Oral History of Richard Walker
Mr. Richard Walker was in the Army from August, 1971 to August 2001. He did not fight in a war, but he did serve during the last four years Vietnam War. North Vietnam and South Vietnam were fighting because they wanted control of all Vietnam. The Communist Vietminh, in North Vietnam, rose to power under the control of Ho Chi Minh. Nationalist South Vietnam, under the power of Ngo Dinh Diem, opposed this uprising and wanted to do something about it. Unfortunately, over 58,000 US Soldiers died in this war. Luckily, because he was not fighting, Mr. Walker did not have his life taken away.
With full-paid tuition, room, and board, Mr. Walker went to college. Half way through the first semester, he decided that college was not for him. He came back home and worked at a carpet installation company for one year. Realizing that installing carpet would get him nowhere in life, he figured he would join the armed service. At this time, in 1971, Mr. Walker was 19 and Vietnam was going on.
Walker joined the Army for many personal reasons. Most importantly, he believes each U.S. citizen should serve one year, in any branch. Having military history in his family also persuaded him to join. Mr. Walker’s grandfather served in the Navy around the time of WWI, and his father served in the Army during WWII and the Battle of the Bulge. There were eleven male cousins in the Walker family, and eight of them served around the same time period. After realizing that he needed to go back to college, Mr. Walker thought this would be a great way for him to do that. After serving in the armed services, one can go to college for free, thanks to the GI bill.
Since Mr. Walker enlisted into the military, he was able to pick the specialty he wanted to do. He started off as a Military Policeman. A Military Policeman performed all the same duties as a normal Policeman. After that, he became a Security Specialist, being in charge of people’s security, as well as equipment security. After the first three mandatory years of enlistment, Mr. Walker went back to college and became part of the Army Reserve, as a Criminal Investigator. After graduating from college, he became a Transportation Officer. Further into his career, Mr. Walker became a Logistic Office, which is responsible for the transportation, maintenance, and storage of equipment, as well as the welfare of deployed soldiers. Even though he did not actually fight in a war, he was stationed all over the world. He had duty all across the United States. He also served in Germany, Hungary, Bosnia, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, and Canada. He was very successful with what he did, and was rewarded for his great actions. After the first eighteen months, Mr. Walker was ranked a Sergeant. Receiving good reports each year and military education allowed him to move up in ranking. Mr. Walker retired as a lieutenant colonel.
Being young and not having a family, Mr. Walker was able to travel all around the world. His favorite place was Germany. He was able to see two handfuls of cities. Even though he spent a lot of time away from base camp, ate really bad, dry food and had no consistent sleeping arrangement, Mr. Walker enjoyed it very much. An interesting and rare job he had was attending the Olympics. Since he was in Germany at the time of the 1972 Olympics in Munich, he was able to go and watch some events. He also attended the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada. Mr. Walker worked the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a security guard at the opening and closing ceremonies, and was stationed at the track and field events.
Once Mr. Walker moved up in ranking and became an officer, it did impact his family. At this time, he was married and had two boys. Some of the assignments he took were very hard on his family. He also declined a handful of opportunities because he knew it would hurt his family too much. Because they had to move around so much, his two sons had to learn how to adapt to new schools and environments quickly, and make new friends. Since Mr. Walker was away from the house a lot, his wife took care of and raised their two children. Moving around a lot has many perks: experiencing new environments, seeing new geographical locations, bringing the family closer together and meeting new people.
Mr. Walker kept making the analogy that being in the Army was like being on a football team. “Once you knew your job and knew who you could count on there was very little that could not be accomplished.” Being able to trust your company with your life, whether you are fighting or just on duty is a big trust commitment and is necessary to continue to do well in the armed service.
Serving during Vietnam, but not in Vietnam was very hard on Mr. Walker. Everyday, he wishes that he would’ve been sent. He felt that it was his duty to fight in a war. It wasn’t so much for the US that he felt like he should’ve fought, but it was for his fellow Army people. Getting back to the sports team analogy, Mr. Walker always thought that “while it great to make the team even if you sit on the bench you don’t feel like you fully contributed unless you get in the game.” When Mr. Walker was stationed in Bosnia and Guatemala, he knew that sitting on the side-lines was the best thing for him. He saw how badly people were treated in places of the world were governments are very mean to their civilians. Each country took away the freedoms of the people and the US had to intervene. Being a strong force and not taking action was the best thing for him.
After serving his country for 30 years, Mr. Walker retired on August 1, 2001. Though he was only 49 years old, he immediately received retirement pay and great health benefits. The financial benefits were the best. As a retired lieutenant colonel, Mr. Walker still receives some shopping benefits, as well as travel benefits. He went to medical school and now works as a nurse. He is still helping people in his new field of work. “Spending 30 years in the Army made me a better person. It was a great career and I’m glad I served.”
Researched by Kacie Lake
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School
Walker, Richard. E-mail interview. 14 Apr 2008.
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