MEET OUR VETERANS:
U.S. Air Force
James was born in McKinney, Texas September 7th, 1934. He had two brothers and one sister. His brothers, Gene, and Charles, and a sister named Patsy who is deceased. James was his father’s name and Johnnie was his mother’s name. His dad worked in Arlington during the war building bombers and his mother stayed at home.
After the war they moved to Royce City in the late 40s. That is where James grew up. His dad had a sister that lived in the country near Royce City.
“We were on the farm when we moved to Royce City for about a year then we moved into town. My dad became manager of a grocery store. By the time I was 13 or 14 I was the projectionist at Royce City theatre and worked there for about 2-3 years. Saw a lot of free movies and still remember “Gone with the Wind.” We had 35mm film. I worked 3 nights a week and a matinee on the weekend. I did that until I graduated from Royce City High School. I played a little baseball as a catcher. I got into tennis a little later on.”
“Korea had started and I went into the military in 1953. I had just graduated from High School. I volunteered for the Air Force. I went to basic at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Boot Camp was more restrictive for me that being hard. I spent about six weeks in boot. From Boot Camp they sent me to Fort Sam Houston. I got my military designation AFSC 902050 as a medic there and trained in the big Hospital at Sam Houston. I can still remember my serial number. I trained at Sam Houston Hospital for about eight weeks.”
“There was an air base located in Ardmore, Oklahoma. There was a base hospital located, however I don’t remember the name. I worked in the out-patient part of the hospital at sick call. The first time I was there I was there in 1953 and left around 1955. I rode an ambulance sometimes and I delivered a baby in the ambulance. I remember that the most. The mother said, “have you ever delivered a baby before?” I said, “No ma’am,” and she said, “Let me talk you thru it, this is my third one and I will talk you thru it.” Thank goodness, I thought at the time, said James. I was delivering her to the hospital and her water broke. “I was scared.” I was glad I had that experience, because once I got overseas I delivered a couple of more babies and felt a little more comfortable then. “It was a boy,” smiled James. “It was my first baby and it made me feel good. I think I was more relieved and happier than she was. I had something to brag about for a while.” “The last baby I delivered was stillborn and that was sad.”
“I was stationed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. I was five miles from Aramco oil Refinery. There was an airfield there. I got in Saudi in March of 1955. I got out of the vehicle and went to the hospital and I walked into the hospital and there were two people I knew. Eight Thousand miles and here are two people and realized it is a small world.
My first assignment there was working in medical supply. I received supplies in and then sent them out to other hospitals. I had a roommate named “Bill.” He told me that his father-in-law was the Governor of Tennessee and I am not going to be here very long. Two months later he was gone. I spent a year in Saudi and most of that time was spent in medical supply. I disliked the heat in that country. I liked the people and my fellow servicemen. I met some Saudis I liked.
There was a male nurse, I liked him a lot. He lived in Bahrain Island on the Persian Gulf. He got his education in America and spoke English very fluently. The culture of Saudi Arabia is something you have to get used to. A lot of the ladies wore veils. I remember one time a younger girl about my age pulled her veil back and she was smiling at me. That was very unusual to happen in that country.
One time we got a jeep out of the motor pool and drove out into the desert and came to this little village and the people there started throwing rocks at us. We had to get back in our jeep and get out of there. We figured it was the first time they had ever seen Americans before.
I did travel to Beirut, Lebanon while I was there. While I was in Lebanon I went down to Israel, so I did get to travel some.
When I was in Saudi about the only time I saw cars were from America and they used them for taxis. When we went to Al Khobar the kids follow you around with their hands out saying, “Buck chees, Buck chees.” I picked up some of the language while I was there.”
Ardmore, Oklahoma and got married
“In March 1956 I was sent back to Ardmore, Oklahoma for a 2nd time. I had met my wife in 1954 before I went to Saudi. I met her in Oklahoma City. Her cousin, Joann lived in Ardmore and she introduced me to Seldrie. She was in nursing training in Oklahoma City. We got married in October 1956. We have been married 63 years in October of this year. She took a job in Ardmore and in 1957 we got order to Paris, France.”
“I received orders to Paris, France and my wife joined me there three months later. I was stationed at Orly Field which was a civilian airport. There were about twenty of us stationed there. We took medical care, mostly physicals, of the “Big Wheels” from NATO. The General from NATO came and got physicals from us. There wasn’t anything about France that I didn’t like. I wasn’t really fond of the French people. My wife and I were young and we enjoyed living there.
