Lunch with Veteran: Jim Hardin, WWII & Korean War – Fighter Pilot – What Stories. Listen along with us! #theelderlawguy
If you love aviation you will love this!
Lunch with Veteran: Jim Hardin, WWII & Korean War – Fighter Pilot – What Stories. Listen along with us! #theelderlawguy
If you love aviation you will love this!
GM: Hi I’m Greg McIntyre and this is lunch with a veteran. I’m here with veteran Gene Ramsey. Gene is the head of the VFW (Veteran of Foreign Wars) and has some very interesting stories.
Gene really is an advocate for veterans. He’s out there pursuing veteran’s disability issues, and a few weeks ago, we were at the VFW and you had a representative there from Senator Thom Tillis’ office.’
We did, and it was a good meeting and I had good feedback from some of the veterans who are from the Vietnam era, and I’m going to formally tell you about my journey for the last 50 years in the service. This week, being a reflection of 50 years ago, I was in a fire fight. We were running a convoy down there on Khe Pass or Highway 19, and about 2 o’clock in the afternoon we took fire, and the wrecker I was riding shotgun on got hit. That day we had 14 casualties of the 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion, and we engaged the NVA in a fire fight. I ended up saving a guy’s life and trying to save a couple of other people’s lives that got into a fire fight ambush.
That day 50 years ago, it was a different time frame here in Shelby. My dad was a world war two vet and my two brothers served, and about thirty days after this incident, I got a letter from my mom who said she woke up in the late morning hours at the same time praying for my life, a sixth sense if you will. And I brought the commendation letter from my senior officer to recognize that god answers prayers. He took care of me that day, and the other 300 days plus that I served in Vietnam.
It’s about the third highest medal you can get in service, so I was blessed to have comrades and everybody else involved with that commendation letter that we got.
I’m telling this story because I didn’t realize at the time, with the 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion, we experienced a thing called Agent Orange. As we went into a hot LZ they would spray that, and we didn’t know what it was. I was pulling latrine duty and other things, and I didn’t realize some of that was burning the fuel from Agent Orange to get rid of things we needed to get rid of. I didn’t have a problem with it, so, I came back and within a week went into Gardner Webb for 4 year’s education right out of the jungles of Vietnam, and spent 4 years that the government paid for.
GM: The GI bill?
The GI bill, one of the best things that ever happened to me. Sometime around 1986 I got a letter from Senator Roy Hill telling me a little about Agent Orange. I went ahead and applied to the VA, and it took a time to get a response from them, but I started to realize I was having a bit of a problem with diabetes. So, I went on working my business as a district manager at Western Southern which I worked at for about 40 years. I had the top agency at Western Southern and got along extremely well other than I developed a diabetic condition related to Agent Orange. That’s when I became involved in thinking about myself and my comrades that had been exposed to this.
I did some research and during that time I contacted my congressman explaining that we were probably going to have problems down the road, and I wanted to make sure I was looked after, as well as my family. So anyway, I became commander of the VFW post and the Am Vets for a number of years, a life member there, and the DAB as well as the American Legion. I got out of that as I was trying to move my insurance business to get ready for retirement.
This past year I had an incident with one of my veterans I knew with the VFW post, and they raised about $1100 for this individual, and I said, man I need to be a part of that again because I’m retired now. So, I took over as commander of the VFW. Since that point in time, I’ve had letters from Tom Tillis, Patrick McHenry, Senator Burr all helping with these veterans. I became 100% compensated for my disability from Agent Orange, and some Post Traumatic Stress which most of us who had been in combat had.
So, then I started working with veterans at the VFW post going down the line to see how we can help these veterans. Since then, I’ve had a folder put together at the VFW, that helps us with our local veteran affairs officer Debra Conn. I’ve worked with you on a case, and I’m working right now on 7 cases where Debra and myself are hoping these vets will get paid for Post Traumatic Stress, because they were in the same situation, or similar situation as I was. Also, there’s a national Amvets out of Winston Salem, that’s another route we can go to help these veterans.
So, I’m trying to pay back for the things that I’ve been blessed to receive. That’s been the journey now. As I dig into this more, I’m finding there is a lot of veterans who don’t want to ask for benefits that are due compensation. I was interviewed by the Shelby Star about 15 years ago, in regards to, how does it feel, and how did it feel, and I realized my dad was probably exposed to Post Traumatic Stress due to his world war 2 experiences. He also received the Bronze Star. My goal is to work with you and the VFW for these individuals to help them get what they deserve.
