In the days after graduation I went into high gear preparing for our wedding day. I made arrangements with Debbie's grandmother Grace to rent her upstairs apartment. This would turn out to be the first of many mistakes that I have made in my life. One could also argue that getting married at 18 was a mistake but God has blessed me in that department. I moved from the house on McKennie to our apartment at 2001 Russell Street next to the Shelby Park golf course and clubhouse. There was a steep hill on the golf course near our apartment. This was a great pace for sledding in the wintertime. Didi and I were arguing when I left home because she didn't like Debbie. She thought that Debbie was taking advantage of me. Especially since she was caught cheating. Didi would refer to her as "That little split tailed girl". That never made much sense to me since all girls have that physical trait. I invited Gus to stay with me until the day of the wedding. At that time a blood test was required in order to get a marriage license. So, we got one at the Lentz medical center near Centennial Park. The next step was applying at the Davidson County courthouse for a marriage license. On Friday June 14th 1968 we all piled into Grace Brown's car and drove to Springfield Tennessee. Debbie was just 17 so she had to have her mother's permission. There were four of us. Debbie's mom Margaret, Grace, myself and Debbie. I have since discovered that Mrs. Phillips was against the marriage because of our age. However she considered me to be a (Horny Toad) and was afraid that if she didn't give her consent, Debbie would just end up pregnant. She had married young herself. When we arrived at the courthouse it was old and smelly and there were some undesirable people hanging around. As our luck would have it the clerk would not allow us to be married because of a technicality. We didn't know it but there was a five day waiting period from the date of the marriage license and we had a few more days to wait. Debbie was happy because she didn't want to get married in such a crappy environment. Being a Horny Toad it didn't matter to me. We decided to plan a church wedding the following Friday at Shelby Avenue Baptist Church. The same church Debbie had attended all of her life. Her pastor, Dr. Richard Lucas, married us on Friday, June 21st 1968. Debbie's bridesmaid was her best friend Carolyn Robinson. My best man was a friend that I graduated with named Larry James. Gus would have if he hadn't been working. The guests were Grace Brown, Debbie's mom, her sister Judy, my sister Donna and Didi. Because we were fighting I didn't invite Didi to the wedding. I have regretted that to this day but I was being a butt head. She came anyway and I am glad for that. Didi loved her boys. I owe her so much for the sacrifices that she made for us and she treated Mark and me as if we were her own.
I can't remember much about our wedding day but I can remember looking over at Debbie and thinking how lucky that I was as we were driving out of the parking lot. The guessing game was over and hopefully we would be together forever. If you can believe it I planned to work on our wedding day. Another big mistake because you only get one shot at marrying the love of your life. I was paranoid about saving money and felt like I couldn't afford to miss any time at work. I had been notified by the Air Force that I was to be inducted on August 5th. This was June 21st and I was broke. I used what little money I had to rent our apartment and I wouldn't be making a lot of money as a new Airman. After a couple of hours of wedded bliss I drove into work. Donna had written (Just Married) and other newlywed slogans all over my car. My fellow workers laughed as I drove in to work like that. I was off that weekend and on Saturday Debbie's family gave us a small wedding reception with a wedding cake and a few presents. Over time Debbie's grandmother mistakenly came to believe that we were dancing upstairs in our apartment. She would take a broom handle and rap it on the ceiling telling us to be quiet. After a while I threw caution to the wind and decided to take Debbie on a weekend honeymoon to Atlanta's Six Flags theme park. I figured that this would be our last chance to be together for a while. We spent all day at the park on Saturday and on Sunday we drove up to Rock City and Point Park in Chattanooga. Bright and early on August 5th 1968 I reported to the Armed Forces Induction Center that was on Union Street. All day long I stood in line, in my underwear ,waiting for the numerous medical tests that were required. It was hurry up and wait all day. I followed the doctors orders, "Turn your head and cough". "Bend end over and spread your cheeks", Afterwards we were told to dress and wait with everybody else in a big room. An Army sergeant ordered us to raise our hands and repeat after him. We all swore allegiance to our respective branch of service. Each branch of the military was represented that day. There were only two of us going to the Air Force however. I was chosen as group leader and given the records for myself and the other man. We hopped into a taxi that took us straight to the Nashville airport. Debbie, Didi, Uncle Doug, and Aunt Catherine were there to see me off. I was very nervous about flying and this was going to be my first time on an airplane. The recruiter told me that I wouldn't have to fly that much. He lied. People ask me why I would join the Air Force if I was afraid of flying. My response is that I was hoping that it would keep me out of Vietnam and I figured that it was the best branch for a married man. It probably made as much sense as someone who can't swim joining the Navy. Debbie surprised me with a wedding band that I am still wearing to this day. After a long goodbye kiss I boarded an American Airlines 727 for Dallas Texas. Upon arrival at Dallas Love Field I transferred to a Braniff 727 that took us to San Antonio.
By the time we reached the San Antonio airport it was late. There was a very large group of recruits that had arrived from all over the country. After a long wait we boarded several buses that took us to Lackland A.F.B. We were ordered off the buses and into a chow hall where we were told to take a seat. A Training Instructor in a Smokey Bear hat, or a T.I. as we called them, instructed the group leaders to pass our paperwork to the front. A feeling of panic swept over me as I realized that I didn't have my folder. I hadn't been at Lackland ten minutes and I was already screwing up. The T.I. wasn't happy but he didn't go into a tirade like you see in the movies. Someone was sent back to the airport to look for my folder. In the meantime we were fed and over a period of time the men were divided into training Flights. I was assigned to Flight 952. A Flight in the Air Force is a military unit similar to the Army designation of a platoon or company. Because of my stupidity our training Flight was the last to leave the chow hall sometime after midnight. Our folder was found on the chair where I had been sitting at the airport. When we arrived at our barracks a slender white TI, in his mid to late 30's, was waiting for us in the day room. Our barracks was not the old fashioned open bay barracks like you see in movies. There were plenty of these on base but our building had two wings that was divided by an open room called the day room. It was a two story building with four man rooms. Our TI was extraordinarily nice. So far things hadn't been that bad. He introduced himself and asked us if we had been fed and if any of us were having problems. So far the image I had of basic training was wrong. The vision of recruits being screamed at and cursed from the moment they boarded the bus, just hadn't happened. Our TI assigned each of us to a room and we were bedded down for the night.
|Modern Air Force recruits|
|An open bay barracks at Lackland during the 1960's|
|These were the new barracks that were being built while I was at Lackland|
|Everyone was made to fill these cards out and they were sent to loved ones|
It seemed like I had just closed my eyes when I was awakened by a blinding light. That nice TI had suddenly transformed into a demon. He was screaming get up, get up, get up and spewing forth profanities as we formed up in the day room. From that moment on we began to learn the military way of doing things and this dude was constantly breathing down our necks. Before sunrise, we would line up outside our barracks and march to breakfast. We were all outfitted with a reflector vest, a flash light, and a pith helmet. New recruits were issued a yellow tee shirt with the words US Air Force in large black letters. This, along with our civilian pants, was our uniform for the first two weeks of basic training. Then we were issued our uniforms. Until then we were derisively called (Rainbows). While in the chow line you were taught to stand at attention, looking straight ahead into the back of the head of the man in front of you. There was no talking as the line slowly moved slowly toward the serving line. I learned the hard way not to take my eyes off of the man in front of me. Something appeared in my peripheral vision and I turned my eyes to the left. A TI was in my face. "You love me Boy"? I shouted "Sir, no sir". We were taught that the first and last thing out of our mouth was sir. "Are you queer"? I replied "Sir, no sir", "Eyes front, dip shit". After reaching the serving line we picked up a tray, silverware, and a glass. Continuing at attention, we looked looked straight ahead as we sidestepped toward the end of the line. A plate of food was handed to us by the server. The first Airman to reach the table would hold up three fingers while standing at attention. This meant that there was room for three more. As each man reached the table the 1st Airman would continue the count until all all spots were occupied. Then everyone would sit down together. Only then were we allowed to talk and be at ease. The same routine was followed for breakfast, lunch and supper. After breakfast we were marched back to our barracks where we changed into our PT gear. This was a pair of shorts, tee shirt, and combat boots. The object was to finish our physical training of sit-ups, leg lifts, push-ups, jumping jacks, numerous other exercises, and a mile and a half run before the yellow or red flag was raised. August is brutally hot in San Antonio and the base had a flag system. A yellow flag meant that it was too hot for physical training of recruits that had been on base ten days or less. A red flag meant that it was too hot for anyone to train. The red flag would go up more times than the yellow flag while I was there. As it was the ambulances could be seen running to and fro picking up the heat casualties. Occasionally we would have an Airman fall out on us during PT or drill. We were ordered to swallow salt tablets all during the day in order to keep us from passing out. This practice has since been discontinued because of the effect of salt on blood pressure. At the end of the day, after we were issued our OD green uniforms they would develop white lines and patches after our sweat would dry from the salt in our bodies. On our first full day we were marched to the barber shop for a buzz cut. This was the late sixties and long hair was the style. Several of the men that I had formed friendships with were unrecognizable after coming out of the barber shop. We would have our hair cut every week until the last two weeks. After the barber shop we were marched to the hospital for our immunizations. There was a gauntlet of medics outside of the dispensary shooting us with air needle guns. Some of the men were cut or left with bloody welts on their arms because they flinched or jumped as they were being shot. Many had blood trickling down their arms.
