21 years, 9 months, and 17 days in the military from 1955 to 1976.
I was in the Air Force for 4 years and the Army for 18.
I did 3 tours in Vietnam. I did 3 tours in Germany. I did one tour in Korea.
As an African American in the military, I went to Europe in 1956. Some of the white soldiers told the little kids that blacks had a tail. They could come around and raise the back of your overcoat to see if you had a tail. They also used the N-word. Little kids would sing an N-word song walking behind you. This all came from their exposure to the white soldier. Plus, the bars were segregated. This was after the military in 1949 integrated. It was not a rosy trip.
It was tough. Promotions: Then all of the sergeants in charge were white. Mostly southern. it was tough to get promoted. I went overseas with two stripes. I had a master sergeant Poe. He told me if I play basketball, I would leave with two stripes. three years later, what he said was true. I left with two stripes. some of the white airmen that came over, they got promoted to E5 and they came over as a PFC. I came over as an Airman Second Class.
I was a pretty good baseball pitcher. As a matter of fact, I was being scouted by the Dodgers. I had a little girlfriend from England. Every time I would pitch, she would come and see me. After the game, she would run out onto the field and hug and give me a kiss. As soon as baseball season ended, they shipped me out to Germany. Because they did not want to see that. So, it was not a Rosie trip. It was tough.
Promotion wise, I was probably the best-dressed soldier in my company. I could shine a shoe until it looks like mercury. My uniform was always pressed and clean, my buttons were always buttoned. I did not make a stripe.
In Vietnam in 1966, I was working in the motor pool as a final inspector on vehicles. My first sergeant, the senior enlisted man in my company, he and his buddy had been drinking and they were in the latrine. I came up late after final inspecting a five-ton dump truck. The first sergeant and his buddy were the only two in the latrine. They were on the right side of the latrine and I went to the left side. His remarks were “Yea, I don’t see nothing wrong with a n*gg*r. Every white man should have two of them.” I went off! And if he were not wrong, I would have been a private because I cussed him out. He was supposed of been lifted by the higher powers. He had to retire from what they told me. but they shipped me out as soon as they could after the incident. It wasn’t two weeks afterward; I was on my way back to the states.
So, all these things that you had to endure. Among the black soldiers, on promotion day we had a Passover party. Because all of us got passed over. I had six years in grade as an E5. I was probably right in the middle because we had some guys that had 10 years who served a whole tour in Vietnam under this first sergeant and did not get promoted. So, he put a block on our promotions.
I had gone to school in Fort Carson Colorado for TAMMS. Tactical Army maintenance mechanical systems. Colonel Colin Powell was in charge. He was a G4 officer. He wrote me a letter of appreciation. it remained in my records. After which, I made E6, E7, and was in line for E8 if I would have stayed two more years, but I was ready to retire. After he got promoted, he left and went to the Pentagon. he got promoted to general. In other words, he was high up in the ranks of the army. So, they recognize that letter that he had written about me. that is what helps me get promoted. Acting first sergeant. I was in charge of transportation for the executive branch. all of that occurred after I was under his jurisdiction. That is my army story.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 West Virginia Black Heritage Festival has been canceled but that doesn't mean we're taking a break!