GM: Absolutely, and there is compensation out there for disability, Agent Orange and other service connected disabilities. That’s a veteran benefit that you work on first hand all the time.
Yes, I’m pretty much involved. I’ve got some other people involved, I’ve even got a letter from Senator McCain and a Senator from Georgia who was over the VA services.
GM: There’s also veterans ‘Aid and Attendance’, which is something we do here at McIntyre Elder law on a regular basis. This can help seniors who are veterans, or the spouse of a veteran receive monthly pension benefits for the rest of their lives.
I think I worked with you on a case. I recommended they come to you, and that compensation has already started with that individual. Her husband was world war 2. I didn’t realize until you brought it up at a VFW benefit, and talked about the Ladybird Deed and Powers of Attorney and things like that how effective they are. Since that point in time, I’ve become involved with you and making these things happen. When I do something, I kind of get involved and I walk the walk, I just don’t talk about it.
GM: I see that. I was impressed coming over the VFW a couple of weeks ago. A good group of veterans there and Senator Thom Tillis’ representative was there from his office, and he was very professional, couldn’t have asked for a more professional young man.
Yeah, it was kind of fun to get involved with this, because I was getting a little bored playing golf 5 days a week. This has given me an outlet to pay back some of my benefits that I’ve received through the government.
GM: I appreciate all your service that you have given to our country in Vietnam and the Bronze Star, that’s huge.
Well, I just happened to be in the wrong place at the time I was needed, but blessed to be back and have lived a good life.
GM: We don’t know how lucky we are in the safety of our communities and homes, and we’re afforded that by good men like yourself who have gone out there and really helped our country.
There was a nice article in the Shelby Star about how many veterans the VA has taken care of, how many fell in World War 1 and 2, there was almost 60,000 in Vietnam killed, but we don’t know how many have been killed since then because we have a lot of Post Traumatic Stress. I think most people are aware that about 22 veterans every day commit suicide.
GM: And a lot of them are coming back from the Persian Gulf wars, almost every hour on the hour for those soldiers.
They’re probably exposed to more things than we’re aware of, and it doesn’t hit you until later in life. Some of these things just seem to slip back on you.
GM: I had Evan Thompson on last week talking about the American Legion, and the importance of getting involved with groups like the American Legion and the VFW. You are a huge proponent for the VFW, commander of the VFW and that is a great group that is ready made for our veterans coming back from overseas to just go plug in to. To be able to have people there from different war eras, and their own war era to understand what they through.
I’ll put a plug in for the Vietnam War Veterans that you were privileged to sit with in Kings Mountain. I think we’ve got 114 members now. It’s the second Monday of every month at 8:30 in Kings Mountain where Jim Medlin is doing a great job bringing us together. They started out with 5 members, 5 years ago, and now we’re at 114 members. That’s an awesome thing he’s started. Some of these veterans are not part of the VFW, Amvets and those places, but hopefully we can attract them in and help them realize they’ve got some things they may not be aware of.
GM: There are people in these places that understand what veterans are going through. People who can help them and make them feel part of the brotherhood they felt when in the military. That’s why we join, that’s why we do that. You think about coming out of a war zone where there is horrible stuff going on, maybe in the Middle East, and coming back and trying to sit in a college classroom. You did it Gene, I’m sure that was quite an adjustment?
It was a shock actually.
GM: Tell me about that shock. How does that work?
Well, the first thing I remember when I came back from Vietnam, I had about a week before I started in Gardner Webb. I was coming out from the jungles of Vietnam and then into Gardner Webb college which is a Baptist school, and I remember thinking, man how am I going to go about this. It was a goal of mine to finish college, and one of the reasons I volunteered for the draft was to get the GI bill. I remember going into the first class and Paul Stacy was my biology professor. Probably the hardest class I ever took, and I took it in summer school just so I could get that out the way. Thank goodness he understood what being a veteran was, what it meant. He took me aside and mentored me in how to go about studying, how to focus on study for that period of time, to make sure I made the grades to get a college degree. So, it was a shock but I adjusted fairly well.