|A new Air Force recruit losing his hair|
|An air needle|
|Winston Churchill wearing a pith helmet|
|Modern day Air Force recruits doing PT|
After PT we were marched to the barracks for a shower and training. From the first day everyone was forced to shave whether they shaved or not. I was already shaving but many of the first timers looked like they had been in a fight with bloody toilet paper stuck to their face in an attempt to stop the bleeding from shaving cuts. By this time the yellow or red flags were flying and this would be an opportunity to learn how to properly organize our lockers. We were also taught how to make our bunks and our clothes had to be folded and organized a certain way in our lockers. Everything had to be uniform. We were taught how to salute and report to an officer. Sometimes we would march to the training center to learn Air Force military courtesy, history, and tradition. Proper uses of the flag and things like that. After the yellow and red flags were lowered we would go to the drill pad to fine tune our marching skills. When marching we were lined up in four ranks. Because of my height I was picked as a squad leader. Bad mistake because I couldn't march and was constantly tripping up everyone behind me. My TI jerked me out of line and put me in the rear of the rank but I was still tripping the guy in front of me. I was so uncoordinated that the TI would march alongside me in the same way that Sgt Carter did in Gomer Pyle USMC, cussing and screaming at me. He would shout "Segroves, your so damn uncoordinated, How do you even f_ _k," It took me a while but I finally got the hang of it. I loved the marching songs we learned like (GI beans and GI gravy, gee I wished I'd joined the Navy. Am I right or wrong? Am I right or wrong? Sound off. one two Sound off three, four. Bring it on down now, o-n-e, t-w-o, t-h-r-e-e, f-o-u-r. One, t-w-o, three, four). Or (If I die in Vietnam, send my body home to mom), and then we would repeat the refrain. There were other marching songs but these were a couple of my favorites. After drill we would march to the chow hall for supper. After two weeks we were issued uniforms and we were no longer Rainbows.
During basic training I pulled KP or (Kitchen Patrol) three times. We went to the obstacle course twice and the firing range once. I hated KP. The modern military no longer pulls KP because the chow halls are pretty much run by civilians. On KP day we had to be up by 3:00 AM and we would return to the barracks around 9:00 PM. Everybody hated pots and pans because the work was hot and very hard. The pots and pans were large and heavy and I pulled this duty twice. On another occasion I washed plates all day. I was looking forward to the obstacle course until I ran it the first time. It was much harder than I imagined. We ran the course in our OD green uniforms and combat boots. The TI's warned us that if anybody fell in the water they would finish the course in wet clothes. The worse part of the course was the minefield. We had to crawl through metal chutes with mines blowing up all around us. The ground was like concrete and the chutes were packed with low crawling Airmen. Each time there was an explosion the noise was deafening. I was trying to hurry the men in front because they kept stopping. I could feel the concussions in my bones. Another part of the course that I didn't like was the gas chamber. We were supposed to run through a building holding our breath until we made it out the other side. I did okay but I took a breath too soon and got a good whiff of the gas. About halfway through the course I came to a pond that had ropes stretched across. You were hanging upside down on the rope while pulling your body across the pond with your hands. I made it about halfway across until my legs slipped off of the rope. The lower part of my body was down in the water. As much as I tried I couldn't lift my legs to the rope. A TI shouted "Let go dip shit" and I fell into the water. This was about halfway through the course and I had to finish soaking wet in water logged boots. The first attempt at the obstacle course was about two weeks into basic training. The second attempt was about the fifth week and it was just as difficult but I was able to finish in dry clothes.
|Obstacle course at Lackland|
|Obstacle course at Lackland|
About the second or third week we went to the firing range. Until then the only time I had ever fired a gun was when I used my dad's 22 caliber pistol. We were shooting at a coke bottle on the Cumberland river. I never came close to hitting it. This was the same pistol used to kill my mother, I also fired daddy's shotguns a time or two. We were briefed on safety. How to aim using breath control, the proper trigger pull and the nomenclature of the M-16 rifle. The TI wanted to know where we were from. One man said North Carolina and I said Tennessee. He pointed at us and said we have a couple of Davy Crockett's here. Yeah right. The range TI was screaming and hollering at us the whole time and I was a bundle of nerves. We were told to load five rounds into our magazines in order to zero in. We were to assume the prone position and were ordered to place the selector switch on semi-automatic. The instructions were to fire one round. Then we would go down and check our targets to find out if we were shooting too high, too low, or to the right or left. After each round we would make sight adjustments. The command was given, ready, aim, fire. I fired off five rounds as fast as you could blink an eye. Instead of semi-auto I had accidentally turned the selector switch to full auto. Suddenly a hand grabbed my belt from behind as I was jerked up out of the line. The TI was spewing cuss words I had never heard before as he stood nose to nose with me. I was finally ordered back on the line after being thoroughly embarrassed in front of everybody. The firing resumed and needless to say I didn't qualify. After everyone had finished firing those of us who failed to qualify were walked over to a different range. An older TI took charge of us and he was night and day different from the first one. He spoke in a calm manner as he gave us pointers on how to shoot better. As a result I was able to qualify and over the course of a twenty year career in the Air Force I fired expert every time I went to the range. As a Security Policeman I fired expert in both the rifle and pistol.
|Getting your attention|
|Lackland rifle range|
Our TI told us that there would be a barracks inspection right after lunch one day. All morning long I worked on my locker and bunk making sure everything was in order and ready for inspection. After lunch we marched from the chow hall and were told to stand by our lockers at attention. When the TI reached me he opened my locker and went berserk. He was nose to nose screaming in my face and I had no idea what I did wrong. After he left the room I opened my locker and someone had trashed it while I was at lunch. My underwear and socks were scattered everywhere and my shirts were buttoned in the wrong holes and haphazardly hanging from the hangars. It was obvious that they were playing mind games. About three weeks into basic training our TI was relieved from duty. One morning as we were doing our run he noticed a short, stocky Airmen running with his boxer shorts hanging out of his PT shorts. Unbelievably he was wearing boxer shorts instead of his jock strap, Our TI went crazy. He was screaming profanities and chasing him around the track. The man ran faster and faster until he finally passed out and had to be carted off on a stretcher. Later we found out that he had a heart murmur. After our TI was fired he was replaced by a black TI who was tough but I liked him better. By this time we were beginning to gel as a unit. We were marching better and while I was there we had a few reviews where we were ordered to dress in our 1505's, with our blue service hats and black low quarter shoes. The Air Force has since done away with the 1505 khaki uniform but I loved it. It was very comfortable and sharp. We would march to the drill field where other Flights were forming up. With a color guard, and a band playing the Air Force hymn, we marched in a wide circle around the field. As we passed the officers and guests in the reviewing stand the command, "Eyes Right" was given. I don't know about everyone else but at moments like this I would swell with pride and the hair would stand up on the back of my neck.
