of a two-part article featuring a love for America as reflected through military service..

Missed Vietnam by days…

Woke up on a Monday morning in October 1961 and was greeted by a neat thought. If I volunteer for the draft for two years I will get to pick my MOS (where in the Army I want to be serving) So, that is what I chose. Traveled to Des Moines on a bus with 40+ other recruits; took and passed a physical; was asked to step up to the line and be sworn in! I’m in the Army now! Went from there to Fort Leonard Wood Missouri, where the best was NOT to come. Our wooden barracks were so old that we had 24 hour fire watch. Sgt. told us we would have 30 seconds to vacate the building before it burnt to the ground. Luckily, it never happened.

Had some interesting recruits in our platoon. We were led by Sgt. Crocker, a crusty old soul who just could not get this platoon shaped up. Then in came First Lieutenant Markey, a Ranger and real sharp dresser. From that day forward we dressed and looked the part of U.S. Army recruits.

One serious event in basic training was when we were attempting to throw a grenade. We had two brothers from Chicago. One real short and skinny, then there was brother Bill real overweight and did NOT want to be in the military. It was Bill’s turn to show how the to throw the grenade. We knew right away it was a bad deal because Bill had already tried to do himself in at the barracks. Bill pulled the pin on the grenade and kept his hand closed but froze, and we knew Bill’s head would be rolling around the dirt soon. Sgt. Crocker sprung into action, grabbed Bill’s hand, took the grenade and threw it just in time.

Out of Basic Training now, and I was so fit I thought I could run through a wall. Was sent to San Antonio, TX for medic training. I was chosen to stay an additional 8 weeks for advance medic training, and it was probably a good thing.

After advanced training I was sent to Shreveport, LA to be one of only two medics for three Nike Hercules Missile Battalions around the SAC base at Barksdale in Shreveport. This was the best of the best duty because within a couple of weeks the Medic Sgt. in charge was sent to Germany and I was alone to do daily sick calls, etc. One night they hustled me out of bed to get the ambulance because  the wife of one of the sergeants needed help delivering a baby…oh boy, was that a night. Took the mom and the baby to the Air Force Hospital. Next evening I was once again aroused from my sleep. Needed Doc (that was me) to bring the ambulance down by the lake to a jeep accident. One of the riders had fallen out and broken his leg. We had air splints so I just wrapped it up and took him to the same hospital where the baby was staying. This was the best duty except when there were alerts. Alerts came in three areas: 15 min. meant get back to the base soon as you can. Secondary alert meant get back right away and Red alert meant we just may launch the missiles at some UFO or Russian missile incoming. Had lots of alerts but no red ones. Fridays were great because we always had steak and baked potato and chef’s favorite home made pie.

This fun ended soon when I received orders to go to Anchorage, Alaska to be with the 23rd Infantry. The 23rd infantry was called the Mohawk battalion and even the General had a Mohawk haircut. One morning we were roused out of bed. I lived off base, and they sent a truck to pick me up and another for my wife and our belongings as quick as we could get them together. We were (for the first time) issued LIVE ammo and the entire 23rd infantry went outside Anchorage to a field near lots of trees and awaited the General. He showed up in his Mohawk haircut telling us we will be addressed by the President of the United States. This certainly meant war was imminent. President Kennedy spoke about the Cuba Blockade and how the U.S. would not allow Russian missiles to be 90 miles from our shore. The General then spoke saying he believed the Russians would come across to Alaska and down through Canada if there was a war. We all were pretty scared.

Remember the many tremors that shook the trees and the base back then. Soon, it was my time to re-enlist or go home. The officers tried their best to get me to stay telling me I would get more money, more rank and the chance to be an advisor in a little known area near Vietnam. A Master Sgt. who had seen it all advised me to go home because he said they were using the white crosses on the helmets of the Medics as target practice not advisory. So, I left Alaska and headed to Seattle on a MATS four engine airplane full of guys getting out. Soon, one engine caught fire. The pilot shut it off. Then in about an hour another engine shut down. The pilot advised that we could fly easily with 2 engines. (but, could we land)? All turned out well and it was not 3 months until the huge earthquake hit Anchorage and the 50 foot tsunami came back into the bay destroying all the little towns in its wake. I was lucky once again.