MEET OUR VETERANS:
Ron and Joyce Williams U.S. Army, Canton Tx.
( Husband and Wife )
Ron: Desert Storm
Joyce: U.S. Army Reserve
Joyce was born in Erie, Pennsylvania on February 21st, 1954. She had two brothers and two sisters. Linda, the older sister is passed away, her older brother Danny is a Viet Nam veteran, and two younger sisters, Patti and Ric. Betty and Richard Bukoski were her parents’ names.
“My dad was a WWII Navy Seabee,” said Joyce as we sat down for this interview at the Veterans Memorial office.
“He is the one on Tinian Island photo you have on the wall with my dad standing next to the Enola Gay. He helped build the airfield that the Enola Gay landed on before the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. All he was told was there was going to be a BIG boom. He drove a bulldozer and he hit a fuel storage tank hidden underground. He laughed that he almost blew up an airstrip. He was 17 ½ when he went into the military.”
Joyce lived out in the country and had a horse named “Dusty.” “He was a buckskin, beige with black legs. We had about an acre garden and we were Catholics so on Friday’s we would eat sweet corn and that was the whole meal,” recalled Joyce.
ON THE MILITARY
“I entered the military because I was single and wanted the benefits of a VA loan. I wanted to be able to buy a house.” Ron and his wife eventually did use the VA loan but instead of Joyce’s they used Ron’s benefits.
“I volunteered for the Army Reserve in 1985 and was about 32 years old. I got married in 1990 to Ron who is featured in this article as well. I considered going in after High School, but women weren’t encouraged to go into the military in the 70’s.
I was interested in the medical field, possibly in nursing. I started out in 6252 Army Medical Hospital where they had various nursing programs. I went to boot camp in Fort Dix, Kentucky.
In boot camp we had about three Platoons with around 30 women in each. Because we were so small a unit we ended up doing KP three or four times during our eight weeks at Boot.
My MOS out of boot camp was 91A, field medic. We were a hospital unit and was mostly performed medical assistance for the Doctors. We worked with Nellis Air Force Base Hospital in southern Nevada. It was a SAC AF Base. I really like people and enjoyed working at the hospital. We would do physicals and I would usually help with the eye tests, checking for glaucoma and things like that. I was a Sargant with I got out of the Military. I served 12 years in the Army. I served in Panama for two-week summer camp for the Noriega conflict when they were starting to build up the troops. We went there as medical assistants.
When I got into the 126 medical unit I really enjoyed working there. We went out as four-man crews so you didn’t have the military standards with officers and enlisted men. There was a lot of comradeship there. You got to know the officers on a more personal basis,” said Joyce.
NEAR CRASH IN A HELICOPTER
“I was called on a rescue mission up in the Trinity Alps in northern California. It was snowing and we stopped and picked up the Sheriff who knew where the missing person was. It was a hoist mission. I was lowered out of the helicopter. We got him into the chopper and he wasn’t injured. The snow was really coming down making visibility near impossible. We dropped the Sheriff and the missing person off to a waiting ambulance. It was getting dark and we started heading back home. We lost our spotlight, so we were flying blind in the mountains. We also lost radio contact so nobody could bring us in. The fuel gauge was also broken. What could go wrong went wrong on this rescue mission. We had to do an emergency landing. I saw a light which turned out to be a pink champagne glass in the night, on the side of a bar. The town was called Big Bar. We opened the doors and started circling down for a landing. We ended up landing on Main Street of Big Bar, California. Yes, we eventually made it to the bar for a drink or two. The Sheriff was laughing because when he saw the helicopter come in without lights, they thought it was a drug raid. We got a big laugh out of that one,” laughed Joyce.
VALUES FROM THE MILITARY
“One of the values I learned from the military was to never quit. There was a job, you just do it. I learned thru the military to never to be afraid to stand up for yourself, and don’t get upset about the little things. The worst military food I had was at Fort Dix. The cook there didn’t like to cook so we got chili mac five days a week. The best food was at the medivac shack because we would go out and buy our own food and cook. It had a kitchen so we cooked what we each wanted,” recalled Joyce.