GM: My thoughts are, you’re in the jungles of Vietnam, or you’re in the deserts of Iraq or Afghanistan, and your mind is racing a mile a minute I’m sure. When you’re in those pressure stress times of a fire fight or similar situation, and you’re with this band of brothers, weaponry is part of your life, fighting is your life for a long time, and then you go sit down beside some other kids who did not have those experiences. You said you came out the jungles of Vietnam and went almost immediately into college. One minute you’re in the jungles in a fire fight, and the next you’re in a college classroom and you are expected to behave much differently, with people who don’t have your experience and who are not used to those situations. I have found myself saying in my mind, this person is full of crap, or they’re babies, they don’t know.
It kind of felt that way when I first came back but I was able to put that a bit behind me. I had a couple of buddies who came back and went to Gardner Webb at the same time, so, we had a kind of a brotherhood as you say. Coming out of Vietnam, we also had the many changes that were going on in America where people weren’t too happy about the Vietnam war. It was hard for us to suck it up and ignore them to some degree but fortunately in a smaller town, we didn’t face as much adversity as we did at Fort Washington where we came back to debrief for a couple of days. There was a lot of protests and things going on, but we put that aside and made some friends.
GM: So, you’re not moving to Canada?
No, but I’ve got a good story to tell you. I had a younger brother who went to Germany, I recommended he go in the service for the discipline, and he ended up getting in the National Guard, and one day he came to my dad and said, I think I’m just going to Canada. My dad looked at him and said, why don’t you look in that mirror right there, my brother said, what do you mean, and my dad said, you want to see a coward looking in that mirror? You go to Canada, you don’t come home. So, he went on and joined the National Guard and finished his 6 years.
There was a lot of different opinions at that time, as there is today, but it is a big change today as it was 50 years ago. The military has changed tremendously. In fact, one of my goals this year is to go back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where I took my basic training for 10 weeks, and then go back to Fort Jackson because I haven’t been back since I got out. It’s on my bucket list. I want to check it out and see how much they have advanced since I was in there.
GM: Well come back and see me, I would love to hear about the contrast of the military today as of the military then. I imagine it was pretty rough?
Boot camp was 10 weeks at that time out of Fort Bragg. You always heard about volunteering, so I volunteered to be a fireman about the third week in. I thought I would be on the back of a fire truck, I didn’t realize I would be shoveling coal at night on duty for volunteers. So, I learned to not volunteer for a lot of things in basic training.
GM: What does Navy stand for? Never Again Volunteer Yourself.
GM: Thank you Gene for coming by for lunch with the veteran today and talking about veteran stories. You certainly have some brave stories and accomplished some great things in your life. I appreciate everything you’ve done.
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
with Greg and Hayden.
GM: Happy thanksgiving. I bought a big picture of a turkey, I can’t wait to dig in. Today’s topic is ‘Turkey Talk.’ How to get down to business and talk turkey with your family over the holidays, and why you should do it.
So, what are you doing for thanksgiving?
HS: We’re going to New York, to Manhattan for a couple of shopping errands, and we are going to New Hampshire.
GM: Send me some pictures, I’m jealous, I love New York City.
HS: And we’re going to Amish country. We’re having thanksgiving with my husband’s sister and her family and extended friends that we know. It’ll be great.
GM: I’m going to Savannah, Georgia. Stef and my kids have convinced me to go and see my mom and dad. I will be working Friday from a Savannah satellite, but I am going to try and unplug a little bit.
So, why, during the holidays is talking about estate planning so important?
Well, I’ll tell you..
Families should get together and talk business anyway, you should set up a time. I meet with my family for an official meeting on a weekly basis. We do a family meeting at 8pm on Sunday night and plan out the week. We run it like a business meeting because my wife has her calendar going, the kids have their calendar going, and we all try and get on the same page. We look at finances, we look at everything, any grievances we have, and we hash it out. If you can’t be on the same page with your family, there’s going to be problems in life.
HS: I don’t want people to think you’re all business with the kids because you let them climb all over you.
GM: Oh, I love my kids, but you’ve got to be responsible, you’ve got to have your calendar, money and work under control. We talk about all those things. Nothing is perfect but certainly you can’t even get close to perfection if you’re not on the same page and meeting regularly and keep things going. This is just an extension of that.
You should meet at least on the holidays. If you’re a senior, your kids are spread out everywhere. You might have kids in a different state right? You might have parents in different states like I do. You need to meet on the holidays because that is when you come together. You don’t need to do it when you sit down at the dinner table and say, oh yeah, business, business, business, when you’re stuffing your mouth with delicious turkey and stuffing. Carve out some time after dinner, but make time. Talk about family business, about estate planning, and why that might be important? Remember, your parents are aging, your aging.
