Whitesburg KY

Leaving Jenkins as a teenager

I have many happy memories of Jenkins and Burdine. I only wish I had not been so shy and had finished high school.

Dave Craft and Mrs. Adams, my teachers at Burdine, tried to help me from being so shy.

My memories grew dim from all the traveling I did to 36 states, Europe and the Far East during my five overseas tours, but I never forgot my heritage of being from Jenkins.

When I first went into the Army Air Corps as a young teenager and ended up being the only Southern boy in my flight of 100 men, it was a shock to me that the boys from up north thought so low about us.

They called me the hillbilly from Kentucky all the way from Fort Meade, Md., during our trip on the troop train to Sheppard Field, Texas. The best thing that happened to me was when the train unloaded in Texas, our training sergeant turned out to be from Hazard.

When he found out I was from Jenkins, he told me he was only going to be there for a few months, waiting for his discharge after returning from overseas. He asked me if the Yankees were giving me a hard time, and I told him, yes.

He took me under his wing and helped me a lot. He showed me the way to make our cots, and I showed the other men in our flight.

The first nights we were in Texas, some of the men would cry for their mommy. I told myself I would not do any crying.

The sergeant taught me how to march the men, and at first the other men were very upset with me for being so close to the sergeant. Then they found out that I was a nice guy who could help them out in a lot of ways.

None of them had ever had a gun in their hands before, and with me being an old country boy who had used all types of guns most of my life, I taught them all about how to use the guns on the rifle range. They all became sharpshooters before our training was over, and with my athletic ability, I helped them on the obstacle course.

These guys who had made fun of me before, now wanted to be my buddy and hang out with me.

I got so good at marching our flight, our captain wanted to keep me at Sheppard Field and have me take over the next new flight coming in and train them.

My sergeant talked him out of it, and I was sent to Scott Field, Ill., for radio operator school on the B-17 Bomber.

I went home on a short leave. I had been so homesick those three months. I had never been away from home before.

I had just turned 16 years old, and before I went back to my base I met a very pretty 15-year-old girl who wanted to be my pen pal from Jenkins, and who would later become my first girlfriend. She helped me a lot in my being so shy.

I stayed in the military for 27 years, and at one time I had 150 printers working for me under one roof in Germany. I came a long way.

Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.

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