James D Toon Jr. Sergeant Air Force Aircraft Mechanic 1966-1970 Cottonwood Sgt. Air Force 1966-1970
I have always thought of my military days as the light side of the Vietnam conflict.
My Father, bless his soul, served in the 4th Infantry and was stationed on Attu, an island off the Alaska shores where the Japanese staged a feint, leaving, abandoning troops there. It was a cold, muddy, snowy place they held.
His brother was in the Army Air Corps., and as such, he heard his brother's stories of three meals and a cot every day.
When 1966 rolled around and I was facing being drafted, these stories were told to me and his suggestion was to enlist in the Air Force. Hey, and you could bring your car with ya when stateside. (Did I mention I was a drag racer?). Four years instead of two? But I could continue racing! Sold! He knew which buttons to push.
April 66: San Antonio for basic, then Amarillo for tech school. 8 months of Texas was enough for me. I'm ready to see the world, lets go! My orders come. What? Big Spring Texas, 300 miles south of Amarillo! No way!
I would spend 3.5 years on that one base. Outlived 3 base commanders, company commanders, first Sargent's, etc. All because my friends and I turned hippie!(1967, first of our type on that base) The OSI red-lined our orders (3 of us) so as they could arrest us. They never did! I have always said I fought the Texas Rangers during the Vietnam conflict.
As time went on, we heard first hand stories of our fellow aircraft mechanics returning from Nam and Thailand, their own stories and the stories told to them by those in the bush, and of course the TV news coverage of the conflict.
The reality of what I side stepped really sunk in. After barely getting out with an Honorable Discharge, I heard stories from friends who were in country, in the thick of it and how it affected them.
Thank you Dad for knowing which buttons to push, oh and I finally got to like the West Texas environment, enough to relocate here in Cottonwood 20 years ago.