|A modern Air Force Basic Training review|
One day we were milling around outside our barracks when I noticed an Airman standing next to me with the last name of Rickenbacker. I asked him if he was related to Eddie Rickenbacker and he said that he was his grandson. Eddie Rickenbacker was an incredibly brave and heroic American. He was America's greatest ace in WW1 with 25 confirmed kills and was a Medal of Honor winner. In addition he survived a near fatal crash in an airliner in February 1941 and in October 1942 he survived 24 days adrift at sea in a life raft after the bomber he was on crashed in the Pacific during WW2. He was carrying a reprimand to MacArthur from the White House for one of his many instances of insubordination. Eddie was also the president of Eastern Air Lines for many years. These were just a few accomplishments of Eddie Rickenbacker. I was reading a book about George W. Bush and found out that he and I were at Lackland about the same time and for a while we shared the rank of Airman Basic. He was there in July and August and I was there in August and September. Bush would eventually fly F-102 fighters for the Texas Air National Guard. He is the only president to rise from the rank of Airman Basic to the rank of Commander-In-Chief in American history.
|George W. Bush on the left|
|Taken at a photo booth at Lackland|
Every Airman in basic training was required to pass a 25th day evaluation. If you failed you were set back to the first day of basic training and had to do it all over again. I passed everything but PT and I got a marginal on marching. I failed leg lifts and push ups. We had to do them a certain way. I especially hated leg lifts and I have never been good at push ups. I marched well enough in formation but it was a horse of a different color when I was singled out for evaluation. A life long dream for me was to see the Alamo. I had grown up on Walt Disney's Davy Crockett and all my life I had read about it in the history books. Since I failed my 25th day evaluation I was confined to the barracks the weekend our Flight was granted a weekend pass and my chance at seeing the Alamo was gone. The day I failed all I could think about was being set back. I was missing Debbie and the thought of having to repeat this hell was freaking me out. To this point I had not been able to do all of my leg lifts and push-ups. I had just a few days to get ready for my reevaluation. The stress was getting to me. One day while standing in formation we were waiting to march back to the barracks after supper, I broke down and wept like a baby. It was very embarrassing crying like that in front of the men. They were very understanding, patting me on the back and giving me encouragement. I worked hard all weekend. When my reevaluation day arrived I managed to do my exercises well enough to pass. I also passed on drill and was going to graduate.
One day we were ordered to line up outside of our TI's office. He was going to teach us how to report to an officer. As each man reached his door they would rap three times on the door frame with their fist. When each man's name was called they would enter, snap to attention, and salute. They would say "Sir, Airman Jones reports as ordered Sir." The Airman would hold the salute until it was returned. After being dismissed he would about face and leave the room. It was finally my turn. Everything was fine until I got to the part where I was supposed to say Airman Segroves reports as ordered Sir. I was laughing so hard I couldn't get the words out. He threw a book at me and told me to get out. I tried again and again but I couldn't stop laughing. Each time he would throw something else at me. Finally he told me to wipe the smile off my face or else. He ordered me to put my nose in the corner and stand on one leg. This was very embarrassing and painful because one man after another was coming in behind me and reporting to the sergeant. I was fighting to hold my weight on one foot. After everyone finished reporting I was allowed to try it again and this time I was able to pull it off. I can't explain what happened to me. The situation wasn't funny and I don't know why I was laughing but I just couldn't control myself.
About the fifth week we had a review and were dressed in our 1505's. After our review it was late in the afternoon and we marched to the chow hall for supper. As we were nearing the chow hall there were a bunch of Rainbow Flights standing in formation. Our TI began showing us off in front of the Rainbows. He was marching us back and forth doing some pretty intricate maneuvers. By this time I could march with the best of them and I was really getting into the moment. Our TI gave the command "To the rear march". This was executed perfectly when I heard what I thought was our TI call out "To the rear march" again. I about faced and ran into the man behind me causing the formation to disintegrate into chaos. A TI over one of the Rainbow Flights shouted to the rear march and I was the only one that executed the command. My TI was on me like a "Duck on a June Bug". He pointed to the TI that had pulled the prank and told me to report to him. I ran up and reported to the sergeant. He was in my face and asked me "Are you a Hippie"? It was a long day and I had a little afternoon shadow on my chin. I shouted "Sir, no Sir". He pointed to a Rainbow in the ranks that was dressed in his pith helmet, yellow shirt, and civilian pants. He then shouted"I'm setting you back, take that man's place and trade hats with him". It was just a few days from graduation and I was standing in the same line with Rainbows, wearing a pith helmet, in my dress uniform. Not to mention the fact that I was totally humiliated in front of my Flight and hundreds of Rainbows. After what seemed like an eternity he dismissed me and sent me to the chow hall.
A few days before graduation we received our orders. Today recruits know before they go into basic training what their career field will be after they graduate. We didn't know until we received our orders. Most Airmen were sent to a tech school. I was assigned to the Security Police career field. Because of the war in Vietnam there was a critical need for cops. Most Security Policemen were sent to a six week tech school at Lackland. Others were sent DDA or (Direct Duty Assignment). My orders were DDA for Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls Oregon. I would receive OJT (On The Job Training) when I arrived. I was thrilled to be finished with Lackland and going home on a twenty day leave. About the time I received my orders I was sitting in the rec hall reading my mail. Debbie was pregnant. We planned to have a lot of kids but the plan was to wait until I was out of the Air Force. Regardless I was ecstatic at the news and I was bragging to everyone in sight. My recruiter promised me that I was required to fly to basic but I could choose my mode of transportation after that. The flight down to San Antonio did nothing to alleviate my fears about flying. I put in a request for a bus ticket to Nashville and it was an arduous two day trip. It was my plan to surprise Debbie when I got home. Debbie and Carolyn were walking home from the store and were within sight when my taxi pulled up in front of the house. Carolyn hurriedly walked away and Debbie told me later that she was mad because Debbie had not acted excited to see me. I didn't care because I was just glad to be home. I thoroughly enjoyed my leave but I only had a few days to make a decision about our immediate future together. Didi planned to get her license since she and her long time boyfriend Gigs had broken up. She knew that I wanted to take Debbie to Oregon but I was broke. The only way I could take Debbie with me was to sell her my car. That would give me enough money to pay for bus tickets out to Oregon and have enough money left over to rent an apartment. The only problem would be that we would not have a car in Oregon until I could afford to buy another one. My other option was to drive my car out to Oregon but Debbie would have to stay home until I could save enough money to send for her. This would mean that I would have to live in the barracks for a while. In retrospect option two was my best option. I just couldn't stand the thought of being away from Debbie again. Didi and Roy were doing their best to convince me that my car was not going to be able to make the trip out to Oregon. This was crazy because that Chevy II was a very good car and after I sold it to Didi she drove it for years. She would eventually sell it to my Uncle Doug who would also drive it for years. Selling that car was one of the worst mistakes that I ever made.
I know that there are married couples out there that have endured hardships as bad or worse as we did as newlyweds. Personally I don't know that many. Everything that we owned besides the clothes on our back was packed into my duffel bag and the few suitcases that we were allowed to put on that bus. Debbie already had a baby bump and she was wearing maternity clothes. Her mom cried all morning and after an emotional goodbye we set off on a nightmare of a bus trip. We were trapped in a bus for three long days. Our only relief was when we would change buses and have a layover for an hour or two in some strange city. At that time most Greyhound bus stations were dilapidated, dingy old buildings in the worst part of town. Because our time was limited we had to eat in the bus station restaurants. We had to make our way through some very shady characters hanging around these places. Sometimes the bus would be so crowded when we boarded that we would have to be separated. Once I sat toward the front of the bus and she sat in the back.This was before the interstate was completed and most of the roads that we traveled were two lane highways. The historic Route 66 through the southwest being the most notable. We traveled through Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona, entering California at Needles. From there we rode over to Los Angeles and after a long layover we rode all the rest of the day and night through California and into Oregon. Klamath Falls is only 25 miles north of the California line. We arrived there early in the morning on a cloudy day. Oregon is one of the most beautiful states in America but Klamath Falls was, in my opinion, one of the ugliest towns. It was a logging town and it's hills had been stripped bare of trees. They were brown during the warmer months and white for much of the winter. Just outside of Klamath Falls was some of the prettiest scenery that you would ever want to see. The hills were brown when we pulled into the Klamath Falls bus station in October 1968. I called a taxi and asked the driver to take us to a motel closest to Kingsley Field. When we arrived at the motel we were absolutely exhausted and fell down on the bed together. Debbie was terribly homesick from the minute we arrived and immediately started crying. We lay there together and I held her for a long time trying to comfort her. I looked down at my ankles and they were twice their normal size. Debbie's ankles were the same way. We had been on that bus far too long.
