Cold War

Service Reflections of Maj Robert Hayden, U.S. Air Force (1964-1985)

Service Reflections of Maj Robert Hayden, U.S. Air Force (1964-1985)

Two different reasons or experiences. While I was a small lad, we lived about 90 miles from Wichita, where my grandmother and great-grandmother lived. Immediately after WWII, when I was about four years old, we would drive up to visit them and would drive by the line after line of B-29’s, huge and shiny, that the Boeing company had built but not delivered to the military for the war. I still remember thinking how neat it would be to get to fly one of those airplanes.

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Service Reflections of ETC James Fort, Jr., U.S. Coast Guard (1972-1992)

Service Reflections of ETC James Fort, Jr., U.S. Coast Guard (1972-1992)

My dad was the major influence on my joining the Coast Guard. He was part of a forward Army recon unit that was captured at the Battle of the Bulge after expanding all their ammunition. His unit was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, and he earned a Bronze Star for his actions there. My dad also fought in the Korean war earning awards for his actions there.

The Army was going to send him off to Vietnam when that conflict started, and he opted to retire with twenty-three years of service at that time. My dad thought that Vietnam was a war run by politicians instead of Generals and convinced me that the Coast Guard was the best service to go into. Of course, neither of us knew at the time that there were more Coasties killed (percentage-wise) in WWII and the Vietnam war than any other service.

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Service Reflections of SSgt Rob Matlock, U.S. Air Force (1979-1999)

Service Reflections of SSgt Rob Matlock, U.S. Air Force (1979-1999)

My father was in Korea, and he regretted not reenlisting and making the USAF a career. He told us stories of his time in the Air Force with such enthusiasm that I wanted to experience what he described. My uncle on my mom’s side learned to fly helicopters in the AF and talked to me about the training that I could receive in the military and how it could help me get a job if I got out. My girlfriend and I talked to an AF Guard recruiter, and I joined ANG at 17 1/2. I went to Basic, and she decided she did not want to go. She married someone else while I was in photographer training.

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Service Reflections of Sgt Ralph Hammer, U.S. Marine Corps (1972-1978)

Service Reflections of Sgt Ralph Hammer, U.S. Marine Corps (1972-1978)

Growing up as a child, and since my first memory that I can remember, I always heard my Mother who had Served in the United States Marine Corps and the Great Pride of being a “MARINE” during service and after; she had started as a Model in Hollywood and was contracted for Billboard Pictures for WOMEN to Join the Marines allowing Men in Desk Jobs to Go out and fight the Japanese. My Mother was SO Proud of the Uniform that she Enlisted before going home.

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Rise and Fall of the SR-71 Blackbird

Rise and Fall of the SR-71 Blackbird

During the last few years of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union - both long weary of the other - became unlikely allies against Adolf Hitler's takeover of Eastern Europe. Following the defeat of German in 1945, however, the wartime allies became mortal enemies, locked in a global struggle to prevail militarily, ideologically, and politically in a new "Cold War." To learn of the other side's military and technical capabilities, their actions and intentions, both sides used spies to gather information and intelligence about their enemy. Alarmed over rapid developments in military technology by his Communist rivals, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a plan to gather information about Soviet capabilities and intentions using reconnaissance aircraft.  Thus became the birth of the U-2 spy planes. Beginning in 1956, U-2 spy planes were making reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union, giving the U.S. its first detailed look at Soviet military facilities....

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Blue Boy by Buck Cole

Blue Boy by Buck Cole

Every veteran has a unique and interesting story to tell. Many of us are plucked out of our lives in the United States and sent to join our chosen branch of service, where we often travel around the country and around the world, engaging our senses in a series of new experiences. Air Force veteran Buck Cole is one of us.  Cole is not only a veteran; he's a retired history teacher, which gives him a unique perspective on what to teach us about the lessons he's learned and - more importantly - how to go about teaching us.  As a veteran who served during the Cold War, he will tell you he was never stationed in a war zone and his only taste of combat came in the form of a bar fight with a sailor in the Philippines. One day, Cole watched a retired Army colonel give a Veterans Day speech to a group of middle schoolers. The colonel spoke in grand "platitudes" about moral conduct, sacrifice, and honor.  A great concept for a Veterans Day speech, Cole thought, but not something that would...

