Military Extravaganza – What one committed high schooler can do for a community. How one special young man has organized a community around a great cause and celebration of our veterans. #theelderlawguy
Military Extravaganza – What one committed high schooler can do for a community. How one special young man has organized a community around a great cause and celebration of our veterans. #theelderlawguy
I’m Greg McIntyre and I’m here with Hayden Soloway and David Rose who is Hayden’s cousin.
So, Hayden, what do you know about your cousin’s military service?
HS: Mostly what he sent me. David was older than me so he was a BMOC before I went to high school. He was well known among the students, fantastic baseball player, he had a status there. He was someone I admired from a distance, so I am interested to hear about his service.
GM: What’s BMOC?
HS: Big man on campus.
GM: I’m sorry I did not know that. I’m looking at a picture here of an L20 U6A Beaver. So, you were in the Air Force?
DR: No, I was in the Army.
GM: You went from BMOC to being in the Army, to working on flying Beavers in the Air Force? But the Army had them too?
DR: Right. The Army and Air Force had Beavers, the Air Force called them U6A Beavers and the U stands for Utility. It could hold six people or you could take all the back seats out and fill it up with cargo. DeHavilland built it in Canada and initially was used by bush pilots for people going in and out for fishing expeditions. Most had floats so they could land on water. Their strength was being rugged, very dependable and could get into areas where there wasn’t much room for take offs and landings.
GM: And you were a tech inspector? What does a tech inspector do with a U6A Beaver?
DR: When I joined the Army, I joined for the aviation or to be an aviation mechanic because my brother Joe was in the Air Force and he guided me towards the aviation part. I did like airplanes and was also mechanically inclined. So, we went for basic training to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for eight weeks and then to Fort Worth, Alabama for mechanic school. The Vietnam war was just getting cranked up.
GM: What year was that?
DR: I went in August of sixty-three. I know we were there when Kennedy was assassinated, so right up to end of March nineteen-sixty-four. All of us at the graduation of aviation school were going to be sent to Vietnam, and I didn’t want to go to Vietnam, so a friend and I went around to some of the other branches, the Rangers, Special Forces, the guys who jump out of airplanes, not thinking that they would be the first ones to be sent to Vietnam. But we were turned down, so we were all sent to our facilities and I went to Fort Riley, Kansas.
GM: I have a question for you. You were a baseball player, what was your position?
DR: I played short stop, third base and left field. I had a paper round and I’d gone out for the American Legion team and had someone substitute for my paper round, and my dad came out to the field and said, Dave you need to be working, so I didn’t get to play. I played in the Army, that was where I really played baseball.
GM: So, you come out of high school, you know you are going to be drafted and you get ahead of the game by joining up, is that correct?
DR: Well, I went to college in fifty-eight at Marion College in Marion, Indiana. I lasted up until Christmas and I had a stomach problem so I came home. I worked back in Shelby, then in sixty-one to sixty-two I went back to college and then came back and knew I was going to be drafted. Initially, I wanted to go into the Navy into the nuclear submarine program, and the Navy recruiter had taken me to movies and basketball, and lunch and dinners and I was sure I was going in, and then the USS Thresher sank. I think they had two nuclear submarines sink in that era, so the night before they were supposed to pick me up and take me to Columbia, I called and said I’m not going. So, I joined the Army to get in the aviation program.
Your question was about the tech inspector.
‘GM: It was but you’re coming from Shelby, North Carolina, you’ve been to college then join the Army and go to boot camp, how was that experience?
DR: It was wonderful. In high school I was in the band, and in the band you march, in the Army you march. At Fort Jackson we were put in a company. We were in the presence of the Drill Instructors and they took us upstairs into a barracks, beds two high, and said, we need to get these beds lined up. Well, nobody really wanted to do it, so I said, come on guys we need to get this done because we have to do it, then we can go off. This Drill Sergeant was on the stairs listening and heard me for lack of better words, take charge, and for that and the fact that I knew how to march, I was made a squad leader. I didn’t have to do KP, I didn’t have to do guard duty, I didn’t have to do any of the functions the others had to because I was their leader.