Family traditions change all the time. I admit, I don’t like change, at least when it comes to holiday traditions, but a good change would be to introduce a family meeting.
I’ll give you an example. I had a client one time whose mother got a call, and they said, hey, you’ve won the lottery. Now, she was suffering from early on-set dementia, and everybody knew it, they knew something was wrong, but nobody had talked about it much. It was kind of like, sshh, don’t talk about it. That’s what families do, they shove it under the carpet, they don’t take action, they don’t talk about it. So, this phone call, they said you’ve won the lottery, all nice and polite, all you have to do is send me $30,000 dollars on the taxes of the winnings and we can send you your millions. What’s your bank account number, what’s your credit card number, great. $30,000 gone. There are so many scams out there.
So, how do we prevent things like that?
HS: Have conversations.
GM: Have conversations, plan, talk and take action. One thing you can do in that situation is either pursue a Guardianship, or put in place General Durable Power of Attorney, and maybe have something on the accounts that makes it harder to clear that transaction. Just have some ‘control’ put in place, so it’s harder to give away land or money or property.
I meet with families all the time who are scared that mom or dad might deed away their house to somebody.
HS: I’ve heard of people who’ve had caregivers come in and befriend them and convinced grandma to leave them the house because their kids don’t need it.
GM: Let me ask you, if you could go back and prevent the forest fire from happening in Lake Lure in the mountains, would you do it?
HS: I’d be stomping that thing out.
GM: You’d do it right away wouldn’t you? One way to prevent things like that is to have your foundations in place with your parents and yourselves. Everyone 18 to 180, should have their ‘General Durable Power of Attorney’ in place, so I could help you or you could help me if I’m in a wreck on the way home, and help me look after my personal business so I don’t lose everything. The band played on right?
Also, ‘Healthcare Power of Attorney.’ I want to appoint a specific person I trust to make my life or death and even long term healthcare decisions. That way, my kids aren’t arguing over what should be done with me, because I’ve appointed that one quarterback.
How many quarterbacks do you have for one team on the field? And why?
HS: One, because you can’t have two people giving conflicting instructions.
GM: You can’t have more than one person calling the plan, or calling plays, everybody would be fighting with each other, you would never get anything accomplished.
HS: You know, the military is a good example. People who go into battle, or overseas, or anywhere, they make sure they have all their documents ready, such as a will, my grandson had to have this done before going to the Middle East as an Army Ranger. They do that for a reason.
GM: And whether you believe it or not, your family is a business. You have assets, you have bills to pay, you have expenses, it’s a personal business.
HS: The ‘Saving the Farm’ book would be a great ice breaker. Just say to mom, I read something in this book I think you should read. I think this is something we might need to talk about.
GM: I wrote this book for situations like this. I like what Hayden said about this, it’s a reference book that reads like a novel. It’s very informative, it raises questions. But unless you talk about those things, does mom and dad have long term care insurance in place? Do you as a young or aging senior have long term care insurance in place?
This book is a great ice breaker. Nothing would be better than setting up your meeting after lunch on Thanksgiving day, and have this book there as a reference to talk about long term care insurance, or types of wills, or the pitfalls of wills, who’s going to be the executor? Who’s going to be your Power of Attorney? What’s wrong with Guardianships? Guardianship nightmares, read about those. What about VA benefits, is someone a veteran in the family? How will those benefits affect you? There are little known veterans benefits such as ‘Aid and Attendance’ that could add several thousand to your account every month, that could pay for an in-home care, or help pay for long term care.
Another reason you want to get a meeting planned and going is Guardianships. You do not want to end up in a Guardianship situation with your family. It’s cumbersome, it’s overwhelming trying to work with the courts, and when you do, you have to petition the courts to spend any money. Even if it’s to protect assets.
Look at your foundations. General Durable Power of Attorney. You do not want to have three quarterbacks on the field when your life and finances are on the line. You want to designate one person who will make the decisions for you.
Living Wills is another one, (also known as ‘The Declaration for Desire of a Natural Death.’ Put those in place so you can say, if I’m terminal, incurable, brain death has occurred and I’m being maintained by a respirator, do I want to continue on that way?
And do I want to put that on my son or daughter or my wife to make that guilt ridden decision, or do I want to make it, and go ahead and put forth my statement of intent.
