A group of six veterans who collectively served from World War II to the Cold War were asked to briefly share their thoughts about Veterans Day. The men live at The Villages of Murfreesboro.
Ron Powell served in the Air Force in the Cold War; Ed Foutch in the Army Air Corps in World War II; Howard Foote as an aviation electronics technician in World War II; Gerald Wadleigh in the Air Force during Vietnam; Tom Vanderslice in the Navy from 1945-1965, participating in naval bombardments of North Korean military positions; and Jack Murray in the Navy starting in 1959.
They were asked what Veterans’ Day means to veterans. Murray said it’s just another day. Foutch said he would like for people to remember what it means. Powell said the day should be about remembering veterans.
When asked about whether veterans in their generation were welcomed home or not, several men offered their thoughts. Wadleigh said veterans who returned home on a military transport and landed at an air base had no welcoming ceremony. Murray said the notion that people did not welcome returning veterans was “inflated” by the media.
The veterans than launched into saying that “everyone” in World War II served in the war and that people who did not join the military still made sacrifices in the U.S. Foutch said that in the area around his hometown of Springfield, Ill., young people went to work in a Ford factory building military aircraft, where they made good money – “$1 an hour was a lot of money,” he said. A new ordnance plant in nearby Illiopolis, Ill., took much of the farmland away.
Foote said he had an “occupational deferment” while working in the defense industry until the local draft board “ran out of warm bodies” and cancelled the deferments. He had been working for Stromberg-Carlson, which was producing underwater radios for the military.
Several veterans responded when asked if they volunteered or were drafted for service. Foutch said he was drafted, Murray volunteered and Wadleigh said he volunteered before he could be drafted.
Several men responded when asked to describe their experiences. Murray said he served starting in 1959 for an eight-year period in Navy subs. He was on the third-ever Polaris-style missile sub, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, based out of Scotland. Two separate crews of 130 sailors took turns on deployments of three months, one month of which was spent on prep work with the remainder of the time spent on patrols.
Powell said he served as a medical lab technician based in Turkey during the late 1950s, which was a “great” posting at the time. He visited many bases in the Mediterranean, mostly treating diseases like typhoid caused by bad food preparation. He observed many U-2 reconnaissance planes take off on missions but had returned home by the time Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Russia in 1960.