My story isn’t an heroic story, but a thank-you to so many people who were concerned about me and helped me become the person I am today.
In July 1972 I was a scared 19-year-old teenager with a lottery number of 16 who had gone to college and had a great time his freshman year. Unfortunately, I had a good time and never attended classes. I had come from a family that had served their country. My grandfather immigrated from Lithuania, became a U.S. citizen and served his new country in World War I. My dad served his country in World War II. And this scared 19-year-old reported for duty on July 12, 1972. Never having fired a weapon, Vietnam ended in August 1972 and I was sent to finance school at Fort Ben Harrison. In December 1972 I had the good fortune of being shipped to the 15th MP Brigade in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Most of the soldiers I served with were with the 18th MP Brigade in Vietnam.
The first person I owe a debt of gratitude to is the person at the Pentagon who made the decision to send me to Germany. You started me on the path of who I am today.
First, I owe a thank-you to Capt. Julian Dew from my hometown (Latta, S.C.) who found me, among all of the basic training recruits at Fort Jackson, to check on me to make sure I had survived the first week of basic training. Next, I owe a thank-you to Maj. Marion Finklea from my hometown, who served in Berlin; he took the time to track me down in Germany to make sure I arrived and was OK. I also owe a big thank-you to SSG David Priestly, Capt. Bill Forney, Mr. Halpern, Col. Phil Seuss and Col. AJ Harageones. All seasoned veterans who took this young recruit, saw something in him and helped make me who I am today. To Maj. Pittman, the controller, who put me in the office with all civilians (Germans), thank you. I learned German in record time because I was sure everyone in the office was talking about me - and they were. The day after they all found out I understood what they were saying about me, I found my desk had been moved to the adjutant general's office. I used the German I learned in the Army for the first 15 years of my business career without telling anyone until I reacted to something embarrassing that was said during a meeting and the best-kept secret was no longer a secret.
37 years later I had a meeting in Munich, Germany, and as soon as the meeting was over I was in a rental car driving the 5 hours to revisit the great memories in Kaiserslautern.. A lot had changed, except for the sound of the church bells downtown.
Thank you to all I served with, and to those who helped mold that 19-year-old recruit into the person he became.