What about ‘Wills?’ You should have a Will to allow you to pass your property the way you want to pass it, not the way the state of North Carolina has chosen to pass it for you. I guarantee, politicians have already chosen a path for you, and your property. Elect me, and I will choose how everybody in the state chooses to pass their property, how about that? Does that sound good?
HS: No. But they have to do that because there are so many people who die intestate (without a will).
GM: That’s true, it is done for a reason, it’s a good thing.
HS: And nowadays there are second marriages, and step children, things aren’t cut and dried anymore. You’ve got a second husband who is living in the house and you’ve got a daughter whom you wanted to inherit the house. There’s all kinds of situations.
GM: So, avoid surprises.
HS: If you don’t know the questions to ask, we can help you understand the situation and what is going to work best for you.
GM: Those are your foundations. You need to have them in place. Just starting there can be great. Go to our website, mcelderlaw.com, I will post this Deed Planning guide. This is a whole estate planning guide. It will show you how you can use Trusts, and avoid Probate, and how you might want to use Ladybird Deeds or Life Estate Deeds to protect your property and avoid probate. I will post that, and you talk about it with your family.
Talk about eDocs Access which I will post also. It will show you a 5 step process how to use our system. This is a bank level security system. We put all your documents there, and your kids from out of state even, can access them only if you give them permission to do so. If there is an emergency, it allows you to view those documents, even if you are traveling.
I will also put up a Trust guide for you.
Print these off, it will make a good guide to your conversation. Just make your meeting a separate thing, don’t make it a dessert conversation piece. Set a real meeting time, and get on the same page as mom and dad, or your kids. Figure out how to protect all the hard earned money and property your family worked for. Don’t let another Thanksgiving or holiday season go by and gamble everything.
HS: And when we do Wills, there is a personal property memorandum that we give to everyone, where they can start to list things. That would be a good thing to have in your hand for Thanksgiving. People could then say, okay mom, I want you to put it in writing, you promised me that item, and I want you to put it on this list. That could start the conversation.
GM: And remember, you can avoid all the infighting by making some simple decisions. If you add a little money to the family mix, it’s like blood to sharks.
So, make sure to give us call at 704 259 7040, or go to our website and download those documents, and use them.
Make it a great day and Happy Thanksgiving.
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
New! Rain or Fire??? Live At The Conference Table with Hayden & Greg: When will disaster strike? Be prepared and here’s how. #theelderlawguy
Gene has been in fire fights and wow the stories of heroism. Gene is a true American Hero. Gene received the bronze star for saving fellow brothers and camelback to the States from the jungles of Vietnam to get his college degree go on to have a stellar career and family #theelderlawguy
As a certified attorney by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, we handle Veterans Aid & Attendance and Disability cases. We are proud to serve our veterans and their families. You may contact our firm by calling: 704-259-7040. Visit us online at: mcelderlaw.com. #theelderlawguy
Turkey Talk: Getting down to business and talking turkey with our families over the Thanksgiving Holidays! #theelderlawguy
How to do it? Why you should do it?
Thank you for joining us for lunch with veteran Bob Cabaniss, 2 time recipient of a Purple Heart, veteran of the Marine Corp, an enlisted Marine, and former member of the Army and Airforce. A very rare individual.
“When you walk into Graceland, you walk in the door and there’s a hallway with a balcony, and Elvis and Ann Margaret were standing on the balcony…
He had sent his guys to the base and said he was having a big party at his house, and if any Marine showed up in their dress uniform, they would be invited to the party…
“So, me and 3 other guys had dress blues and so we got a car to get out there…
We walked in and said hello, and walked on through the house to the back yard and there was a barbecue set up, hamburgers and stuff. So, we ate hamburgers and hung around…
“We stayed for about 2 hours, and were getting ready to leave and he sent his guys out to ask, who wants to play touch football?..
“So, we’ve got dress blues on right, that was the most expensive clothes a Marine had, and back then, the front lawn didn’t have any of these big oak trees on it, so we played touch football on the front lawn of Graceland with Elvis.”
GM: You were in Millington, Tennessee, the same place I was stationed for training for AT school?