MOVE TO VAN ZANDT COUNTY
“In 2008 we moved to Van Zandt County. We wanted to come to the Texas because the land values were cheap. We looked at Dallas and drew a circle about an hour outside of Dallas. We met a realtor in Canton that answered all our questions and she started a website and when a property met our criteria she would send us the pictures and all the details. We were living in Greenwood, California at the time and it took about two years to find a home in Canton. The real estate market in California had bottomed out and it took a while to sell our house there,” said Joyce.
“I have had horses my whole life. We have shown horses and carriages since we were married in 1990. I am on the Board of Tejas Carriage Association. Our show horses were all Morgan’s, until I had a spinal fusion and now I show a Welsh Pony. He is a lot smaller and the carriages are a lot smaller too. We do it for the love and our interests. There is no money involved, mostly just ribbons and trophies. For the last ten years my husband has been doing most of the shows and I have been helping. My pony is named “Dandy Lion.” These were major Welsh Breeders from Wisconsin where we got the pony. It must be a gene that is inherited because no one in my family is into horses. They are part of your soul. It’s like having kids, 24-7, 365 days a year,” said Joyce.
RAISING MORGAN HORSES
“The Morgan horses are the first American breed of horses. They were bred by the early settlers and can do just about anything. They came from a single Stallion. That was back in 1794. We once owned a Mare that went back to this period. The Genealogy history on the Morgan’s used to be in Vermont and have moved to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky,” recalled Joyce.
The Morgan horse is one of the earliest horse breeds developed in the United States. Tracing back to the foundation sire Figure, later named Justin Morgan after his best-known owner, Morgans served many roles in 19th-century American history, being used as coach horses and for harness racing, as general riding animals, and as cavalry horses during the American Civil War on both sides of the conflict. Morgans have influenced other major American breeds, including but not limited to the American Quarter Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse and the Standardbred. ( Courtesy WIKIPEDIA )
“I always wanted to take a Morgan horse to the National Show in Oklahoma City. We now have an 11-year old that we could work that way. We have four Morgans and the oldest is 32,” said a smiling Joyce.
Ron on Joyce and their Marriage
“I went down to Camp Roberts which was a summer camp for me. Her unit was at the Troop Medical Clinic supporting the camp.
I met her there and thought she looked very nice and we talked and realized we had a lot in common. I had some vacation time and I went to Vegas and she showed me around. We met again in July and I went to Vegas in October in 1989,” said Ron looking over at Joyce and smiled.
“He proposed in October and I said we should have a long engagement, because we didn’t really know each other,” recalled Joyce. “We set the wedding up to April 21st of the next year. I then went to California to meet his family. It was a long-distance romance.
From there we moved back to California where we joined the 126th and became flight medics together.”
Joyce added, “We ended up buying a house but used Ron’s VA benefits.”
“I was born in Roseville, California on September 17, 1956. I have one brother and two sisters, Donna and Tanya. My older brother, Edwin, was in the Army and into Helicopters too. My dad was in Korea but we never talked too much about it so I don’t know a lot about what he did,” said Ron as he and his wife conducted our interview at the Veterans Memorial office.
“As a young boy I was around horses, so I was used to them. We lived out in the country. My day would be, get up in the morning, get out of the house, come back at dark. I played with the horses, played in the trees, swam in the creek,” a pretty easy life recalled Ron.
JOINING THE MILITARY
“I went into the delayed entry program as a volunteer. I went in October 3, 1977 into the Army. My brother influenced me because he was in the Army and I didn’t know much about the other services. I was fascinated with Helicopters. I went to Boot Camp in Fort Knox, Kentucky. I got to boot at wee hours of the morning all I seemed to do was fill out paperwork. They were so nice to us, we got to go to the barracks and got to sleep until 0700. I was thinking this was a great thing, this Army. Then the old trashcan came barreling down the barracks hallway. I heard that screaming voice, get out of bed screaming at us. I thought, OH MY GOD, what has just happened. From then on, it was like, what have I got myself into?” recalled Ron laughing.
“When I got out of High School I had no direction in life. The military gave me a direction and a sense of purpose in life and it taught me what it was like to be responsible.
I actually volunteered to drive a vehicle, and for once in my life I was glad I did. It got me out of a lot of marching, exercises and things like that. I delivered food, supplies like duffle bags out to the troops.