GM: I had a similar situation in boot camp where I was the A-Rod, and that was the second in command of the division and that person marches everyone around. I was a young kid from the South, we were in Chicago, Great Lakes for boot camp and I could sing and I got fed up with people messing up the first week so I stepped up, and that gave me rank coming out and leadership possibilities and got me off certain duties.
DR: Squad leader had what we called ‘acting jacks,’ which were bands on our arms with corporal stripes on them so they were temporary. I still have those.
GM: So you enjoyed boot camp? I did too. Most people don’t say they enjoyed boot camp.
DR: I may not have enjoyed it as far as what everybody else had to do, KP, guard duty and things like that.
GM: You graduate from there, then what?
DR: Fort Rucker, Alabama Aviation School and then to Fort Riley, Kansas. We were supposed to be able to work on the airplanes when we graduated as the school was thorough and I was first in my class at tech. There was a guy there from Florida and he had gotten an air frame and engine degree from Emory University and we were just neck and neck the whole time, I was first he was second, he was first I was second. In the final exam, the question he missed which put me in first place was, if the engine has fluctuating oil pressure what does it cause? And it had, low oil levels, bubbles in the oil which was the answer, and I think he answered low oil which gave me first, that was one of my claims to fame.
GM: How did you get assigned to a squadron of Beavers?
DR: At Fort Riley we were just mechanics. We weren’t assigned any particular airplane. The unusual thing at Fort Riley was there were a number of civilian mechanics and those mechanics didn’t want us Army guys infringing on their time, they didn’t want us to take their jobs, so we did other things. I shot on the rifle team for special troops, I played baseball for special troops, I drove the jeep for the company commander and hardly ever worked on an airplane until orders came to go to tech inspectors school at Fort Eustace, Virginia. From tech inspectors school I was sent to Korea and that’s where the Beavers were. My airplane was five-one-one-six-eight-four-zero (5116840), it was Army green and later on they started camouflaging them with tan, green, blue and things like that.
In Korea, basically all we had at our facility were Beavers and the L19 which was called the Bird-Dog which was a two seater single engine aircraft, one person in front and one in back. We had a lot of Beavers and Bird-Dogs, and on the other side we had helicopters. I just became infatuated with the Beavers and choose the aircraft to be mine. Finally, I was made crew chief of that airplane. The funny things is, when they flew my airplane they would say, why does your airplane fly faster than the other ones we fly, something like seventeen hundred and fifty (1750) rpms for cruising, and there would be an indicator for speed and it might be ten to twelve miles an hour faster than another one, and I said, I wax the leading edge of the rails. At the school, TBAVN7 technical bulletin aviation seven says, you do not wax airplanes, and I said, I know that, they said, TBAVN7 says you don’t wax them, and I said, why does it say it, you don’t need to know that, that’s the law. Instead of waxing the airplane, I just waxed the leading edge of everything, the landing gear, the wings and it made it fly faster.
GM: Do you know why you can’t wax an airplane?
DR: I don’t because TBAVN7 said you can’t.
GM: How was your duty in Korea?
DR: Korea was good. The thing about being in aviation is you always have to be close to an improved facility. You have to have water, electricity, air compressors, whatever you do in the field. We did on occasion have to bivouac like the regular soldiers, once or twice a year. There was a grass strip behind the hangar and we would pitch our tents there and they would come over and drop flour bags to simulate bombs and bring food out to us, so that was our tough living.
GM: Did you have any experiences in Korea that were memorable?
DR: Yeah, one of them is tough. At my base I was crew chief and they sent me down to Daegu to a facility that was a Korean Air Force base with the US Air Force and the US Army. In that facility we would take the airplanes apart, disassemble them. You have to do this every few years, or after so many flying hours, then check everything, put it back together.
GM: Did you ever put it back together and were left with one part?
DR: No, there were no left over parts. So, it was payday on the last day of the month in September sixty-five, and the Koreans on the other side had just finished rebuilding an F80, the T33 which is the trainer version and carries two people. Well a Korean guy came in my office and said, Rose, they’re about ready to test the T33, you wont to go fly in a jet? I said, yes I do. I got my helmet and was all ready to go and they left me by myself as the airplane was gone through and I thought I probably shouldn’t go, so I said, tell them to go on, maybe some other time. In about twenty minutes there was sirens and all hell broke loose. The plane had taken off and was supposed to make a left turn after take-off but instead it took a right turn and crashed into a mountain and the pilot was killed of course. I called my headquarters and told them what had happened. They brought the pilot down and someone who was there said, glad you didn’t go. By doing my duty and staying there it saved my life.
