In October 1946, I was assigned to an air base at Rantoul, Ill., for 90 days awaiting my discharge. I was working at the base hospital typing discharges for the military returning from overseas.
My boss asked me to drive an ambulance to a Denver, Colo., medical center to pick up a young man who had been in an auto accident while home on leave. I was the only person is our office that had a permit to drive a government vehicle.
They did not know I had never driven on a main road before. I was driving my dad’s old Model A pickup on our farm at 10 years old. I had a permit to drive a Jeep and a weapons carrier during radio school training, but I only drove on base.
I was given a road map, and money for food and gas for the long trip. I had never used a road map before, and never drove over 25 miles an hour before. I had a medic who would ride shotgun with me. I hoped he could read a map.
I was very nervous as we drove out the main gate and onto the main road. I’m glad the medic was reading the map, telling me what road to take and turns to make. Man, I was in hog heaven behind that wheel.
When we arrived at the medical center and picked up our patient, it was late. I’d never done much night driving, but we started back on our return trip. We got some food and gas, and I made sure where the headlight switch was before we would be driving all night.
I was very happy to see the lights at our main gate. We took our patient to our hospital; a couple of medics took him inside. I took our vehicle back to the motor pool and turned it in. We went back to our barracks and slept most of the day.
My boss thanked me the next day for the job I did.
(Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.)