In 1968 I had over 22 years in military service. I also had the best part-time job that I could ask for. I would soon retire from the military and work full time in my civilian job. I had worked for eight years in this one-man part time job in printing. With my retirement pay, my pay would double.
In October 1968, my general called me into his office and his secretary poured both of us coffee. They always did that when something big was going on. The general and I had known each other for 20 years. We had played some sports together.
I was handed some papers to read from the Pentagon. Our Air Force headquarters in Europe had asked for me, by name, to be assigned to the printing department there, to help them out of the mess they were in. I found out later that two printers who once worked for me had talked to the officer in charge and told him that Sergeant Vanover would know what to do.
My commander knew I planned to retire from the military and take the civilian job in Napa, Calif. He asked me to think it over, talk to my family, and to the people I would be working for after I retired.
My kids loved the thought of moving to Wiesbaden, Germany. They’d heard a lot about that part of the world from classmates who had lived there.
I told the owner in Napa that I would have one of my printers from Travis Air Force Base come in on weekends and do their printing. I took the new assignment.
When I arrived at the Air Force headquarters in Germany, everyone knew me or knew of me. This was the Air Force headquarters for all of Europe. I called all topranked NCOs and some officers together and told them that with their help, we were going to look good in 90 days.
I set up two copy machines just inside our front room. We let people wait on the small jobs, but if the job could be done in one day, we gave one-day service.
It was still wartime, so I went to shift work. In one month, the people in our headquarters could not believe what had happened. We had caught up on our workload, went back to just working days, and my printers and our boss were happy for the first time in months.
My boss received a message from the Pentagon that said, “Sergeant has done it again.” I’m sure that’s the reason I was assigned to the Pentagon when my tour in Germany was over.
(Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.)