The Citizen Soldier

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I have the greatest respect for all the soldiers who gave their lives and fought in our wars during my lifetime. But what do we remember about the Cold War Soldiers like myself who were drafted and then later became Citizen Soldiers?

In 1958, I was drafted and at this time we had a six year obligation consisting of two years active duty and 4 years standby duty.

I had my basic training at Ft. Knox, Kentucky and advanced basic training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. My wife lived off base and worked part time to pay the mortgage for the home we had purchased one year prior to being drafted.

I was scheduled to go to Alaska and was given money from the military to fly to Ft. Lewis, WA. But my orders were changed to report to South Ft. Myer, VA, now named Joint Based Myer-Henderson. At that time I received $92.50 per month salary and I worked out of the Pentagon. My wife and I rented a basement apartment for $60.00 a month and she worked in Falls Church, VA to supplement our income. My work was a wonderful experience and good duty, which I will never forget. I was told if I re-upped that I could stay at my location for 4 more years, but it was time for me to move on with my life.

In 1960 I was released from active duty only to find out that the company I worked for was out of business and it took months to find new employment. I did find a position and was on track with my civilian life again when I received a letter from the army saying they did not need me for the reserves after all. Sometime later I received another letter to report for two week duty at Camp Pickett, VA with the 630thTransportation Unit from Washington, PA.

One year and 8 months after I became inactive, I received a letter signed by President John F. Kennedy telling me to report for duty with the 630thTransportation Unit at Ft. Bragg, NC. I was called up when the East German Communists built the wall separating East and West Germany. Some of the men in my unit, who were married with children, were required to work nights and weekends to support their families at home. Just short of one year, we were released to return home.

Did we help to change the course of history? I hope so. I do know this: Citizen Soldiers were ready when called, preventing the Cold War from becoming a hot war. We lived at the whim of the army, our lives on hold and our whereabouts unknown until the final hour. We made the same offer of sacrifice as active duty soldiers, deferring our dreams and the dreams of our loved ones for the sake of our country.

At 82 years of age, I now realize that despite these sacrifices - or perhaps because of them - I am proud to have served my country.

Submitted by:
James Becker

About the author:
James Becker was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1935. He now lives in Lake Placid, Florida with Grace, his wife of 61 years Jim served 6 years in the military with an honorable discharge. After his discharge, he worked for Fire Fighter Sales and Service in Sharpsburg, PA for 37 years.

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