“AE school was in Jacksonville, Florida. I went to AE school, myself and my buddy Dick Wells, then went to our next squadron which was New River NC, and we had our choice of squadrons. So, the base commander said, what squadron do you want? Well, we had no idea. He said, well, you could go to Spain, France and England, Dick and I looked at each other and said, that’s the one. So we got in it and found out about a year later when you’re in your first squadron you couldn’t get out. I don’t know if they had this planned then or not but we were going to Vietnam as a squadron. We took over from the group that was over there for about 8 months and took over their helicopters but we went as a group, so we all knew each other. But, when I got to the squadron the commander said that all crew chiefs were mechanics, but we need a crew chief who’s an electrical guy because of all the problems they were getting, so they chose me, and I was sent back to AT school, so I was AE and AT.”
GM: So, you’re a Vietnam vet as a Marine, but then you’ve been in multiple branches of the services, more than just the Marines.
“Right. Army National Guard and the Airforce National Guard.”
GM: How does that happen?
“I really intended to stay in the Marine Corp, but when the reenlistment lecture came around and I asked the commanding officer, because I had the Purple Hearts, I wound up in the Naval Hospital in Key West convalescing from my wounds, we got shot up a lot over there, so I asked, if I reenlist in the Marine Corp am I going back to Vietnam? And he said, oh yeah. So I was thinking, oh no. They tried to kill me the first time, so I thought about it and considered it, and got completely out of the military and went to work for RCA.”
GM: You were awarded two purple hearts?
“The first purple heart was what I call my John Wayne wound. I was in four helicopters in Vietnam, and this one was I think the second one. We got shot up and landed hard, and I thought I’d snagged my flight suite getting out of the helicopter, because it wouldn’t quit bleeding. I didn’t think much of it but I finally went to the doctor and said, why is this thing keep bleeding, what’s wrong, and he started digging around and pulled shrapnel out and he said, my god, you’ve been wounded. He was pulling these little fibers out that looked like stranded electrical wire where the strands have come out. He pulled out about 5 or 6 of them, and said I’ll put you in for a purple heart. Now it looks like a vaccination scar. My buddy Mitch Carpenter got wounded also. He got hit across the bridge of the nose.
So, a month later they had us line up and had Marines give us purple hearts. So, the airwing of the Marine Corp, the infantry Marines consider us to be almost air-force. This Colonel is giving out the purple hearts and he stopped in front of these guys who really got hurt. This guy had his arm all bandaged up and the Colonel said, so son, how are you wounded? And he said, I stepped on a land mine, he really got hurt. So, he went down the line and got to Mitch. Now in the Airwing, we were working on these old piston engine helicopters and they were nasty, and our uniforms were all oily, we just looked bad, hair down to here. In early Vietnam, you couldn’t get food or anything, our uniforms were rotting off us literally, because of the damp, they never got dry. So, we’re looking like someone’s rear end, and he walks in front of Mitch and said, son where were you wounded, and Mitch said, right across the bridge of my nose sir, and the Colonel said, where? Mitch went, right here sir, and the Colonel said, oh yeah. Then he looked up and down and said, you’re in the airwing aren’t you? Yes sir, and he pinned the purple heart on him. Then he walked up to me and he said, son, how are you wounded, and I said, shrapnel in the back of my arm sir, and he said, you’re in the airwing too aren’t you? I said, yes, sir, and he pinned it on me. Some on these guys were really hurt, and some of them got sent back to the states. It was funny and it was embarrassing for Mitch and I, we wanted to crawl under the nearest rock.”
The second time they sent me home. Anyway, it was 52 years ago. A Long time.”
GM: So, how did you end up back in the service?
“I was out for about 5 or 6 years, and I missed the military. I also wanted to buy an airplane, but I didn’t want to spend family money, so I checked out the air guard because they had airplanes but they didn’t have any openings, they were completely full. Back in the 50’s my dad was commanding officer of the Army National Guard Unit in Shelby so, I checked out the army guard.
I walked in the door and there behind the desk was a man named Gus Gregory, wonderful guy. I walked in and I remembered Gus from my dad, and I said, Sergeant Gregory, and he said yeah, who are you? Bob Cabaniss. He said, Bobby Cabaniss, cause when I was a little boy they called me Bobby, and he’d known me since I was a little boy. He asked me what I was doing down there? I told him I was down to see about enrolling in the army guard, but I said, you guys don’t have any airplanes out there. What would I be doing? He said, just come down and look around, if you see something you like, just let me know. I said, where do I sign up?
