Whitesburg KY

Men I met from Letcher County

When you are in charge of the only printing department on a large Air Force base, you make a lot of friends very easily.

I could get you a flight on an airplane to anywhere you wanted to go. I could get you any job you wanted, and I could get you assigned to your base of choice or the school you wanted to go to.

Case in point: In 1955 at Parks Air Base, Calif., my softball team was playing the military police and I was talking to one of their players. The first thing you ask anyone in the military is: where are you from?

When I told him I was from Jenkins, he said his friend was from Jenkins, and his name was Rodney Gallion. Rodney was my best friend in Burdine School and in Jenkins High School. We grew up together. He lived in Joe’s Branch, and I lived in Cane Branch.

On warm days we would dam up the water at the mouth of Joe’s Branch on our way to school, and after school we would go skinny-dipping. One time when we were in the water, the girls came by and took our clothes.

I went to see Rodney the next day and he was telling me how much he disliked the military police. I asked him what job he liked, and he told me he would like to work in the education career field.

I knew everyone in that office and took Rodney there, and we talked to the officer in charge and got him the job he wanted. Rodney stayed in the Air Force over 20 years, retired, and is now living in Camden. We write and talk on the phone to each other. I visit him when I come home.

In the early ‘60s I went to March Air Force Base in southern California to repair some printing equipment, and as I drove through the main gate this big guard yelled at me, “Everett Vanover, is that you?” We talked for some time. That was Red Mullins from Burdine.

During the Korean War years, 1950 through 1954, at Sampson Air Force Base, I met a lot of Letcher County boys taking basic training, and I helped them any way I could.

I met a classmate from Jenkins High School, a doctor’s son who was on extra detail at my print shop for one day. I did not know him well, because I went into the military at 16 years old.

He and a couple of men from his flight were unloading paper for printing for the print shop. I took him to our mess hall for lunch, and all the cooks knew me and would put anything on our tray that we asked for.

We sat at the NCO’s table and ate. He told me that was the best meal he ever had in the mess all. I asked him if he wanted me to get him a job stateside or a school he wanted. He said he wanted to stay with his flight. He was later killed in Korea.

The commanding officer of Sampson was General Armstrong, the person that the movie ‘Twelve O’Clock High’ was made about. My roommate was his driver.

My good buddy, Danny Ratliff of Burdine, tells me that everybody there loves my stories, even though I’m not a writer.

Thank you, Mountain Eagle.

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