Military Service, Part 2

AIT was completely different from BCT.  Instead of being a bachelor, I got to live with Wilma.  Instead of living in a barracks with a bunch of guys, I got to go home to my wife.  And even though we ended up in a mobile home and the barracks were newish, I preferred the trailer.

My training included working with voice radios and morse code.  Some of the voice radios we could carry on our backs, PRC-77 was the designation.  Here’s a view .  Another one was an RT-524, which typically was installed in a jeep or perhaps in fixed position or a trailer (See here).

Those 2 were FM radios but we also got taught to use morse code with AM radios (no pics).  I got up to 18 words per minute, which was respectable.  I enjoyed this training so much that I applied to stay at Fort Gordon to be an instructor, but that was denied.

I believe we also received training on CEOI’s, which was for encryption.  Some of the equipment was used for that, I believe, and because of such I had to qualify for a Secret clearance for classified materials.  If I told you more, …

Training at AIT was much nicer.  We also enjoyed the ward we attended during this time.  It was our first Thanksgiving and Christmas together, which made it even nicer.

It lasted 2-3 months and then we were on our way almost to the other corner of the country – Fort Lewis, Washington just south of Tacoma.

 

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Military Service, Part 1

I seem to remember having service in the military as a (possible) goal.  Not sure why.   I think I felt I owed a duty to my country.  Perhaps because my father had served in the Navy CB’s during WWII.

So the way it all came about was that Wilma and I were expecting our first baby by summer of 1974.  The problem was we couldn’t figure out how to afford him/her.  Now this was in the 70’s in the birth capital of the United States, namely Provo, Utah.  Can’t imagine now why we couldn’t figure that out, but we could not.

I looked into getting into ROTC, for they offered a stipend, which would have helped.  However my timing was off.

I looked over the various branches of service for enlisting.  Don’t think I seriously considered the Marines.  And the Navy would have involved too much time away from family.  So it was between the Air Force and the Army and because the Army offered a better “deal” I went with them.  They offered the chance to go to college during work hours 5 times per year.  Sounded good to me:  I already had 2 years of college and figured this was a way to complete my degree.

So, after 2 sessions of college at BYU in 1974 I entered active duty in the United States Army in August, I believe.

Basic Combat Training (BCT) took place at Ft. Knox, Kentucky which was not too far away from Louisville.  I believe it was preceded by some preliminary training/admin of about a week.  Our quarters looked to be WWII-vintage, 2-story wooden barracks.  As I remember they did not look 30 years old, probably because of the years of blood/sweat/tears and wax from trainees engaged in learning discipline through upkeep.

Our time was taken up with lots of PT (Physical Training) or exercises or 2-mile runs, pushups, situps, obstacle course, horizontal ladder and crab walk (I believe).  I had never been much for PT, but I did improve during BCT.  I found out that your hands form blood blisters when you do the horizontal ladder in October in Kentucky in the early morning – very cold bars.  Fun.

I was from a different background from most of the soldiers in my group.  I was LDS, married and 22.  Most were younger and single.  However, I did not have a hard time getting along with them.

About midway through the 8-week training period we had a break and were able to see family.  That was nice.

There was lots of training, shooting, throwing hand grenades, shooting machine guns, marching and learning various military jargon and practices.

Finally we graduated and went to our next phase of training, Advanced Individual Training (AIT).  Because I was selected for the Signal Corps (communications), I went to Fort Gordon, Georgia just outside of Augusta, where the Masters is played.

 

My mother

My mother, Patricia Anne Rosen, was the daughter of Israel Joseph Rosen and Emily Galbraith Myers, and was born on August 22, 1928 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

I don’t know much of her early history other than the fact that her mother moved the family (at least her and her 2 brothers) to Albuquerque due to her older brother’s (Bob’s) asthma.  While there she had a Hispanic boyfriend, and they were know as “salt and pepper”.

I believe she attended high school in the Kansas City area and one of her best friends was named Sue Hall (married to Gene Hall). They remained friends for their whole life.  I think they would have liked to have seen her daughter and me linked up, but that never happened.