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Service Reflections of Maj James Webber, U.S. Air Force (1972-1992)

Service Reflections of Maj James Webber, U.S. Air Force (1972-1992)

Interestingly, back in August of 1968, when I first walked around the sign-up tables in the Washburn University gym, I decided on a whim to join the Air Force ROTC unit. The sales pitch was it was really easy for the first two years, plus you could take military science classes (which were espoused to be easier than most). It sounded good to this Kansas country boy who was just trying to stay out of the draft. I never dreamed that quick decisions would turn into a wonderful and rewarding career! That one decision formed and still rewards my life to this day!

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Bread and Water Punishment

Bread and Water Punishment

Many civilians will have trouble understanding some facets of military life. The one thing they may never understand is the plethora of ways military personnel can face punishment. Every veteran has a story about either witnessing a bizarre punishment forced upon a troop (or themselves) that seems so outlandish; it's hard to believe - to those who didn't serve, that is.  Troops have been ordered to sweep sunshine off the sidewalks, vacuum the flight line, and pretend to be a ghost; or my personal experience: an Airman trainee was ordered to speak to everyone using sock puppets because he didn't put his dirty socks into a mesh bag.  Not really cruel, but definitely unusual punishment.  Those are just some of the random, uncodified punishment trainees, recruits, and junior enlisted troops have received over the years. There's no book that lists these creative ways to teach junior Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen to penalty for not following the...

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LCDR Montel Williams, US Navy and USMC (1974-1986)

LCDR Montel Williams, US Navy and USMC (1974-1986)

Montel Williams is best known as the Emmy Award-winning host of The Montel Williams Show, which aired nationally for seventeen years. Montel Brian Anthony Williams, known to most as simply “Montel,” is also an actor and motivational speaker. But did you know that Montel Williams served in the military? His decorated military service spanned 22 years in two branches of the service—the United States Marines and the United States Navy. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1974 and later became the first black man to graduate from the Naval Academy in 1980. Today, along with being a New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Montel is a passionate advocate for veterans.  Montel Williams’s Early Years Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 3, 1956, Montel was the youngest of four children born to Marjorie and Herman Williams. Montel's father was a firefighter who in 1992 became Baltimore's first African American Fire Chief. Williams was raised as a Roman Catholic...

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Service Reflections of MKCS George Shoffstall , U.S. Coast Guard (1973-1994)

Service Reflections of MKCS George Shoffstall , U.S. Coast Guard (1973-1994)

I had every intention of joining the U.S. Navy as an enlisted man after HS graduation. I didn’t have the grades to entertain the academy appointment process. My father and his two brothers voluntarily enlisted in the Navy at the outset of the Korean Conflict in 1950. Two served on New Jersey class battleships, and my father trained as an Aviation Electricians mate assigned to a tactical squadron in country.

My aspirations took a slight course change in the spring of my senior year. One day I received a long-distance call from a friend and former classmate. He had been looking into joining the Coast Guard after graduation and mentioned maybe enlisting as teammates in what was called the buddy program. Being a kid from central PA, I hadn’t heard or even considered the CG.

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Service Reflections of ETNSN John W. Ditmar, Jr., U.S. Navy (1970-1973)

Service Reflections of ETNSN John W. Ditmar, Jr., U.S. Navy (1970-1973)

The village I grew up in had a population of around 2000 and was almost surrounded by water, so swimming, fishing, and boating were a natural progression. I loved to watch the bigger boats on Spring Lake and freighters that would come into Grand Haven at a young age. My early years growing up were not much fun.

My father was a good man but was an alcoholic and was mean to my mother and me when he had too much to drink. There was physical violence. My parents never attended church, but some kind neighbors took me a few times with their kids, which opened my eyes to another world. In those days, there was a stigma attached to being an alcoholic, and despite several attempts by myself and others, my father refused any help. This was a time when my conflicting emotions were off the chart.

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