I am a Veteran. I served in the United States Air Force from 10 December 1976 to 9 September 1982. After basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio TX (yes, I spent Christmas and New Years in basic,) I did technical school for my future career field at Shepherd AFB in Wichita Falls, TX. My Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) was 67251. In English that means I was an Accounting Specialist. I spent 15 months at Wurtsmith AFB, MI paying bills for the commissary. This means I was doing bookkeeping for the on base grocery store. Wurtsmith was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base with a squadron of B52s and a squadron of KC-135s. My barracks was about 100 yards from the flight line and it got pretty noisy when a squadron of fully loaded B52s and a squadron of fully loaded KC-135s were queued up for take-off.
I went from Wurtsmith to Hickam AFB, HI after two short, cold, rainy summers and one long, cold, snowy winter. When I got to Hickam on 20 September 1978, I was assigned to the commissary accounting section once again. In Michigan, we had been a roughly $500K in revenues commissary while in Hawai’i, we had $2.5M a month in revenues. Yet, even though revenues were 5 times in Hawai’i what they had been in Michigan, the paperwork volume was probably less than a third increased since it was most all of the same vendors or types of groceries, just larger quantities. However, in Hawai’i there were four of us doing the work where in Michigan there had been two of us.
When I got to Hawai’i and was told my work assignment, I was also told it was because the section was “behind.” When I saw what the definition of “behind” was, I laughed as in Michigan that level of “behind” would have been considered caught up to current day. It also pointed out the difference between the staffing at a “Major Command” base (Hickam was the home of the Headquarters Pacific Air Forces) and a northern tier SAC base. In SAC, the funds went to support the flying mission. As an example, my first calculator in Michigan was an older, hand cranked machine that I literally burned up within a month. And yes, I do mean burned up. I was running a column of figures and the machine did catch on fire. After this, I was given a new calculator. If I remember correctly, it was a Monroe Litton model 2410 and was the newest machine in the office. When I got to Hawai’i, everyone had Monroe Litton model 2420 which all had digital displays.
After 18 months in Hawai’i, I was moved over to the “Accounts Control” office where I was responsible for the accounting database, liaison with the data processing center, and worked with folks in every part of the accounting system from Base Supply to the Consolidated Base Personnel Office. I worked with the Headquarters command Accounting Office and Responsibility Cost Center Managers across the base. In order to be promoted within the USAF beyond the rank of E4 up to the rank of E7, we had to take tests on our knowledge in our career field. The first time I tested for E5, the test had two questions (out of 100) that were directly related to my work with another 10 being peripherally connected. The next time I tested a year later, 75 of the 100 questions were directly related to my work. When I got my results, I was number 3 USAF wide on the promotion list (though I did not get promoted until the end of the cycle since I had less time in grade as an E4 than others)
I had gotten out of basic training early due to having had ROTC in high school and college. I left basic on a Friday and on Monday I was admitted to Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland and had oral surgery on Tuesday morning to remove four impacted wisdom teeth. In Hawai’i, I had gallbladder surgery on 30 July 1982, spent the next month on convalescent leave for the surgery and an infection that developed, got off convalescent leave on 30 August, out-processed the base on 31 August and left Hawai’i on 1 September 1982 for a final nine days of terminal leave and discharge. I pretty much began and ended my AF career with surgeries.
While I was on active duty, I was able to use the Vietnam era GI Bill to complete a degree in Computer Science. I knew many people in various career fields who completed college degrees while in the service. Many co-workers completed both a bachelors and a masters degree and a few even got their doctorates while serving. I met people from all over the country while I was in Michigan and in Hawai’i both.
So what is my point with all of this? It is to remind folks that the veteran is the man or woman you grew up with, attended high school or college with. We’re the person who grew up down the street from you or that you saw everyday at the drug store or fast food joint. Most of us had a variety of reasons to sign our names and take the oath of enlistment. We weren’t and aren’t making a big production of our service. We mostly served and came home, no matter the time.
My older brother was in the USAF for four years, got out, got married then re-enlisted for I think another eight years. He got out the second time, finished his degree, got commissioned in the Air Guard, transferred to the Army Reserve and retired a few years ago from the Reserves at the rank of Lt. Col. My first cousin Mary, served in the US Navy where she met her future husband who was also in the Navy. Her nephew served in the US Army as a photographer. My oldest first cousin served 20 years in the Navy. One of his sons served in the Marines, including a stint as an embassy guard. Yet another first cousin served in the Navy for four years in Georgia where he met his future wife and settled down. My father was in the Army Air Corps during World War II and one of his best friends from the Weather Squadron they served in was my godfather. Dad’s oldest brother served in the Marines I believe during WWI and died while Dad was overseas in WWII, most likely due to residual effects from mustard gas.
All of us served just as hundreds more from my hometown have served and millions more from all the small towns and cities across the country. I was fortunate enough to not have to deal with any wars during my time although when we were going through alert exercises in Michigan, we would joke (dark humor abounds) about just how much would be left above ground if what we were dealing with was real.
For most of us, we served, we came home, and we got on with our lives.
[Editor’s Note: Omnipotent Poobah’s a Veteran, too.]