I believe she married my father, John Robert Graham, in 1951 (still looking for the date).  The were living on Pennsylvania Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri when I was born.  According to some records (which are now in boxes), soon thereafter at least my mother and I went to visit/live with her parents in southern Georgia.  Not sure about my father.

She was a full-time mother for most of her marriage to my father.

As my parents divorced, when I was in early high school, she found it necessary to go to work.  My mother had always been very stylish, and so I guess it’s not surprising that she ended up selling cosmetics.  She worked at Jones Company, a regional department store, which was located at least in the Kansas City area.  As I understand it, she did very well and made many friends in that endeavor.  I believe even after she quit, she still maintained contact with her friends and would occasionally go out for lunch with them.

She ended up marrying Russ Kitchen, a retired engineer, who had been involved in the construction of the Arch in St. Louis, Missouri.  They bought a mobile home in Olathe, a community south of Kansas City and the areas where I grew up as a kid.  I remember staying with her after I had my own family around the time I was doing some Army Reserve training at Ft. Riley, I think.  The one thing that stands out to me were the owls – she had several dozen knick knacks in that form all over her home.  Also it was a very well-kept home.

She came to visit us in Plano, Texas in December of 1995.  She had just been informed of a brain tumor, which was inoperable.  I wonder if my children remember.  She had been given a choice of chemo or radiation.  She chose the latter, reasoning that chemo would more greatly diminish her quality of life for whatever time she had left.

Wilma had worked with chemo patients for a while by that time and did not believe she would last past summer.  And around May or so of ’96 Wilma called me from her bedside to tell me if I wanted to see her one last time, I had better come.  So the kids and I (all but Emily?) loaded into our Ford Aerostar van and headed up there from Plano.  I drove as long as I could and Caleb took over.  We got to her facility in Kansas in the evening and her breathing was rattling.  I participated with Wilma, brother John and sister Rebecca in changing her position in the bed (to reduce the change of bed sores) and I assured her that I was there.  Just a little while later she passed.  She could have transitioned at any time, but did not until I arrived.  Interestingly her husband had either gotten ill or suffered an accident and passed soon thereafter, in the same facility I think.

I had not been close to my siblings, and this sad occasion was a chance to reconnect.  For some reason I got her diary.  I also received a small inheritance which enabled Wilma and me to purchase a home in Rowlett, Texas.

My mother was a giving soul who had a wonderful smile.  I was so appreciative of her for staying with us kids after the divorce.  Of course, she would not have considered doing anything else.

The Military, Part I

Edited on April 21, 2016 at 1:34 p.m.

I’ve had a request to talk about the military and me.  So here goes.

As I’ve posted before, my father (John Robert Graham – JRG) served in the Navy during World War II.  I don’t remember him talking much about it.  That’s probably the norm for that generation.

I believe I ended up having a goal to serve my country in the military.  Not sure where I got that idea.  So it is not surprising that I ended up in the U.S. Army.

The occasion was married, college life in Provo, Utah.  My wife, Wilma, was pregnant and despite being in the baby capital of the known world (Provo), we couldn’t figure out how to pay for the baby and continue going to school.  So, I started investigating the military.  First I checked out getting into ROTC, because they paid a stipend.  Timing was bad for that.  Then I looked into enlisting.  Don’t think I really considered the Marines or the Navy (who wants to be away from your wife for long periods of time?).  Both the Air Force and the Army offered incentives to sign up with them, but the Army’s perks were better:  I could actually choose my duty station (Fort Lewis, Washington near Tacoma) and attend college during work hours several times a year.  Woo hoo.  By this time I had about 2 years of college under my belt and that seemed like a good deal.  Signed up in the summer of 1974 and think I went on active duty in August.

Basic Combat Training was at Fort Knox, Kentucky where I spent 8-9 weeks learning things about weapons and stuff.  Had the chance to fire the M-16 and turned out to be a pretty good marksman.  Also had a chance to throw a live grenade.  Bit scary that.  Half way through Wilma came down to visit me.  That was nice.  Also I had found the LDS Church, which was a nice support, too.

