2018-02-07 / Families & Friends

First few nights were hard

By EVERETT VANOVER

We left Jenkins during Christmas break in 1945 for the old Army Air Corps. I was with other young teenagers. We were taken to Fort Meade, Maryland, to be sworn in, get our shots and military clothing.

The first morning there, I looked around and Dickie Anderson and I were the only boys from home still there. The others had chickened out and gone back home.

After we received our shots, we went into this large building and the men behind the counters threw clothing to us, not asking our size. We put them into large barracks bags, and went back to our barracks and exchanged the clothes with each other until we got the size that fit us.

The next morning we were put on a troop train for the three-day trip to Wichita Falls, Sheppard Air Base, Texas, for our basic training. All the bananas I ate to gain the weight to get into the military did not agree with me during that trip.

When we arrived, we were assigned 100 men to a flight. Our leader was from Hazard, and we became friends. He showed me how to make our beds and asked me to show the others. From the first day he taught me how to march the men.

The first few nights were hard on some of the guys, a lot of crying was going on. I had never been away from home before, but I willed myself not to cry.

During our four trips to the rifle range I found out that some of these men had never even held a gun before. The way they handled the guns, I was afraid they would shoot someone. I gave them extra training on the guns, as I was raised on our farm and we were taught all about guns for years.

The third and fourth trip to the range, we all made sharpshooters. We were told that it had never happened before.

Our captain was very happy with us. He was given a placard to hang on the wall in his office. He made me acting corporal. They ran a story in the base paper about what I did. I have no idea where the paper is now.

I was the only person sent to radio school to be a crewmember on a B-17 bomber.

After a year I was back in Jenkins looking for a job. Not finding a job, I reenlisted and stayed for a total of 27 years; 23 of them, I was one of the best printers in the Air Force.

(Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.)

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