Whitesburg KY

Dream cut short because of my age

As I stood freezing outside the Military Enlistment Processing Center at Ft. George G. Meade, Md., on a cold Jan. 1, 1946 day, I knew I had made a very important and life-changing decision, the decision to join the U.S. Army Air Corps.

From our farm in Jenkins I had watched the warplanes flying overhead on their way overseas. I could see myself in one of those planes.

I joined the military to attend a technical school, travel and grow as an individual. I wanted to fly, but I did not have the education. I left for basic training on that cold, winter morning, on my way to Texas.

Early in my training, I became the tactical deployment leader, which was the first time I was placed in a leadership role of that magnitude. I never gave up, even as military training instructors screamed in my face and told me I would fail.

On 1 April, 1946, I experienced one of the most memorable accomplishments in my young life, being in my service dress uniform, graduating basic training. At that moment I was looking forward to a promising military career.

Upon graduation I received orders to Scott Field, Ill., to attend radio operator school to learn Morse code for a B-17 Bomber. I knew then I would be flying, the one thing I wanted most in my life.

On my first day in a class of 30 students I knew it was not going to be easy. We had 100 men to a barracks, all going to radio school. Rumors were everyone, coming from the men who had been there for some time. They told us that some students had gone nuts with all the Morse code they received. They said many students washed out. It scared some of us young boys.

After graduation, I received overseas orders for Japan. I was also asked to come to the commander’s office. I was asked how old I was. I was given a bus ticket home.

I reenlisted when I turned 18, and stayed in the military for a total of 27 years. But I got my dream of flying over most of the world.

Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfi eld, Calif.

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