GM: That’s a powerful story. Glad you didn’t make that flight.
DR: Exactly. That was the worst thing that happened. Everything else was wonderful.
The good thing is, and I like to tell this story, all the planes I worked on or inspected, I never had one that couldn’t take off when it was supposed to, couldn’t complete its mission or had to make a forced landing. That was perfect, I like that.
GM: And as a tech inspector that’s your job to make sure the aircraft works properly.
DR: If you were to work on say, the prop, or do something with the end of the flight controls, that’s known as a safety flying condition, I had to go behind you and look at your work and then sign off on it by signing my name that everything was okay. When you sign your name, you really want to make sure everything was okay.
GM: How long were you in the Army?
DR: Three years.
GM: During that time you played baseball?
DR: That was when we couldn’t work on airplanes because of the civilians, I had nothing else to do and I was on the special troops baseball team.
GM: And you got paid to play on the special troops baseball team?
DR: Well, Army pay, yes, and we were undefeated, but I hurt my knee sliding, and I hurt my hip sliding so I decided I wasn’t going to slide anymore. I was so fast I could steal second base and not slide.
GM: So, you go to Korea, work on the U6A Beaver and you had a spotless track record there and an eye for perfectionism and being meticulous which I guess you have to be. Then you come out of the military, where do you go in civilian life?
DR: Well, there’s still Vietnam. When I came back from Korea, I was sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia as a tech inspector. They were starting a new aviation company in Thailand and I was the only single unmarried tech inspector at Fort Belvoir, so I got volunteered to go to Thailand for four hundred and twenty days TDY (temporary duty). I think I sent Hayden a copy of the letter of commendation that I got for two engine changes, which is pretty technical on U6As. One night in the company area, one of the Captains said, Rose pack your bags for ten days we’re going to Saigon, and go to the supply sergeant and get yourself a pistol. I’d never shot a pistol before in the Army, and the supply Sergeant said, are you qualified to fire one of these? I said, no, and he said, well, you can take the pistol but I can’t give you any ammunition, so I said, what do I need a pistol for if I don’t have any bullets? One of the Captains said, here I’ve got bullets for everyone, and he had a whole flack bag full of bullets and we got on the airplane.
The deal was, we were flying two airplanes to Saigon and leaving one there. There was another plane that came in from Corpus Christi Texas in a box. It had been delivered to Saigon and we went over to put it together, test fly it and fly it back to Thailand. It took us ten days to do that. I didn’t get out of Saigon to look around but it was a pretty place. One night I was on the roof of the USO building watching a movie called ‘The Ugly American,’ and while we watched that movie you could hear in the distance, boom, boom, from the sound of artillery, it was an unreal situation. That was my Vietnam experience.
Another thing, there was this fellow I knew who was a helicopter mechanic at Fort Eustace and we got word that he was killed in an accident in Colorado. When we pulled up after landing in Saigon, there was a guy giving us the signals to come in and it was that guy, it was fake news. I said to him, hey you’re supposed to be dead, and he said, what? I said, we got word you were killed in an accident in Colorado. It was obviously false news. He came up to me later and said, would you like to go out on a mission tonight as a gunner on a hughey, that’s the UH1 helicopter that they used in Vietnam and I said, yeah, that sounds like fun, then I started to think, if I’m shooting at somebody they’re probably going to be shooting back at me, so I declined.
HS: I didn’t realize you had that many decisions to make. I thought you went where they told you to go?
GM: I always tell people this, anything you have in the civilian world, the military has it. We interviewed a guy recently called Martin Mongiello and he had been to hotel management school in the Navy and was a cook in the Navy. He ended up cooking at the White House and Camp David. Anything you want to do in the civilian world you can learn in the military and they will pay you for it. I could have come out of the Navy working on electronics or aviation electronics. I could have gone private sector and come back as a contractor or gone to work for Boeing or someone like that. I decided on a different direction. So, what did you do when you got out of the military?