When I took a battery of tests the Army said I tested high for Power Generators. I thought, no, I didn’t want to play with power generators I wanted to play on Helicopters,” said Ron emphatically.
That was an unusual battle Ronald won with the military, he ended up working as a crew chief on helicopters.
“I maintained and worked on the aircraft and you are assigned one aircraft, that is yours. I was the 58-crew chief, scout ranger. We were assigned with the Cobras, we were the eyes they were the teeth of the operation. Simply, we went out and found the bad guys and they come in and shoot em up, that was our job. We would go out and look like crazy for the enemy, and they would come in and have the fun. I had pilots that taught me how to fly. It was against military regulations, but they taught me anyway. I was always looking for “Monkey Time,” which meant to get into the controls and fly. The pilots taught me how to land this thing. For me, flying a helicopter is as easy as driving a car or riding a bicycle. After a while the operations just become a natural instinct thing. The pilots were patient with me and knew I would make mistakes but I learned. My crew chief job was mostly on the Kiowa-58 Huey,” recalled Ron.
INFO: The general policy of naming Army aircraft after Indians tribes, chiefs or terms was made official by authority of AR 70-28, dated 4 April 1969. Although this regulation has been rescinded, the Indian names were very popular among Army personnel and the practice continues in place. The commanding general of the US Army Material Command has the responsibility of initiating action to select a popular name for aircraft. For this purpose, he has a list of possible names obtained from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (for brevity the names usually consist of only one word). When a new aircraft reaches the production stage or immediately before it goes into production, the commanding general selects five possible names. He bases his selection on the way they sound, their history and their relationship to the mission of the aircraft. They must appeal to the imagination without sacrificing dignity and suggest an aggressive spirit and confidence in the capabilities of the aircraft. They also must suggest mobility, firepower and endurance. ( Source: globalsecurity.org )
“The Kiowa WARRIOR OR OH-58’s were smaller helicopters,” said Ron. “Our rotor systems were smaller so we were able to fit in areas other helicopters couldn’t. We were quick and maneuverable and great visibility out the windshield. I could operate the radios and the navigation communications, monitor the fuel and gauges if my pilot wanted me to. If we were flying low and were attacked we could relay the coordinates to the Apache helicopter above. We would have a map with all the grid coordinates, we would then transmit it back. Inside the craft we would transmit code, which is outdated and no longer used,” stated Ron.
INFO: The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior conducts armed reconnaissance, security, target acquisition and designation, command and control, light attack and defensive air combat missions in support of combat and contingency operations. It replaces the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters (those that function as scouts in air cavalry troops and light attack companies) and OH-58A and C Kiowas in air cavalry troops.
The Kiowa Warrior is equipped with two universal quick-change weapons pylons. Each pylon can be armed with two HELLFIRE missiles, seven HYDRA 70 rockets, two air-to-air Stinger missiles, or one .50 caliber fixed forward machine gun. The armament systems combine to provide anti-armor, anti-personnel, and anti-aircraft capabilities at standoff ranges.
( SOURCE: MILITARY.COM )
“I was stationed in Ft. Lewis, Washington in 1980 when Mount St. Helen’s erupted,” recalled Ron. “At midnight when the volcano blew we are on the flight line uncovering all the aircraft. We had to move all the aircraft anywhere the ash was not. If it wasn’t flyable it was moved into the hangers,” said Ron.
“As a Huey crew chief, you perform medivac missions. We would go to Camp Roberts, set up, and when we got a call we responded. My job was to maintain the aircraft. When we get to a scene, I assist the medic. We never lift the patient ourselves. We get the people there to assist. We need to make sure we are not hurt or no one could fly the aircraft. We then transport to the troop medic clinic or to the hospital. After that mission, I would fuel the chopper, check out anything mechanically they needed to be worked on and get ready for the next mission,” said Ron.
DESERT STORM / DESERT SHIELD ACTION
“We were stationed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and living at the Khobar Towers, the same building that was bombed in 1996. The Khobar Towers were attacked by a terrorist driving a tanker truck loaded with 5,000 pounds of explosives. Nineteen U.S. service members were killed and 382 were injured,” said Ron shaking his head.