|A typical Greyhound bus station in the 1960's|
|A Greyhound restaurant|
|A Greyhound waiting room in the 1960's|
|A section of Route 66|
|The mountains around Klamath Falls|
|A logging operation on the Klamath River|
|Just outside of Klamath Falls|
|Just outside of Klamath Falls|
I can't remember how long that were in that motel but we walked everywhere that we went. There was a movie theater nearby and we would go to a movie once and a while. Theaters featured one movie at a time back then because they only had one screen. You could see the same movie over and over or wait until a new one came out. Klamath Fall's had one television station that went off the air about 11:00 PM. For a while I had to walk the five or six miles to the base to process in and begin my tour of duty there. I didn't hitchhike but occasionally a local rancher or Airman would take pity and offer me a ride. Eventually I arranged for rides to and from work but every now and then I still had to walk. After a few days I learned about Shasta View Apartments. They had been Marine barracks during WW2 that were eventually converted into apartments. There were aptly named because California's Mount Shasta could be seen from just about anywhere in Klamath Falls. It reminded me of a wooden version of the projects back home in Nashville. There was an apartment shortage in Klamath Falls and many Airmen and their families were living there along with the dregs of society. Kingsley had a nice housing complex on base called Falcon Heights but there was no chance for an Airman of my rank to live there. SSgt's and below generally lived at Shasta View. There was only room for officers and enlisted men of higher rank at Falcon Heights. I paid 65.00 dollars a month to live at 1417 Nimitz Avenue. Debbie received an allotment of 100.00 dollars a month. As an Airman with one stripe I was paid 100.00 dollars a month bi-weekly. In the few days before payday we were down to eating spaghetti or peanut butter and crackers. I have found that the greatest motivator is an empty refrigerator. Living in a dumpy apartment was also a great motivator to move up in the world. Our apartment had no curtains. Only the brown shades that you might see in school portables. We had stick furniture and hardwood floors. I started going to an ice house in Klamath Falls for day work when we ran low on money. On off days I would arrive early in the morning and stand in a group of men hoping that the foreman would pick me. Sometimes I would wait in vain . Many of these men were wino's and derelicts. There were also Airmen like myself with empty refrigerators. One wino was so yellow from liver damage that he almost glowed. Whenever I see the movie (Cinderella Man) I am reminded of this time in my life. In a couple of scenes boxer Jim Braddock, played by Russell Crowe, is waiting to be picked for work on the docks in New York. If a man was chosen for the ice house he would have to squeeze into a large freezer that was packed with frozen food boxes. The temperature was about five degrees below zero. You worked on your hands and knees because there was not enough room to stand up. The men would form a chain, passing the boxes up to a window where men working outside would place the boxes on a conveyor. They would then be loaded on a refrigerated truck. At the end of the day you were paid in cash. I did this for the entire year and a half that I was in Oregon. I also found day work with a local moving company and I worked one whole day on a potato farm. Last but not least we sold a ton of soft drink bottles.
|Leaving Shasta View Apartments for a military ceremony|
About a month or so after we arrived I managed to buy a 1955 Pontiac. It was built like a tank and was basically a piece of junk. However when it was running it gave us some mobility. There was a mall within walking distance of our apartments and a Safeway grocery store. Debbie cried almost everyday. She was still very homesick and was begging to go home. We didn't know anybody yet and she was very lonely. I was working nine day cycles. The first three days were swing shifts from 3:00 PM until 11:00 PM. After a 24 hour break I would work three midnight shifts from 11:00 PM until 7:00 AM. After another 24 hour break I would work three day shifts from 7:00 AM until 3:00 PM. I would then be off for 72 hours. At the end of this break I would start the cycle all over again. Almost everyday I would find her crying when I came home. It was rough on her because she was pregnant and so far away from home. I bought a cheap GE black and white TV that had about a 12 inch screen. Before it was over I had to replace this TV three times because it kept going out. To this day I refuse to buy anything made by General Electric. It was hard to get a good picture because it had an antenna. Cable was available in Oregon but I was unable to pay the 5.00 dollar a month payment. At least my job was a diversion for me and I could interact with people. All she had was me, when I wasn't working and a defective TV. It was rough working midnight shifts because Debbie was so bored during the day she was constantly waking me up. Almost everyday she would beg me to let her go home. Debbie was going through a phase where she was craving banana splits. Her mom was sending her a dollar bill every week for a banana split. There was a malt shop about a mile from our apartment and I would walk all the way there to buy her a banana split. By the time I returned the ice cream was pretty much melted but she ate them anyway.
|Debbie proud of her ginger bread man. Notice the baby bump.|
|Debbie next to our crappy GE portable.|
Kingsley Field Air Force Base was named after 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley of Portland Oregon who was a bombardier on a B-24 bomber that was shot down over the Ploiesti Oil Fields of Romania on June 23, 1944. He won the Medal of Honor posthumously after he gave his parachute to a SSgt who did not have one. Kingsley went down with the plane after the rest of the crew had bailed out. He is buried at Arlington. Kingsley Field was the home of the 408th Fighter Group. Just before I arrived at Kingsley it had been commanded by Colonel Vermont Garrison, one of the most famous pilots in the Air Force. Colonel Garrison was a hero in his own right. He was an American who flew with the RAF from 1941 until 1943. In 1943 he joined the 8th Air Force, flying the P-47 and P-51 and had 11 kills. He was shot down in March 1944 and was held as a POW until he was liberated by the Russians in April 1945. In the Korean war he downed 10 Migs, damaged 5 and had probable kills on 3 others. In two wars he had 21 confirmed kills. From 1966 until 1967 he fought in Vietnam and ended up with 277 combat missions and 594 combat hours. He was finally forced to end his combat career because of nearsightedness. Colonel Garrison left Kingsley the same month I entered the Air Force. When I arrived I was part of the 408th Combat Support Squadron. We had about twenty F-101 Voodoo fighter interceptors and were part of the Air Defense Command. Our mission was to intercept any unidentified aircraft venturing into American air space over the Pacific Northwest. This was the height of the Cold War. Soviet Bear bombers were constantly penetrating our air space in order to test our response time. The radar network protecting the North American continent was called the DEW Line (Distant Early Warning Line) that was a joint American, Canadian radar line that ran 3,000 miles above the Arctic Circle that warned of any impending aerial attack. The Dew Line, along with other radar sites, would relay the information to NORAD (North American Air Defense Command) in Cheyenne Mountain Colorado, that our air space had been penetrated. They would then order our interceptors into the air to identify the intruder. When our aircraft intercepted the Russian Bear bomber it would then leave our air space. This cat and mouse game was played for years. Our base had a priority A nuclear storage area and a priority A alert area. Nuclear weapons and components were always rated priority A. Our alert area was priority A, even when the birds were uploaded with conventional weapons because our aircraft were combat ready. They could be in the air within two minutes and two aircraft were always armed with heat seeker missiles. There were four stalls in our alert barn. The two conventional birds were in the innermost stalls with the outermost empty. Occasionally we would have four birds. Two birds uploaded with conventional weapons and two with tactical nuclear weapons called Genie's. They were designed to take out a large group of bombers at one time. There was a Security policeman in a gate shack that operated the electrical gates that controlled entry into the area. A Security Policeman was posted on a walking post in front of the alert barn. If there were nuclear birds in the stalls there would be a second man posted in the rear of the barn. This was called (Two Man Concept). Anytime there was a nuclear weapon on site there had to be at least two people guarding them. A (No Lone Zone) was established around the weapon itself. Inside a No Lone Zone there had to be two people, of equal knowledge, working around the weapon at all times. Working the alert area reminded me of my days as a paperboy working around Company 18 fire hall. I would be walking my post directly in front of the hangar when the klaxon horn would go off and floodlights would illuminate the area. This was my signal to get out of the way fast. Instantly ground crews would be pre-flighting the aircraft while the pilots and RO's (Radar Officers), scrambled into the cockpit to make last minute adjustments as their jet engines began to whine. The ground crew would give the thumbs up to the pilots and salute as the birds quickly rolled past out to the runway. They would turn on to the runway, about a hundred yards away, squealing tires as they made their turn. there were four explosions as their afterburners fired in quick succession causing the ground to shake and the window panes in my small gate shack to rattle. If a scramble happened at night the afterburners made beautiful cones of fire as they roared into the night sky. They were airborne in less than two minutes. Watching fighters scramble would make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It gave me a tremendous sense of pride in the Air Force and my country at moments like these. Security was about 99% boredom and 1% excitement. A scramble was exciting to watch.
