By JIM BRADSHAW
Does anyone know these young men? They are standing in front of the Freeman Café in Evanston, waiting for a bus to take them on a trip they will never forget.
They were waiting for a bus to take them to Salt Lake City where they would catch a plane to Ft. Lewis, Wash. Many young men and women left for military service at this time. The scenario might go something like this…
It was Aug. 22, 1967, and we got a letter in the mail. Mary Lou Norris of Evanston had sent us a draft notice. We were excited and could not wait to go. The Army would be our home for the next two years. We had a short stay at Ft. Douglas, Utah, for a physical, testing and swearing in. Many Wyoming men I knew were given two months of basic training and then two more months of advanced infantry training. Guys from Wyoming made great soldiers – camping out, shooting guns. It wasn’t anything we hadn’t done before.
Have you figured out the three in the picture? Jim Bradshaw, Dick Rollins and Bob Lester. We split up at the four-month mark. Dick and I went on to parachute jump school while Bob had orders for Korea. After Dick and I came home on leave, we went to Green River to board a train. Do you remember the song “A Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight? That was our song for the next few days and nights. That song triggers my mind to think of that experience to this very day.
We finally got to Ft. Benning, and there to welcome us was another Valley guy, Leonard Walker. He grew up a few houses away and was one of the bravest men I ever knew.
Jump school lasted for a month. Then we were split up going to far away places. Dick and Leonard went to Vietnam. I joined Bob in Korea.
What has happened over the last 32 years? Mary Lou Norris has died. Until she died, she would always tell us how she worried about all of us who served at that time. If you want to know who there were, check out their names on the memorial at the Courthouse in Evanston.
I realize we worried a lot of people like moms, fathers, grandparents, siblings and many more. We served, but a lot of other people took part. Letters from home, care packages, and one year even a Christmas tree about a foot tall.
Leonard Walker has also died, but never to be forgotten. His family had me speak at his funeral. It was an honor. A flood of memories filled my mind as I considered our years of growing up on Walnut Street and then our military service.
Dick, Bob and I came back. We have all been married 42 plus years. Our wives –Glenna, Ginger and Glenda – have raised sons and daughters. Now a lot of our grandchildren are growing up in the Valley. We started a bond of friendship that will last our entire lives.One of the best parts of military service was those unbreakable bonds of friendship.
I have often asked myself, did we do any good back then? I recognize now that it made us patriots. We still love our country, but some days I get a little upset with the direction it seems to be going. Do any of us plan to leave our nice homes, good food, medical care and overall comfortable lifestyles? America seems to be on a one-way road – once here, no one wants to go back where they came from. Be thankful everyday for those who stand between us and the evils of the world.
Veterans Day is coming soon. We should thank all the veterans for their service – especially those who served in WWII and Korea…there aren’t a lot of them around anymore. All veterans deserve our respect and gratitude. Thank you, to all who have served. Yes, you made a difference.For the complete article see the 10-05-2012 issue.
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