DR: I should have continued in aviation but I didn’t. I went to work for a life insurance company in Virginia. My Dad was in the insurance business all his life so he sort of lead me that way, but I knew quite quickly that that wasn’t for me. I started in August of sixty-six until May of sixty-seven, when I started working for Nabisco and worked there until seventy-nine. That was a good job, it was very labor intensive. Then I worked for a company out of St Louis, Missoura, and then worked for Panasonic from eighty-four until ninety-one.
GM: So, how do you think the military shaped your life?
DR: My job as a tech inspector gave me more confidence. I thought when I came out I was a changed person. I was more confident, I interacted with people better and I seemed to grow up I guess you would say. It did me good.
GM: It is amazing the responsibility the military puts on the shoulders of young kids.
DR: I think every person should spend some time in the military, whether it be a year or two, I think everybody needs that experience.
GM: Get away from home, grow up a little bit, take more responsibility, you learn about yourself more than anything. Whether you stay in for the rest of your life or not is not relevant. You could but you don’t have to. You will carry that confidence with you, and you can learn it. I thought, these military schools are there for me to pass and do well if I put my time and effort into it and apply that to college or law school or anything, and you have the confidence to do it. I could live on my own without having to rely on my mom or dad all the time. Kids live at home now until they’re thirty.
HS: My grandson came out of the military an entirely different person. He was one of those who just got carried along through school and didn’t make great grades. He was first or second in the competitions he was in when in the military and just came out totally different. He’s goal driven and he wants to be a teacher and a coach. He never would have had the confidence or the inclination to do it otherwise.
GM: I think there is a misconception about being in the military. You can complete your education and come out with money and continue in further education. There is a lot of benefits to being in the military.
DR: Everything is available to you in the military, just pay attention and take advantage of what they offer you.
GM: I think getting outside of your town, whether you live in Shelby or a larger place it doesn’t matter, and learning that it’s a great big world out there. It adds to the way you think and how you see the world. That’s important.
DR: Going from Shelby, North Carolina to meeting someone from California is strange. And if you’re from North Carolina and you’re in Korea and meet somebody from Fayetteville, you think of them as brothers.
GM: I spent a lot of time in Asia when I was in the Navy and we went to South Korea but never made it out to where you were. We were in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and hit Australia a couple of times, and the Middle East we were at Bahrain, Abu-Dhabi and Dubai.
DR: So, you have seen the world.
GM: It’s an eye-opening experience just to get out of town and see the world. Thank you for talking with me today it has been a pleasure and thank you for your service.
I’m Greg McIntyre of McIntyre Elder Law. If you have any questions call our office at 704–259–7040.
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
Jim Quinlan. Marine and Former National Director of American Legion Baseball. Tune in for this Homerun! #theelderlawguy
I’m Greg McIntyre and I’m here with Tom Haines, (not Tom Hanks) and his wife Nancy and she has just handed me this awesome art of Tom Haines, the author of ‘SNAFU My Vietnam Vacation — 1969.’ The art shows Tom standing as the peace symbol. That’s a big gun.
TH: That’s a M60.
GM: And the ammunition.
TH: That’s some heavy stuff. The rucksack that we carried was sixty pounds, then whatever else we carried was additional weight, boonies for an entire day being designated as the bearer of M60 ammunition, and at six foot three and one hundred-sixty-five pounds, it wasn’t easy.
GM: My grandfather was part of a three man machine gun unit in world war two marching from Le Harve, France into the battle of the Bulge, but three of them would split up that gun and carry it. Did you have a team you carried that with?
TH: No, but let me start from the beginning. I got my diploma and a BS in Marketing from Gannon University in one hand and my draft notice in the other.
GM: Where’s Gannon University?
TH: Erie, Pennsylvania. I graduated in 1967 and my dad was in the post office and I hadn’t got my draft notice handed to me but he knew I was on the list. He gave me a heads up and said, well, now you’ve got your choice. You can go into the Marines, or Coast Guard, or Navy, or Air, or Army, whatever and pick out what it is you want to do. That way you’re not stuck on going straight to combat for your training. Without a lot of thought I choose the Army because that was what my dad was in during world war two. In fact, he was shot in battle which took him out of action for six months.