|2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley|
|Kingsley's grave at Arlington|
|Colonel Vermont Garrison|
|Kingsley F-101's over Crater Lake|
|A conventional heat seeker missile being uploaded|
|Genie tactical nuclear weapon|
|An F-101 fighter firing a Genie missile|
The priority B parking area was on the main part of the base near the flight line. There was a couple of very large hangars. All aircraft that were not on alert were parked here on the ramp and in the hangars. It was priority B because the aircraft were not on alert status. The area was roped off and there was a gate shack occupied by a Security Policeman that controlled entry into the area. At night there was a walking patrol. Our nuclear storage area was in a remote part of the base. It reminded me of a modern day storage area that people rent to store their furniture and belongings. Except this storage area was much more sophisticated and hardened. It housed a number of Genie tactical nuclear missiles. There was a large gatehouse where one Security Policeman operated the electric gates that controlled entry into the area. Another operated the ADT security system that protected the stalls that held the nukes. One cop patrolled the inside of the storage area with a vehicle during the day and two cops patrolled the area on foot at night. The whole area was enclosed by a high fence with barbed wire on top. Our dispatcher was at CSC or (Central Security Control). We had a three man base patrol called SAT or (Security Alert Team). There was a three man reserve SAT that was always on standby in the barracks. It was made up of men from a Flight that was off duty and everyone had to pull this duty from time to time. Finally there was the armory where we kept our firearms and ammunition that was manned by an armorer. We were also responsible for manning a radar station named Keno, which was on a mountain about thirty miles away. As a lower ranking Airman I pulled the worst posts. Our humping posts were in the alert area, storage area, and priority B parking ramp. Humping was a slang term for walking posts. The winter of 1968-69 was the worst winter in twenty years and I froze my butt off. I couldn't wear enough clothes to stay warm. No matter what I wore I couldn't keep my hands and feet warm. One night I wore what I called a bunny suit which reminded me of the little boy in a Christmas Story. He was so stiff when he fell over that he couldn't get up. That is the way I felt because I could barely walk. It didn't matter what I wore because my hands and feet would still get cold so I quit wearing the bunny suit. It started snowing about the middle of November and there was snow on the ground until April. I walked post in every kind of weather. Snow, sleet, rain, freezing wind which we called "The Hawk" in the winter. Then there was the hot sun in the summer. In the winter we wore a gray flight jacket called an M-A1. It had an orange liner and was pretty warm. In colder weather I had a blue fur lined parka that went to my waist and a gray parka that extended to just above my knees. My duty uniform was OD green fatigues, hat, a blue ascot around my neck and bloused, spit shined combat boots. If I was manning a gate shack or inside post I was usually armed with 38 caliber Smith and Wesson or Colt revolver. If on the SAT or a walking post I was armed with an M-2 carbine. The M-2 was carried in WW2 and Korea and could be used on semi or full auto. Just before I arrived at Kingsley our unit was armed with M-16's but they were sent to Vietnam due to a shortage there. There was a law enforcement dispatcher, a car patrol that covered the base and housing area, Law Enforcement manned the main gate and south gate. The Security Police was divided into Security and Law Enforcement. I worked Security but sometimes Law Enforcement would be shorthanded and I would have to work the gates. When I worked with them I wore the blue dress uniform in the winter or 1505's in the summer. I wore a white cover on my service hat, with a white ascot, and white parachute cord ladder laces in my spit shined and bloused combat boots. We were always the sharpest troops on base. I made one of the worst mistakes I ever made while working Law Enforcement on the midnight shift. One night while I was working the main gate a taxi cab drove up. In the back seat was an older black male who claimed to be a 2nd Lieutenant that was staying in the transient barracks. He showed me what looked like a military ID card but I didn't look at it very well and I waved him through. His age alone should have made me suspicious but I blew it. I had just walked in my apartment when the NCOIC of Law Enforcement called. He cussed me out with words I had never heard before. The man that I waved through the gate was a mental patient and I was lucky that all I got was a good cussing. I assume that they took my youth and inexperience into account. The base had a decal system for vehicles. Blue for officers, green for NCO's, and black for Airmen. We saluted all officers but at night it was very difficult to distinguish between officers and Airmen. In the Air Force we were taught that it was better to salute even if we were in doubt as to whether the person was an officer or enlisted man. When in doubt, salute. More times than I can count I saluted Airmen and if there was a car load of them I could hear them laughing as they passed by. Junior officers seemed to take offense when I failed to salute them more so than senior officers. Pilots were the coolest and the most laid back in my opinion.
|This is my friend and fellow Security Policeman Tom Blevins just before I arrived at Kingsley Field|
|The Security Police Shield|
In December 1968 I was on twenty four hour break after working swing shifts when an announcer broke in on our local radio station with the news that one of our F-101's had crashed on takeoff. Debbie and I jumped in the car and drove down to the base. I didn't want to get in the way so I parked on a perimeter road where we could see the smoke rising from the wreckage on the far end of the runway. I took a couple of pictures and left. As the day progressed it became evident that both the pilot and RO had been killed. The fighter was about 75 to 100 feet off the ground when it had a flame out. The men ejected and smashed right into the runway after the plane nosed up. Either the men were unaware of the angle or felt that they had no other options. A friend who was working day shifts in the nuclear storage area told me that he watched the bodies of these men bounce along the runway like basketballs. The fighters momentum carried it another 1,000 feet down the runway where it exploded in a fireball. The pilot was Major Tolsma and the RO or (back seater) was Captain Morgan. That night I reported to work at 1100 PM and was surprised to learn that my post was a special post protecting the crash site. It was a frigid night and the crash site was in a remote section at the end of the runway. There were a couple of lighting units that were running but the lights were turned off. After my sergeant posted me he drove off and the night was pitch black. I could barely see my hand in front of my face. After my eyes adjusted to the darkness I began to see an unbelievable scene of destruction. There are few things worse than the devastation of a crash site. The smell of jet fuel or (JP 4) is overwhelming. Wreckage was strewn for hundreds of feet. I could see one of the crewman's white helmets and and an ejection seat. It was very spooky there in the dark but after a while all I could think about was staying warm. As I walked by a lighting unit I could feel the warmth of the exhaust against my leg. It gave me an idea and soon I was warm as toast as I leaned against the unit. The hood of my parka was zipped up and I became very comfortable. I set my rifle down and before I knew it I was fast asleep. Suddenly I was blinded by bright lights. In a stupor I took a step or two toward the runway until I realized that the lights were to my left. As I turned I was facing TSgt Bilbrey, my Flight Sergeant. I snapped to attention and in a loud voice said "Airmen Segroves reports special post one all secure". Bilbry was friendly as he made small talk. He asked me if I was doing okay and asked a few questions. As he was turning to leave he said, "Oh by the way. Do you always walk your post without your weapon"? I looked over and my carbine was propped against the lighting unit. I was busted but Sgt Bilbry just smiled and walked back to his staff car.
