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 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.
Service Reflections of GMC Jory Luchsinger, U.S. Coast Guard (1965-2001)
My father and his two brothers were all WWII veterans, and my great grandfather was a Civil War vet for the Union Army. With the draft approaching in 1965, my dad suggested I start thinking about what I was going to do since I was out of college for a semester and had lost my student deferment.
Service Reflections of CSM Robert (Rob) M. Preusser, U.S. Army (1995-Present)
I have raised an Army brat. I grew up with military role models. My father, uncle, and grandfather were in the Army. I had two other uncles in the Air Force. Made it an easy choice for military service. Being an Army brat, moving to multiple middle schools and two high schools, I was burned out with schooling and didn’t have the means to go directly into college, so military service was the logical choice for me. It fit me better because I wanted to get out on my own and travel the world. I wanted something more than working in my hometown. I wanted to do something positive with my life and make a difference to others.
Service Reflections of SSGT Ken Christeson, U.S. Marine Corps (1971-1977)
My dad and all of my uncles were veterans of WWII. My dad and some uncles served in the Pacific, while others served in Europe. I grew up watching the war programs on TV and playing combat with the kids in the neighborhood. I read Leon Uris’s book BATTLE CRY in high school, which started considering the Marine Corps.
After school, I had a part-time job and worked alongside a couple of active-duty Marines working off duty for extra spending money.
Service Reflections of ET2 Michael Brown, U.S. Navy (1963-1967)
Three members of my family served in the US Navy. Two graduated from Annapolis in the early 1920s. One served as a Destroyer Captain up until the war began. He told me sea stories of in 1941, tracking German submarines off the coast of Africa as part of the Lend-Lease Program with Great Britain. The other one was discharged from the service as soon as he graduated because the US fleet was gearing down in the post-WW1 era due to more Dems in power, which was always their first way to save money. Their little brother served on USS West Point AP-23, carrying troops to Europe. He attended boot camp in Idaho and then served as a helmsman on Atlantic crossings in U-Boat-infested waters. I think he attended Quartermaster School in Idaho.
Service Reflections of ET2 Alan Spielman, U.S. Coast Guard (1979-1988)
I was interested in electronics but found it difficult to work 8 hours, go to school 8 hours, and study at least 4 hours a day, and I burnt out. I researched all the services and found the Coast Guard electronic technicians trained on everything, and they only specialized between aircraft and all others.
So I joined to get electronics school where I could work on everything from small boats to large cutters, buoy tenders, ice breakers, Loran (long-range aids to navigation), lighthouses, shore stations, communication stations, and remote aids/high sites.
Service Reflections of SGT Eric Andonian, U.S. Army (1992-2001)
Influencer #1: The military always fascinated me; my dad grew up in Tehran, Iran (an Armenian), and he served in the Persian Army (Iran, 1941).
He was a very proud American and loved this country, and I remember him taking us to Long Beach harbor (California) to see an aircraft carrier (the 1960s). That was an amazing experience (I can still visualize those torpedoes)!
Influencer #2: We lived through the hushed horror of Vietnam, and I think my parents kind of shielded us from it. I don’t remember ever seeing it on TV or talking about it. When I turned 18 (1978), my mom actually hesitated (slightly) when I jokingly questioned signing up for Selective Service registration. She talked about my staying with my friend in Canada if the next war was FUBAR like Vietnam. That surprised me because she strongly supported our nation and its laws.
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 GySgt Dan Edick, U.S. Marine Corps (1978-2000)
I am a fraternal twin. I knew my parents couldn’t afford to send us both to college, and I personally didn’t want to go. I felt as though my whole life had been spent in school already, and I wanted to do something different.
My father and several uncles served in the military. Some of them retired from the service. I respected them for serving and decided that I wanted to serve my country. My original choice was the Army, so I set an appointment with the Recruiter while a sophomore in high school. They showed no interest in me because of my age, so I left. The following year, I tried again. I sat with the Army and Air Force Recruiter. The Army didn’t impress me as much as the Air Force. The A.F. Recruiter said I was still too young and to come back in another year.
Service Reflections of SMC Rick N. Riggins, U.S. Navy (1973-1997)
My decision to enlist in the Navy was solely based on the draft that was in effect at the time, and I went in knowing that my number would be called. The funny thing is after I enlisted, the draft was abolished, but it was the best decision I ever made. My family’s history was Army, and I really wanted to change the paradigm, so I went into the Navy.
Those along the way influenced me, like BM1 Mundell, who retired as either a BMCS or BMCM, as he could see something in me that others at the time could not. Also, SMSN Booker T. Arradondo and SN Cap Tasali were with me on my first unit, the USS Tripoli (LPH-10). SMSN Arradondo challenged me at all times to be the best I could be while we were together at our watch station. SN Tasali was always even-tempered, quiet, and a kind shipmate and I learned a lot from him as well. Later in my career, our paths crossed again along my military journey.
Service Reflections of ET2 David Hendrick, U.S. Coast Guard (1960-1964)
When I lost my student deferment at age 23 in 1959, I was ranked 1-A in the draft. I saw the handwriting on the wall and started thinking more about getting drafted into the Army. I didn’t want to be “Dog Face” and live in a Pup Tent.
I asked for advice from my parents, my Uncle Herman, and my brother, who had been in the Navy during WWII and in the Coast Guard. My brother advised me to join the Coast Guard. I eventually visited my local Coast Guard recruiter in San Diego.
I took many tests, listened to him advise me on Coast Guard life and the schools I could attend if qualified after Boot Camp. While he graded my tests, I sat there and thought things over. My test results put me in the 98th percentile of test-takers. I told him I wanted to be an Electronic Technician. He said he couldn’t guarantee I would get that school after I graduated from Boot Camp, but he thought I had a good chance.