We were stationed there for a better part of a year and then I was assigned to Germany.”
Sembach Air Base, Germany
“I was back working in the out-patient clinic in the hospital there. I was back riding an ambulance again. I delivered two more girls and one was a stillborn, who was also a girl. The second experience was better because this time I knew what to do,” and we both laugh.
“The last one was quite a distance from the base, it was in the middle of the night, and by the time I got there her husband had tried to deliver her because the baby was coming. When I went in he immediately went to the bathroom and started vomiting. The baby was half out and breached. I finished delivering her but it was too late. I took mother and baby to the hospital.
I loved the German people, they are fantastic people. I really liked Germany. I worked basically 8 to 5 and I worked some nights. I picked up more ladies needing help but got them to the hospital. I picked up one lady in the BOQ on base and she was pregnant.
I put her on the stretcher and she took her on to Landstuhl Hospital. Next time I saw her, she told everyone, “This is my doctor here.” I had on whites and her water broke but she remembered me as her doctor,” James said laughing and shaking his head.
“I was in Germany for two years. My wife and I did some travelling and really loved the southern part of the country. Bavaria was really beautiful. You don’t have to go very far to see beauty.”
In 2001 we back to Germany and visited some of our friends. We also travelled to Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France and back to Paris. It was fantastic.”
Discharged from the Air Force
“I was in the U.S. Air Force for a total of eight years. Over the years I have asked myself why I didn’t stay a few more years in the military. It got to the point where I just didn’t like the structured environment like standing in lines etc., even though we often lived off of the base. I got to the point where I had just enough, so I got out in 1961. I got out as an Airman First Class. I got to see the world and I appreciate that about the military and I was able to take my wife with me. My fondest memories was my travel. I met some lifelong friends that remained after we got out of the service. Unfortunately, them and their spouses have passed away but we were lifelong friends. The values I learned was just to do a good job. I had learned in the military to type and when I got out I got a job shipping and receiving.
I recalled in Saudi I got good food. Since I was a medic I did not have to do a lot of KP and was able to do some trading off. It was excellent food. I remember telling the cook that I enjoyed and told him you really fix good chicken. He laughed and said, Perkins that is not chicken that is rabbit you have been eating. The only thing I can’t stand is liver.”
AFTER THE MILITARY
“I worked shipping and receiving at Space Corporation after the military. We built missiles for the government in Garland. It was a private company and I worked there for about two years.
In 1961 my wife worked at Doctor’s Hospital in Dallas as a nurse. She was there for 38 years.
When I left the Space Corporation, I worked for a bank and worked at First National Garland. I worked in bookkeeping. I stayed about two years there, too.
Then I worked at a Buick Dealership in Garland in Bookkeeping. I stayed in until about 1967. I liked bookkeeping, so I decided I would go to college and become an accountant. I went to North Texas and got a degree in accounting in 1970. While I was going to college I worked for the IRS, as an auditor. They wanted me to stay on but I told them, no I gave eight years in the service I don’t want to work for Uncle Sam anymore.
After graduation I went to work for Xerox as an accountant. I worked there for about 26 years and retired in 1962. They were a good company to work for.”
BACK TO VAN ZANDT COUNTY
“My neighbors moved to Canton in 1988. We came down and visited with them on the weekends. I learned to love Canton. After I retired
and in June 1999 I was ready to move to Van Zandt County. We were living in South Dallas in Mesquite and I eventually moved to Canton and bought a house.
Our son, who was born in Germany was killed in a car crash in 1979.
Kevin was born in 1965 and he lives in Canton where we live. I like the people there.
In my younger days I painted. My oldest son, Mark was an artist. I like pen and ink. I have done oil but pen and ink best. It just came natural to me. My son was the same way. Kevin, my youngest son was in school and he made some bad grades but his teacher said he just likes to play. Today, he is an engineer.”
James, thank you for your service to our country while serving in the United States Air Force.
NOTE: Meet other Veterans from Van Zandt County by going to the top of this page and click on MEET OUR VETERANS and click one of the (5) branches of services and the veterans last name first and click to read.
“Every Veteran has a story to tell.” Phil Smith
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
(ALL photos on this Facebook page are ©2019, Phil Smith and Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial. NO unauthorized use without permission) All Rights Reserved.
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