I was born and raised in Myra, West Virginia. It was known for being the hometown of Brig. General Chuck Yeager. Yeager was a role model and hero to many in our local community. I joined the Chuck Yeager Civil Air Patrol Flight from 1957-1958 and was exposed to the drill and flight time in an L-17 aircraft. I had the opportunity to attend the CAP Summer Camp in 1957 at Clinton County AFB, Ohio, and experienced a flight in a C-119 Flying Boxcar. I left the summer camp with several hours of exposure to the Air Force Crash Fire Rescue Program, which steered me towards wanting to pursue crash-fire rescue. I took the Air Force entrance exam before graduating from high school. At that time, I was also working for $5 a day as a helper at an International Harvest Dealership, mostly attending to engine rebuilds and preparing vehicles for paint.
Air Force Reflections
Service Reflections of TSgt Marion Cochran, Jr., U.S. Air Force (1970-1981)
I was graduating from high school in 1968, and the conflict in Vietnam was going on. I had a fairly low number in the lottery and knew I would get drafted. I didn’t want to go to Vietnam, so I picked the Air Force instead of the Army and began talking to an Air Force recruiter. My Dad was an MP in the Army in WW2, and I thought I’d like to get into the Security Police field. Every time the recruiter would get a slot, I’d put him off because I was working my 1st job out of high school and was enjoying it. Then one day, while I was at work, my Brother, who is 10 years younger than me, called and said I had a letter. I asked what it said, and he started out, stumbling over a couple of words since he was learning to read, “Greetings, you are hereby ordered…” I said that’s enough. I told my boss I had to get off. Drove up to the Air Force recruiter’s office and said, ” Please, please, get me in.” I joined the AF 2 days before I was supposed to go into the Army.
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.
Service Reflections of SSgt Eugene Delalla, U.S. Air Force (1965-1968)
In reality, my first choice of military service was the Army. This was back in ’64. Then, as fate or providence would have it, an Air Force recruiter came to my high school (in the Bronx, NY); from that point on, I began planning my entry when graduation came in ’65.
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.
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!
Service Reflections of CMSGT Daniel Diveney, U.S. Air Force (1954-1974)
I became interested in aircraft at a very early age because of my dad’s interest and influence. He worked for the American Petroleum Company in Waterloo, Iowa, which contracted to provide aviation gas at the Waterloo, Iowa airport. He also smoked Wings cigarettes, which had a collector card of an airplane with every pack. My older brother and I would quiz each other on aircraft identification while viewing these cards.
Service Reflections of SMSgt George H. Schryer, U.S. Air Force (1957-1981)
I joined the Navy Reserve while still a junior in high school and four other fools because we thought it was a good way to make easy money. I never intended to make it a career. I left active duty and returned to Reserve status because there were no promotion possibilities in my desired career field, which was the Gunnery field. That had been my primary duty aboard the ship for two years, and I enjoyed working on the big guns.
Service Reflections of SRA Richard Clark, U.S. Air Force (1989-1999)
My father was a United States Marine, so I grew up on stories of commitment and duty. I knew some of the hardships he had faced in Viet Nam, and at the time, we had no idea that Agent Orange was killing him. He was medically discharged at ten years due to incorrectly diagnosed “pinched nerves” that were, in fact, two ruptured discs in his lower back, even with all of the medical mix-ups my father deeply loved and missed the Corps.
Several of my uncles (2 – 4 years active with the rest of their time in the Army Reserves) had joined the Army, and they discouraged me from doing the same. Compared to my father’s stories of time spend in-country chasing tunnel rats (a cave-in trapped him in a pocket of the tunnel, but they had dug him out before his air ran out, after that he became horribly claustrophobic) made their stories of time in the field never seem as bad as they tried to convey. Nobody in my family ever cared for the open water, so the Navy was out…honestly, it was not considered. OK, briefly when Top Gun came out, but never seriously. Besides, I never like riding motorcycles, and they appeared to be a requirement.
Service Reflections of MSgt Ricky Hudson, U.S. Air Force (1971-1992)
I had always wanted to enlist in the Air Force from my younger teenage years. Chuck Yeager was a hero of younger times.
When in high school my football coach, Max Townsend was a great influence on my enlisting. He had served in the Air Force and used the GI Bill to get his teaching degree. He pulled me aside and provided invaluable information and related experiences that only reinforced my desire to enlist.
I enlisted at age 17 under a program that was called delayed enlistment in December 1971 and did not report for basic training until June 1972. Coach Townsend gave me a heads up on this program as it provided a guaranteed job