When I first received the dreaded greetings "Uncle Sam Wants You," I thought it was a complete disaster and the end of all my college plans, when in fact it was just the beginning.
I was drafted in January 1953, along with eight of my fellow high school buddies. Instead of using my farm deferment I decided to go with them, and hopefully together we would explore this new opportunity for adventure . Being from the small mining town of Moon Run, Pa., it was the first time we had ever been very far from home. I was hoping we could all stay together during our tour of duty, but once we joined the mix of thousands of recruits at Ft. Meade, Md., they were all billeted together. Then to my disappointment, they all went to Ft. Gordon, Ga. for training as military policemen, with a great posting to Germany. I was left behind.
I completed 16 weeks of tough airborne infantry basic training at Ft. Campbell, Ky., then completed paratrooper school at Ft Benning, Ga., just before the Korean Peace Treaty was signed. Working for Capital Airlines in civilian life helped me get assigned to helicopter mechanic school, then a promotion to crew chief on the commanding general's (11th Airborne Division) helicopter, finally started my career and advancement in army aviation.
Being drafted got me away from working two labor-intensive civilian jobs that had no future, and gave me the opportunity to enroll in an educational "Boot Strap" program which after eight years of night school accumulated enough credits to graduate from the University of Nebraska, while saving my GI Bill for law school; gain valuable experience as a helicopter crew chief, pilot/test pilot and accident investigator; and then complete the written and flight test requirements for the FAA license as an airline transport pilot, which would made it easier to obtain a job with the airlines.
I am fortunate to have advanced from a reluctant private through the ranks to WO, CWO, then complete OCS and advance to captain, all while accumulating the training and experience for a civilian career as an aviation attorney. I am also fortunate and grateful to have been exposed to the opportunities, fellowship and discipline provided by my time in the 11th Airborne Div. as a paratrooper, and then the many years in the Army Aviation Program.
As an added bonus, my special Army aviation safety training at Edwards AFB led to the opportunity to meet and later fly with astronaut/professor Neil Armstrong. So my message to all high school graduates is to consider the military as a career or in the alternate to build a great resume.