|You can barely make out the smoke of the crash on the horizon|
From the time that we arrived at Klamath Falls in October 1968 Debbie was very homesick and wanted to go home. When I was off she seemed to be okay but things were hard on her when I had to work. We met a couple from Kingsport Tennessee named Tom and Janet Blevins and became good friends. At that time they were the only married friends that we knew. Because our car was so unreliable we never went far from home. Debbie wore me down and I agreed to let her go home for Christmas. Her mom sent the money and with a heavy heart I bought her a plane ticket. My biggest fear was that she would get home and not come back. I asked TSgt Bilbry to drive us to the airport which was on the civilian side of Kingsley. We walked alone to the departure gate where I kissed her goodbye and she boarded an Air West F-27 which was a four engine turbo prop. Air West was owned by Howard Hughes. I stood there and watched until the plane was airborne and eventually disappeared from sight into the night sky. Sgt Bilbry drove me home and when I was alone I sobbed uncontrollably. I was totally crushed. At that point in our marriage I just didn't know where I stood with her. I had always believed that I cared more for her than she did for me. In the end her going home was the best thing for our marriage. The Christmas of 1968 was even worse than that first Christmas after my parents died. It was a very lonely time for me. Since television signed off the air so early I listened to Wolfman Jack out of LA on the radio and the first talk show I ever heard called (Night Caps) out of Salt Lake City. It was primarily people talking about anything and everything. There was little political discussion. Our first snow was on November 15th and we got fourteen inches of snow. I didn't know if my Pontiac would make it so I called out. Sergeant Bilbry wasn't happy but I was new and didn't realize just yet that this was the military. It wasn't like a civilian job where you could call out. I would eventually learn this the hard way. One morning while Debbie was away I got off of a midnight shift. It was gray and overcast but to me it wasn't even that cold. I got home and went to bed immediately. With the apartment so quite I didn't wake up until about 8:00 PM. The shades were drawn and I worked on my uniform, boots, and fixed something to eat. About 10:30 PM I tried to open the front door to go to work. No matter how hard I pushed I couldn't open the door. I was able to open the back door and realized that we were having a blizzard. I walked around to the front where my car was and there was a six to seven foot drift against my front door. A friend in my unit lived in Medford Oregon about 79 miles away. He knew how depressed I was and offered to take me home with him on our 72 hour break. The snow was deep when we left Klamath Falls but when we arrived in Medford the grass was green and the temperature was much warmer. The weather depended on altitude to a great degree. Klamath Falls elevation was 4,099 feet. as opposed to Medford's altitude of 1,012 feet.
After Christmas I called Debbie almost everyday collect. I am sure her parents really appreciated that but I was lovesick and broke. She seemed to be making excuses for why she couldn't come back to Oregon. According to her, the doctor advised her not to travel and she should stay until after the baby was born. I wasn't buying it. The baby was not due until April and I wasn't about to wait that long. I called Didi and vented to her about it. At that time Didi wasn't all that fond of Debbie and without my knowledge she called her on the phone. Debbie said that Didi gave her a piece of her mind. I don't know what she said but it was enough to change her mind. Sometime after that Debbie called to say that she was coming home. I was overjoyed but I didn't find out until later what had happened and I was totally confused about why she had changed her mind. From the moment that she returned I noticed a vast change in Debbie. She seemed more mature and committed. She no longer cried for her mother and our marriage seemed to grow stronger. I never again doubted her love after that. She seemed genuinely glad to see me. In March we rode up to Crater Lake National Park with our friends Tom and Janet. Debbie was getting pretty big. Crater Lake is 43 miles from Klamath Falls and the elevation is 6, 178 feet. It was early Spring but the snow depth was incredible. The blowers had cleared the roads but the snow was so deep on either side that you couldn't see over it. When we reached the visitors center there was a lodge building that looked about three stories tall but all you could see was the roof sticking out of the snow. Crater Lake is incredibly beautiful. I saw it in March and August 1969 but I was lucky to see it contrasted by the snow. I have never seen water that blue. It was so blue that it almost hurt your eyes to look at it. The lake is in the rim of an extinct volcano. It is 1,946 feet deep and I have heard that the deepest part of the lake has never been measured. On the night of April 18th 1969 I worked a swing shift and got off at 11:00 PM. I was tired but not long after arriving at home I went to sleep Debbie kept waking me up. She was feeling some pain but I rolled over and went back to sleep. All night long she woke me up and I would ask her how bad her pains were. They never seemed to be that bad but she was having them pretty regularly. Since this was my first rodeo I thought the pains would be more severe than that. After daylight I finally had enough and I wasn't getting much sleep anyway. My Pontiac was running for a change and it was snowing as we drove to the hospital. Just before noon she gave birth to an eight pound, four ounce baby boy. By that time the clouds had cleared and it was a beautiful cloudless day. We named him Robert Aaron Segroves. I wanted to name him Robert E. Lee Segroves but I couldn't sell her on it. She compromised and settled for Robert and Aaron after my father. Debbie was a pretty tough cookie when it came to having babies. I crack up when I see women screaming and going crazy giving birth in the movies. She never screamed out in pain or made much noise. Debbie would nearly squeeze my hand off until the pain subsided. After each one of our children she looked like she could get out of bed and go shopping or do housework.
|The day after Debbie gave birth to Robbie|
Robbie was born at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital. The Air Force paid for everything but 25.00 dollars. I was so broke that I had to pay it off in monthly payments of 5.00 dollars a month. While Debbie was in the hospital she met a local lady named Colleen Quirk that was in her mid twenties and had delivered a baby girl named Kerry the day before Robbie. She was married to Tom Quirk who had been an Airman stationed at Kingsley and they had an older boy named David. We became close friends and still receive Christmas cards and letters from them after many years. Around the time Robbie was born I got a call from Donna late one night. My brother-in-law Larry was dead. As bad as Larry was I was shocked at the news. It is sad when someone dies and their life is so screwed up. but I had mixed emotions about it. I felt a sense of relief because death had done for Donna what she refused to do for herself. It had removed him from her life. While we were in Oregon Larry, Donna, my nephew Larry Jr. and my niece Aundrea had moved to St. Louis. Larry had been drinking for much of the day and on his way home he ran head-on into a car on a curve. One of the two men in the other car was also killed and it was determined that all three men had been drinking. The wreck occurred at low speed but they weren't wearing seat belts. Larry died instantly because his chest was crushed by the steering column. The driver of the other car walked to a nearby yard where he collapsed and died. The passenger was seriously injured but lived. Donna was a widow at the age of 23 with two small children and a child on the way. The sad thing about Larry was the sheer waste. He had so much talent and personality that if he had used it for good there is no telling how far he could have gone. Just a few months earlier I learned that my cousin Judy Brown had nearly died after being hit head on by a drunk driver near Decatur Alabama. They were on their way to Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi where her husband was stationed. It was raining when a car crossed the yellow line on a two lane highway. Judy and her husband were wearing lap belts but shoulder harnesses were not standard then. She was sitting on the passenger side when the impact drove the hood of her car through the windshield, striking her in the head. Judy received severe head trauma and her arm was shattered. Her husbands jaw was broken and his front teeth were knocked out. As it happens far too many times the drunk driver was unhurt. Judy and her husband were rushed to a local hospital where she was given no hope for survival. Uncle Doug and Aunt Catherine were in Nashville but were told not to hurry. She would probably be dead when they arrived according to the doctor. Miraculously she survived the night to the amazement of her doctor. Judy was in a coma for about a month and her parents were told not to get their hopes up. When she was stable they were able to transport her back to Nashville. The doctor there said that she would probably have permanent brain damage. Over time Judy made a remarkable recovery and today you wouldn't know that she was ever injured.