IRAQI SCUD MISSLE HIT A WAREHOUSE/BARRACKS
“Many times, while I was stationed in Saudi Arabia we had to don gas masks. We were always on high alert for chemical weapons being launched from Iraq via Scud Missiles. One evening a Scud landed about five miles from where we were staying.”
On the evening of February 25, 1991, an Iraqi scud missile plunged into a “barracks/warehouse” used to house U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 475th Quartermaster Group in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. As a consequence of this scud attack, 28 soldiers died, 110 were hospitalized, and 150 experienced minor physical injuries and/or subsequent mental health problems. This one scud’s impact accounted for more than one-third of all U.S. soldiers killed during the war.
Today, a monument stands at the Army Reserve center to honor some of the citizen soldiers who deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm.
The 14th Quartermaster Detachment Memorial was dedicated Feb. 25, 1992, the first anniversary of an Iraqi Scud missile attack that killed 13 members of the Greensburg water purification unit and wounded 43 others.
A wreath-laying ceremony here Feb. 25 marked the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. ( Courtesy DOD News Article and photos )
“When I was in Saudi Arabia I was stationed with the 980th MEDSOM. This was a medical supply unit which was totally out of my training field. We would get medical supplies in, sort them, pack them and ship them out to the units. I ran a forklift loading A-Lots which were large metal pallets they came off the C-130’s. We processed 97 of these A-lots in and out in one day. At the time there were only three MEDSOMS supplying the troops. The Colonel came down and said he wanted to talk to the troops. He spoke directly to me and was impressed with me working all day on the forklift and for my effort was given a “Challenge Coin” from him. I treasure that coin to this day,” smiled Ron.
According to Joyce, “the only time we were ever working together in the same Unit was in the 126th medical company air ambulance. That was in Sacramento, California at a SAC base called Mather Air Force Base. We were in the same flight platoon while in the Reserves.” Ron added, “one of the things I liked about working there was the comradeship. We all cared about each other, we were one big family and it did not feel like a military structure.”
“I ended up with Three years active and 18 years in the Army Reserve,” aid Ron. “When I was getting ready to get out, there was talk about getting rid of the Huey and going to the Blackhawk. I wasn’t thrilled about learning another helicopter and it was time for me to leave the military. The three helicopters I was crew chief on were the OH-58 Jet Ranger, AH-1G Cobra, and UH-1H Huey medivac. My favorite was the Huey. It was the most forgiving and most reliable helicopter EVER. I have gone down twice with mechanical failure. In one instance the engine shield control system shut off and then turned back on. It was like turning off your car ignition while going down the highway. Not good. We were able to set the chopper down. In the second instance we were getting negative feedback thru the controls. The pilot starting getting violent aft and forward input from the controls. It is beating him up. He declares an emergency landing and we end up in a farmer’s field. The servo wheel had two bolts that were broken off, one nut had backed itself off and we had one nut with quarter inch thread holding it together. If it had come off there would have been a green spot in the farmer’s field. All the time I spent as a crew chief and did fly a little, I always thought that one day I would like to get my pilot’s license. Then I was too old. You can’t be older than 27 ½,” said Ron.
“I love working with the horses because they are so therapeutic. I will hook up my gelding to my carriage and just take off for a two- or three-hour ride. It is a great way for me to relax and unwind,” smiled Ron.
“In my retirement I really enjoy my Ink Pen turning. I buy different pens and work on the wood lathe. I use all types of wood like teak, spalted, oak and cedar. I use both hard and soft woods. The softer woods are sometimes harder to work with because they splinter. Every pen is a different creation. I put the wood in a vat and add cactus juice, vacuum chamber which fills in all the cracks. In essence it glues everything together. Now you can turn it on the lathe. I buy a kit and from that comes the different designs on the pen. You drill a hole and put a tubing in there, glue it and sand it all down. Then you add the design and put it all together. The longest part is cutting the wood to the length of the tubing. It takes about an hour to an hour and a half depending on how the wood works. I then let it dry overnight. There are names for each Pen. I even have a Desert Storm pen. I have a workshop outside. I started about three or four years ago. I have done over 50 pens,” said Ron pointing down at several on the table.
From flying helicopters, training Morgan horses to making their own pens, what an interesting couple.
Ron and Joyce, thank you for your service in the U.S. Army and serving our great country.
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
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
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