After general training at Fort Knox, we went to Fort Gordon, Georgia near Augusta for what turned out to the first of 3 classes there and the first of 3 experiences of living in a mobile home.  This class was for training as a radio operator (Military Occupational Specialty [MOS] 05B).  Did okay on morse code – got up to 18 words per minute or so – and got to live off post with my wife.  The Church again was a good support for the two of us, so far from family and friends as we were.  I believe this was the time when Wilma went to the kitchen at night, pulled down a paper towel and had a bunch of roaches crawl up her hand and arm.  Fun times in Georgia!

Our first permanent party duty assignment was at Fort Lewis, Washington near Tacoma – about as far away as one could move in the continental United States.

And again, this seems like a good place to pause.

 

My Father, Part I

Edited on April 21, 2016 at 1:33 p.m.

My father was John Robert Graham (JRG), son of William George Graham (WGG) and Marguerite Roeder.  He was born in May of 1923 (in Kansas City, Kansas or Missouri I presume) and passed in 1985 in Overland Park, Kansas, which is a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.

The only things I know of his childhood is that he was good with wood (probably taking after his father [WGG]) and built scenery for high school plays and/or musicals.  I imagine his nickname, Johnny Bob, came from that era and probably his propensity to go by his middle name, Bob.

Image result for seabees

He served in the Navy in World War II in the SeaBees.  Wikipedia states:

A Seabee is a member of the United States Naval Construction Forces (NCF). The word “Seabee” comes from initials “CB”, which in turn comes from the term “Construction Battalion”.

Given his above-mentioned talents, this makes sense.  I believe they constructed airfields and buildings.  However, had they known at the time that he had holes in some of the disks in his back, he probably would not have performed in this capacity.

I believe he was married to a woman named Wilma, before he entered the service, and they had a girl either while he was in the service or shortly thereafter.  However, the marriage did not last long.  I may have known about my half-sister but only met her once on the occasion of my father’s funeral in 1985.  I believe she was a local news anchor in St. Louis, Missouri.

Don’t know how my mother and father met.  I do remember hearing that they watched a local flood in Kansas City in 1951, which makes sense given I was born in 1952.

We lived in Kansas City, Missouri for a year before moving to Georgia near my mother’s parents.  I know we lived for a while in a red brick apartment building, which is where I met the first girl I remember being interested in.  We were playing on the teeter totter, possibly on the day of our move.

We moved to a single family residence somewhere in the Savannah, Georgia area.  Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia, and Georgia of course was one of the original 13 colonies, so it’s pretty old itself.  The house had a screened in porch in the back and at least one very large pine tree in the back.  The tree lost a huge limb during a hurricane and I remember playing in/on/around/under it as a kid.

We had a maid named Georgia (of all things).  Wish I remembered more of her.

During this time my father (JRG) sold meats to grocery stores for Swift and Company and his route went up to North Carolina, I believe.

My dad and mom had a number of friends in the neighborhood and I think one of the men worked at the local Air Force base.  They liked to play cards and canasta was one of the games they played.

I believe we moved to Jacksonville, Florida for some reason for a few months.  Not sure.

My father’s disks started acting up (that sounds funny to the programmer in me) and he flew to KC for an operation and his father (WGG) came down to drive us up there.

We lived on Freeman Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas for a while with my father’s Aunt Nancy Oyer.  This is the same street where my grandfather (WGG), her brother, lived.  Behind his house and down the hill there was a large garden:  Corn and strawberries are what I remember being grown.  The latter my grandmother ladled onto pancakes she made for us.  Yummmm.

I think I will stop here for now.

 

Purpose

question-mark

I’ve been thinking lately of writing a book of my life.  I guess I don’t communicate very well at times, and maybe this will help.  Also, I don’t believe my family knows my history, and maybe that would help them know me and, as a result, part of their history.

I got this idea from the (First/Second) Book of Nephi in the Book of Mormon.  Now if those books don’t float your boat, that’s okay.  Nephi used his book to explain himself and hopefully pass on some useful things to his children and descendants.  I hope to do the same.

So, thanks for taking the time to read this.  If you would like, drop by now and then.  There may be something new to view.