|Me and Robbie, May 1969|
I was promoted to Airmen 1st Class and we were finally able to move to a better apartment. This was in the late Spring and early summer of 1969. Ceronie Robinson, who happened to be black, told me about the new apartment. He was a Security Policeman on my Flight from Atlanta and we became good friends. Ceronie, his wife Paulette, and their little girl lived a few doors down from us. He gave me rides to and from work when my car wasn't running, which was most of the time. When I first met Ceronie he was driving a Nash Rambler and we were driving near the Base one day when we were pulled over by two Oregon State policemen. He wasn't doing anything wrong and he wasn't speeding. The troopers made him get out of the car and it was like they were looking for something to get him for. Finally they told him to blow his horn but it wasn't working and they gave him a ticket. I can't say for sure that these cops pulled him over because he was black but I have never had anything like that happen to me. On another occasion we were out for a ride on one of our breaks when he spotted a car sitting in a yard with a for sale sign on it. I sat in the car while he walked up to get a closer look. A white man ran out to the car and angrily jerked the For Sale sign off, saying "The cars not for sale !!" Being from the South I had seen segregation and systemic racism. This incident awakened me to the fact that racism wasn't just confined to the South. Malcolm X said that people need to stop picking on the South. When you cross the Canadian border you are in the South. Besides Ceronie and his wife we met two other couples. They were Bill and Sharon Wilson and Sonny and Amy Henson. Both Bill and Sonny were aircraft mechanics. Bill was a nut. He kept us laughing all the time. There was a string of apartments where we lived along with the Robinson's who were a couple of doors down and the Henson's who lived on the other side of them. Bill and Sharon lived in a trailer that they rented from our landlord across the yard from us. One day Ceronie and I walked over to their trailer to introduce ourselves. The door to their trailer was open and as we knocked we could hear Bill and Sharon laughing and giggling in the shower together. Embarrassed, we walked back to our apartments. Later the embarrassment was theirs when we told them what happened. Bill and Sharon were from Everts in Harlan County Kentucky. That was right in the middle of Appalachia. They had a thick Southern accent and Sharon reminded me of Loretta Lynn because she referred to her mother as mommy. The yard in front of our apartments was used for some pretty wild football games. Especially the day after a heavy downpour when we played in about six inches of standing water. About this time we met two young men who were Mormon elders. They were Elder Brown and Elder Stevens who lived in the apartment next to ours. In the Mormon church young men would leave their homes and commit themselves to a two year ministry where they would ride around on bicycles and work to convert people into the Mormon church. They tried very hard to convert us but I just wasn't buying. I wasn't a Christian then but the Holy Spirit was protecting me from this false theology. Nevertheless we became good friends. They would come over for dinner and we would play games. All of our friends that lived in the apartments would get together for board games like Monopoly and Aggravation or card games like Rook. I found that friendships formed in the military were some of the closest that I ever had. We were far away from home and all in the same boat. On July 20th 1969 we all gathered around our black and white TV set which was bigger and better than our old GE set and watched in amazement as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moons surface with the immortal words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". I was 11 when Kennedy set the goal of putting a man on the moon before the decade of the 1960's was out and 19 when it actually happened. This proved to me that America is capable of doing anything it sets it's mind to. Too many young people have not learned that lesson today.
|My Mormon friends as the Clyde Barrow Gang|
|Elder Brown clowning|
In August Debbie's sister Sylvia, her husband Jimmy and their daughters Tammy, Connie, and Carol visited us from Nashville. To this point none our families had seen Robbie except in pictures. We visited Crater Lake for the second time. The snow was gone and it was much more accessible. After they left I was finally able to buy a black Volkswagen beetle. We were able to see some of the Oregon countryside for a change. On a 72 hour break I got a wild hair to drive over to the Oregon coast. We got to see Grants Pass and Ashland Oregon. There was a beautiful park in Ashland and a Shakespearean theater where there was a yearly festival. We never made it to the coast because it was further than we anticipated. That September I had a couple weeks of leave and we flew home. There was a layover in San Francisco, then on to Dallas for another layover. From there we flew to Memphis. Robbie was six months old now and he was getting very cranky from the long flight. The stewardesses were great and took turns walking him up and down the aisle. From Memphis we were only in the air about twenty minutes before we landed in Nashville. We went home primarily because the family, with the exception of Sylvia, had never seen Robbie. As expected everybody was crazy about him and it was great to be home. I don't remember much about that leave but the thing that stands out in my mind was the first prime time college football game at night between Alabama and Ole Miss on October 4th 1969. The Alabama quarterback was Scott Hunter and the Ole Miss quarterback was Archie Manning. It was one of the most exciting college football games I have ever seen in my life. Both quarterbacks were incredible but I have never seen anything like Archie. He was all over the backfield that night running from pursuers who could never seem to catch him. Manning completed 33-of-52 passes for 436 yards and two touchdowns. He ran 15 times for 104 yards and three touchdowns. Hunter finished 22-of-29 passes for 300 yards and one touchdown. The final score was Alabama 33, Ole Miss 32. Archie Manning deserved a career every bit as successful as his sons Peyton and Eli but all during his prime years he was saddled with a horrible team, the New Orleans Saints. He was a classy guy and loyal to his team. All too soon our leave was over and we flew back to Oregon. Poor little Robbie was sicker than a dog from the change in climate. He was coughing and running a fever. There was an overnight layover in San Francisco and Debbie called her Aunt Helen. She and her husband Frank came to the airport and picked us up. On the way to their house we got a quick night time tour of San Francisco. We can say that we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge but we couldn't tell much about it at night. When we arrived at their house the back part was heavily damaged by an earthquake that had occurred the day before. The next morning it was really foggy as we made our way to the airport.
|This Confederate battle flag went with me everywhere I traveled in the military|
The winter of 1969-70 was almost as bad as the previous winter. I remember getting off work one morning and I couldn't find my car. It was almost completely buried in a snow drift. I finally spotted a black circle about a foot in diameter, which was the top of my car. After about an hour I was able to dig it out of the snow and drive home. Volkswagen's are great in the snow because of the weight of the engine being in the rear of the car. My Mormon neighbors asked me if I wanted to go coyote hunting. There was a bounty being paid on coyotes. The Mormons for some weird reason were not allowed to use guns but it was okay to use bows and arrows. I rented a 30-30 Winchester from the base recreation office. Our landlord agreed to let us hunt on his ranch in the mountains. Elder Brown, Elder Stephens, an older member of their church, and myself, set out to hunt coyotes on a cold, cloudy day. There was snow on the ground as we climbed up over a ridge, but we weren't expecting any more snow that day. We planned to follow our tracks in order to find our way back to the ranch. We had no luck finding coyotes but I did manage to shoot at a Jack Rabbit. It began to snow very hard and we realized that we might be in trouble. The snow was covering our tracks very quickly. It was about knee deep and getting deeper. I began to panic a little when I realized that we were lost and it was getting dark. It seemed like we were walking in circles. We expected to see something familiar after climbing to the top of every nearby ridge but it would always end up being a dead end. I seriously began to think that we might have to spend the night wandering around in knee deep snow in a blinding blizzard. It was completely dark when we reached the top of a ridge and there below us was the lights of Klamath Falls. I felt total relief as we walked down the ridge and found our way back to the ranch house. Our landlord and his wife made us very comfortable. We were fed a great meal next to a roaring fireplace. It was a great end to a very harrowing day.
|In front of our apartment|
|Near our apartment|
|Notice my black VW Beetle in the background|
|Before the blizzard started|
|This was the terrain that we were lost in|
I was walking my post in the alert area in early December 1969. The sun had just set and as I turned back toward a mountain range, silhouetted in the distance, I saw a beam of light. The light suddenly arched upward at an angle. The light morphed into a bluish green laser beam. The point of the beam appeared to split the sky and a cone of light formed on either side of the laser beam. The further it traveled the wider the cone of light became. It was as bright as day inside the cone. I was in awe and for a minute I thought the Lord might be coming back. Off in the distance a C-47 Goonie Bird and an F-106 suddenly appeared on the horizon and the laser beam disappeared just as suddenly as it had appeared. Where the laser beam had been a fluorescent trail of bright green smoke appeared. I was standing there for a moment with my mouth wide open. When I was able to clear my head I started to radio CSC and let them know what had happened. I hesitated because I thought to myself, what if I was the only one who had seen this. They might think that I was crazy. Incredibly there was no chatter on the radio. After I was relieved I heard one other cop talking about it and I told him that I had seen the light too. Like me he had decided not to call it in. I read an article in the paper, later in the week, headlined (Railroad Men Spot UFO). It read: Three Southern Pacific Company railroad men saw an unidentified flying object early last Friday night near Kirk about 40 miles north of Klamath Falls. "I'll tell you, it gives you the creeps" Noel Cailloutte, the conductor on a train with 106 cars moving southwest toward Klamath Falls. John Burgoyne, the engineer, apparently saw it first. he called my attention to it, Cailloute stated. "It was a bright light heading north. It had a long, narrow beam. It was moving diagonally across the tracks", the conductor reported. Cailloute was unable to estimate the length of the light. He did say, though, that it was "at least 5,000 feet high". The light "crossed the tracks in front of us. I've never seen anything as bright as that. It looked like a laser beam." Cailloute stated. According to Cailloute, he watched the light for at least two minutes. While looking at the light, Cailloute said, he also saw the lights of an airplane traveling toward Klamath Falls. Then' "all at once, all of the lights went off", the conductor remarked. Eugene Narramore, the flagman on the crew, was the third person to see the lights. The United States Air Force in Klamath Falls, when contacted this morning, was unable to verify the reported occurrence. This account of the UFO was remarkably similar to what I saw. The air traffic control tower was between me and the UFO. They had to have seen it. A few days later another article stated that the UFO was a missile launched from Vandenburg AFB in California. Whatever it was, it was the strangest thing that I have ever seen.