I was in the army guard for 12 or 13 years in Shelby. Then I went to the air guard in Charlotte and they had an opening in avionics. So, they said I had to be discharged from the army, and take the ASVAB test, so that’s what I did. I loved the army but the air-guard is a whole other world. They’re very professional and I literally went all over the world. The first Gulf War, Bosnia, Panama, we did a lot of stuff the army guys just didn’t get to do.
I wound up as first sergeant. First Sergeant is like Master Chief, in charge of all the enlisted guys. The commanding officer called me up to the office one day and he said, I’d like you to be my first sergeant. I said, you know my reputation, and he said, oh I know your reputation. I asked, what do you know about it? He said, you despise officers, and I said, I do. He said, well, you’re not going to be with the officers, you’ll be over with the enlisted guys. I asked him, why did you choose me to be first Sergeant? He said, because you were in the army, we need someone to straighten this place out.
In the Airforce, and Air-guard, everyone had different colored ballcaps, to differentiate the shop you were in. The engine shop wore blue ballcaps, the electronic guys wore green ballcaps. I became first sergeant when we switched over from green uniforms to the camouflage stuff, so we had to get rid of all that and wear the camouflaged BDU cap which I hated. That was one of my deals, to make sure you were wearing proper uniform. You had to blouse your boots, you had to wear the proper uniform. I was really tough of them. I was going around snatching hats off them, you can’t do this, can’t do that.
I knew we were getting a new commanding officer, and I was standing in formation one Sunday, and all these people out there. First Sergeant goes out and brings everybody to attention, and the XO comes out and gives the squadron to him, and then you go stand behind the squadron with the Chief. So, I’m standing behind the squadron and I look, and there’s some guy with a mesh black ballcap on, right in the middle of my squadron. The base commander is up there talking, and so I slipped down there and ease behind him and said, you get your butt in my office. So, I looked down, and the guy was a Major. I said, sir, what are you doing standing in formation with my enlisted men? And he said, I thought that’s where I should stand with a new commanding officer. I said, sir, you don’t stand in formation with the enlisted men, come stand with me. Come to find out he’d never done anything but be an Airforce flyer, he had no clue. He came back and stood next to me, and said, I think I need to come to your office and you can teach me how to do my job. I said, sir, where going to get along just fine.”
GM: I’m sure there’s a lot of truth to that. I’m sure that officers are dependent on the enlisted.
“I told my new commanding officer, when you get a new butter bar, that’s a guy right out of school, an ensign to you, how about sending him through my office before you send him out to his job? And he said, why? And I said, I just need to talk to him.
These guys would come in and they would always get put over at the shop, the engine shop, avionics or something. They’d bring them in to me, and I’d say, sir, you’re a brand new officer, congratulations. You’re going to be the OIC down at the engine shop. Now Chief Jones has been the Chief down at the engine shop for 15 years, he pretty much knows what’s going on. Do yourself a favor, go down there, introduce yourself to Chief Jones and say, I’m here for you to teach me how to do my job. If you do that, you’ll do fine. If you go and start throwing your weight around, next thing you know, Chief Jones is going to be on the phone to a buddy in the Pentagon and you’re going to wind up in Alaska. Just you remember, these Chiefs, they know everybody. They all owe each other favors, and all they’ve got to do is pick up the phone book and they can make your life miserable.
My dad died when I was 13, my mom died when I was 16. So, I’ve been on my own since I was 16, and had it not been for the Marine Corp, there’s no telling what might have been. The Marine Corp set my future you might say. I just went to Parris Island a few weeks ago with my grandson who graduated from there, and driving on base was almost emotional for me, and it still is to this day.”
GM: I feel the same way about the Navy. I got to see the world in the Navy. I spent a lot of time in the Middle East, Asia, and I was stationed in San Diego.
“When I first got in the Marine Corp, when I first got situated, some old salt had written on the sea bag everywhere he went. I thought that was pretty cool, I need to do that, so I got the guys in paraloft to make me a clothing bag, and I wrote on there all the places that I’d been. When I go through an airport with that clothing bag on my shoulder, everybody stops and stares and say, look at that guy. Cause all these years I’ve been in the military, it’s 33 years, I’ve been gone all the time. My grandson, before he joined the Marine Corp, I pulled that bag out and said, I just want you to see this. This is what you can do.”