We spent our first Christmas together as a family that December of 1969. I can't remember much but it was a much happier Christmas than the year before. Robbie was getting older and was doing a lot more. We had two bedrooms but I can't remember a time that his bed wasn't in our room. Many mornings I would wake up with him looking down on us as we slept. He looked so cute standing there with a big smile on his face. Robbie was a good baby and he very seldom cried. He was a big baby and would get very heavy when you were carrying him. Debbie and I would fight over who was going hold him when we would go shopping but I would usually lose out. In December 1969 I won an award for Security Policeman of the month and was presented with a trophy. About this time our unit transitioned from the F-101 Voodoo to the F-106 Delta Dart. The F-106, unlike the F-101, had a single jet engine. One morning I got off of a midnight shift and had just arrived at our apartment when I was recalled to the base. Thinking that it was a routine, I could quickly tell, by the serious looks on everyone's faces, that this was different. A friend told me that we were in a real situation but nobody knew why. Our Flight chief came in and said that we could not call home and we were confined to base until further notice. This alert was worldwide. We were going to be combined into two Flights working twelve hour shifts. Our augmentees were also called out to bolster base security. Augmentees were Airmen from organizations outside of Security Police. For example it could be cooks, administration clerks etc. We were in DEFCON 3, which means (Defense Condition 3). DEFCON 3: Increase in force readiness above that required for normal readiness. Air Force ready to mobilize in 15 minutes - this is the first truly "shit is about to get real" phase of the levels. Code Name: (ROUND HOUSE). There are 5 DEFCONS and DEFCON 5: Is the lowest state of readiness. This is the normal state of readiness in peacetime. Code name: (FADE OUT). Our unit was on high alert and all of our aircraft were to be uploaded with nukes no later than midnight. When I left the house I kissed Debbie goodbye, thinking that I would only be there a few hours. Now I was being told that I couldn't contact her and as far as I knew we were on the brink of nuclear war. We were on alert for about ten days and luckily I got the 0700 to 1900 shift. We never dropped below DEFCON 3. During the Cuban Missile Crisis we went to DEFCON 2, which means war is imminent. Armed Forces ready to deploy and engage in less than 6 hours - this is the highest level ever reached in history. Code Name: (FAST PACE). DEFCON 1: Nuclear war is imminent. Code Name: (COCKED PISTOL). To this day I do not know why we were on alert. I can talk to veterans who were in the service during that time and they all remember it but nobody knows why.
|Robbie and Kerry Quirk|
|The F-106 Delta Dart|
|The F-106 firing a Genie missile|
|Security Policeman of the Month Award|
By January 1970 I had been at Kingsley Field about fifteen months. Most of the men in our unit were going to or coming back from Vietnam. I heard the many war stories about Vietnam and I felt like I was missing something. I talked to Debbie a few times about volunteering but she wanted me to wait for orders. It seemed pretty inevitable that they would come soon enough. The men in my unit were going to places like Da Nang, Bien Hoa, Phan Rang, Cam Ranh Bay and Ton Son Nhut. Vietnam veterans stationed at Kingsley would tell me about the occasional rocket and mortar attacks they had endured. A Black Sergeant named Kersee, from Clarksville Tennessee, told me how the bullets kicked up the dirt around him as he ran ammunition between bunkers during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Unexpectedly my friend Tom Blevins received orders for Canada. I didn't know until a few years ago that one of the Airmen in our unit had written his Congressman complaining that too many men were going to Vietnam. Tom told me that this is why he got orders for Canada. Around January 1970 I received orders for TUSLOG Detachment 93 at Erhac Turkey. Mike Cannon, a friend from Los Angeles, was also going to Erhac and we would leave on May 31st 1970. About a month later another friend, Eric Erickson, from South Dakota, also got orders for Erhac. He would arrive in Turkey a few weeks after Mike and I. We were excited that the three of us would be stationed in Turkey together. Another friend, whose name I can't recall, got orders for Athens Greece. Not knowing about the congressional investigation I just assumed that Nixon's troop withdrawals were the reason that some of us were getting orders for places other than Vietnam.
Over the next few months I made preparations to leave Oregon and resettle my family in Nashville. I had to have something better than my VW Beetle to make the move. Over time I was able to buy a 1964 Chevy Impala. I loved that car because it was very roomy and a smooth ride. It was the first dependable car that I had owned since my Chevy II. One night I pulled duty at the radar site at Keno. There was a railroad crossing in front of the base and I could hear the S.A.T. patrol radio that it had spotted a man lying in the road. The man's car had stalled on the tracks as a train was approaching. He was trying to run away when the train hit the car. The car spun around killing him instantly. When the local newspaper came out the next morning I was shocked to learn that the dead man was the salesman that had sold me my 1964 Impala. In April we learned that the Apollo 13 astronauts were in big trouble. The world held it's breath as NASA worked feverishly to bring the astronauts home. When I was off I was glued to the TV. I was proud of my country for working so hard to get these guys home safely and I was bursting with pride as I watched their capsule land in the Pacific on April 17th, 1970. By then I was officially processed out at Kingsley. As soon as the astronauts were down I heard a roar of jet engines as our F-106's from Kingsley flew in tight formation over Klamath Falls in tribute to the Apollo 13 astronauts. I rented a U-Haul luggage carrier and we packed our car to the gills. It was tough saying goodbye to all our friends. If I remember right Ceronie had already left for Vietnam and Tom Blevins had left for Canada. Bill Wilson and Sonny Henson were at work the day we left but Sharon and Amy were there to see us off. It was a sad goodbye but we were eager to get home again and we had a very long trip ahead of us. At least this time we wouldn't be trapped on a bus for three days. I put extra water and oil in the trunk because we were going across a stretch of barren desert from Lakeland Oregon to Winemucca Nevada which is 142 miles. When we reached Lakeland, which is on the Oregon, Nevada border, there was a sign that said (Last chance for gas). We filled up and for that time the gas was expensive. The highway that we traveled was two lane until we reached Winemucca. Along the way we passed through several herds of cattle being driven by real cowboys. The area was so barren that I was sweating bullets until we finally made it to civilization. About midway we stopped at a single gas station at Denio Nevada that also had a sign that read (Last chance for gas). In that whole 142 mile trip I recall passing one car. For some reason I wanted to ride through Reno Nevada, which was out of the way. We tried to drive there but it soon became evident that it was going to take up too much time. We found an out of the way motel and the next day we headed toward Salt Lake City where we saw the Bonneville Salt Flats and Great Salt Lake. We also saw the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City. It was a different time. Seat belts weren't required in cars and Robbie stood up in the seat between us, pretty much the whole way. I averaged 90 miles per hour on recapped tires. Debbie didn't want to ride after dark so we spent the night in Salt Lake City. Bright and early the next day we set out and passed through Wyoming. We spent that night in Denver. From Denver we passed through Kansas and stopped for the night in Columbia Missouri. The next day we drove over to St.Louis and from there to Nashville I was ready to pull my hair out. This was before I-24 was finished and it was curvy two-lane highway all the way. Finally, we were back in Tennessee the good old humidity of the South, which I love in the Spring, and the smell of freshly cut grass. There is a view of Nashville at about where I-24 joins I-65, on the north side, where the Nashville skyline comes into full view. For me. at that time, there was no better sight in the world.
|Apollo 13 landing|
|Apollo 13 astronauts|
|Leaving Klamath Falls|