GM: The Navy allowed me to become independent and grow up a little bit, and get out on my own. My dad was in the Navy at San Diego too, and he was in Vietnam, he worked on subs as a sub-lieutenant. One of the things he always said, which I realized to be true was, I was enlisted, I went in enlisted, and he always said, the only difference between myself and the officer was a piece of paper. So, that inspired him to come straight out and get his engineering degree, which made a great life for us.
“My grandson lived with us his senior year in high school. My wife who I love dearly, said to him, let’s go upstairs, I want to show you your papa’s armoire. She opened it up and all my t-shirts were folded as so, and my socks and everything, that’s what the Marine Corp does for you. She said to him, when we first got married, he had to show me how to fold his underwear, because if it wasn’t folded just so, he would just refold it.”
GM: I used to iron my underwear. My wife just freaked out, boxer shorts with creases on them.
“I was telling my grandson, they do things differently when you’re in boot camp, they issue everything to you. All his field gear, all issued to you, so they’ve got to haul that mess around with you every time they go somewhere. And I said, did they show you how to pack a sea bag? He said, well, no. They didn’t show you how to pack a sea bag? Well I’ll show you how to pack a sea bag so you can get all your stuff in it. So, let me just show you, and I started rolling everything up and putting it in there, and I said, you wouldn’t believe what you can get in a sea bag if you do it right. You can get so much in here you can’t pick the thing up.
Then I said, did they not show you how to fold your dress uniform? He said, no. So, I said, let me show you, because you tuck one sleeve into the other sleeve and then you roll the thing inside out so it’s not all wrinkly. Somebody is going to teach you how to do this sooner or later. And when you have ‘junk on a bunk’, a clothing inspection, you just unroll it and it’s not wrinkled, it’s looks good, whereas if you just stuff it in a bag, it’s going to look horrible. And you can’t fold it, because folding it leaves creases.”
GM: I think our society is lot more casual now also.
“I wound up being a high school teacher, I taught electronics and physics at Burns. The kids in my classroom, when I first started teaching, at the end of your senior year, you have your final exam, and the last question on all my final exams was, ‘What do you like, and what do you not like?’ I can’t tell you how many times they answered, we enjoy the discipline in your classroom. And I thought, of all the things, and so I asked the kids, why is that? And they said, because when we come in your classroom, we know how far we can go. We know we can go up to the line. In other classrooms, we don’t know, and it creates stress because we don’t know where to go, we don’t know how far we can go.”
GM: Society as a whole and the school systems need to back that up, because it doesn’t do kids any good if you can’t give them some discipline.
“My discipline was, I will never send you to the office, I don’t care what you do, I’m going to take care of it right here, right now. I never sent a kid to the office in 30 years, because the kids knew. I think they respected me enough, no.1 not to pull any crazy stuff. I would say, if you want to play a practical joke on me, I’m all for it as long as you don’t hurt anybody and you don’t damage any equipment. Make it a good one, because I’ve seen all of them, and I’ll laugh as hard as you. My thing was, if you’re late coming to classroom, and late means your butt is not on the seat, don’t say a word to me, just go to the back of the room, drop down, and give me 25 push-ups. That’s the first time, second time it’s 50, and third time it’s a 100.”
GM: That’s a lot of Push-ups.
“Young kids especially would say, I can’t do 25 push-ups, I’d say, I tell you what partner, I’ll do a one arm push up for every two arm push up you do. So, I’d say, show me what you can do. They’d do 25 push-ups even if it killed them, even if it broke their back so they could see me do 25 one arm push-ups.”
I’m Greg McIntyre and this is ‘Lunch with a Veteran.’
Thanks for sitting down with me.
I am an Elder Law attorney and also handle Veteran’s Benefits for veterans and their families. I am proud to be a certified attorney through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. If you have any questions you would like to ask me any questions about the above article please call me at McIntyre Elder Law, 704 259–7040, or you can find us on Facebook and twitter @LawyerGreg. So leave a question or a comment, I do answer any questions and comments throughout the week so get writing.
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
Evan Thompson has made the military a career and continues to serve with his extensive involvement in the American Legion. Evan is the Commander of Post 82 and the District Commander. Evan obtained advanced degrees while in the military and credits the military for his educational opportunities. Lots to be learned by young and old from this Veteran’s stories.
As a certified attorney by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, we handle Veterans Aid & Attendance and Disability cases. We are proud to serve our veterans and their families. #theelderlawguy
Predicting the Future! Should you be worried? How will the current change in administrations on the State and Federal level effect passing your hard earned money and property. #theelderlawguy