So, I picked the Army, and then as far as what branch I wanted to go into, I got to the induction at the recruitment center and the gentleman there said, you are perfect material to be an officer. What I did was, I ended up being accepted at the officer candidate school at Fort Benning. I went to Fort Dix and went through basic training and then went through advanced infantry training. Then I was sent to Fort Benning for twelve weeks of officer candidate infantry training, so I was really qualified for the infantry. I decided to shorten my stay in the twelfth week along with seven other guys that quit as well. We were headed to the center for sending you to Vietnam. We were going to that compound and there was a First Sergeant behind a building looking around the corner out of a B-Movie going, ‘Pssst, psssst,’ he was giving us the sign of, come over here I need to talk with you. So, we went over and he said, Guys, I’m the First Sergeant of the Scout Dog Unit, I need four scout dog handlers. The training will take an extra twelve weeks and who knows, the war may be over by then. I remembered the only advice my dad gave me, don’t ever volunteer. So, what did I do, I volunteered.
They took us to the scout dog unit and next morning he calls us in to give us our assignments and he said, guys, I lied to you. We all went, oh no. He said, I don’t need any scout dog handlers, what I need is a truck dispatcher, a veterinary technician, a clerk typist and a supply specialist and luckily each one of us picked the one we wanted and there were no conflicts. So, for the next year I was at Fort Benning in the scout dog unit.
I had about nine months left in the service and every time my orders came down from Vietnam my First Sergeant would pull them. He said, I can’t let this guy go. He’s too crucial to the running of this unit. Well, he was on vacation when the orders came in so there was no one to pull them. So, we got our orders to go to Vietnam.
When I got there, I had three days for my processing, and when that was done we went to this one room and everyone there was saying, the guy behind that door is going to send everyone in this room to somewhere in Vietnam. We had no idea where, whether it was safe or not, of course there was nowhere safe in Vietnam but it was all up to that guy. So, it came my turn to go in the room and he had his head down doing some paperwork and then he looked up and I said, you’ve got to be kidding me, he was one of the other four guys who didn’t volunteer for the scout dog unit. He said, he got off the plane and they saw he had a college degree and sat him right down and he hadn’t been more than a mile from that building the whole time he was there. So, he said, where do you want to go? And I said, some place safe. He said, I can’t make you as safe as the gold in Fort Knox but I can send you to some place that’s not showing much action right now. I’ll send you to Pleiku. At Pleiku and I went to sign in with another First Sergeant and he looked at my orders and just about blew it. He said, what shit for brains sent you here as a specialist for supply? I said, I don’t know why, this is what they gave me. So, he said, I don’t need you in supply let’s look at your records, what’s your secondary MOS. Well, I was more qualified for the infantry than almost 95% of people in Vietnam. He asked me, do you have a military driving license? No. Do you know anything about engines? I can’t tell the front from the back. Can you drive a jeep? Not really. And he said, you’re not making this easy for me son. Then he said, do you know where to put gas in a jeep? I said, yeah, there’s a hole in the front next to the driver on the side. You’re my man, CO’s driver, you start tomorrow.
That was twice I was taken out of the infantry because of my college degree. At one point while I was there, I got really irritated because I was pulling guard anti-reaction, all these things where you’re on the ready to go out into the field if need be at the last second, which happened once, the rest of the time I was driving but I didn’t much of that because I kept getting put on the list. Well, he was walking up the plank and I had a bar of soap and I slammed it on the ground and he looked at me and said, you got a problem son? I said, yeah, when was the last time you saw me? He said, I don’t know, a week or two, I said, yeah, because I go on guard duty and right to reaction and back to guard duty, that’s not what I’m trained for. I want to go out in the field. He said, no, what I’ll do is send you somewhere about sixty miles away back in supply. Again, this was because I had a college degree. A lot of people said that didn’t take place but it did, a lot.
Being a driver ended up being a minus because I was all over the two core area of Vietnam where I was exposed to agent orange, and I am now suffering from that exposure.
GM: So, what’s the moral of this story?
TH: Get your education.
GM: But the military is always selective on who they send out and put in harm’s way.
I went in to the Navy before I finished my college degree and finished up while I was there and one of the main motivational factors to knock that out and move forward was that I knew the only difference between me and the officer was essentially a college degree. That’s important and it sounds like it had a big effect on what happened to you but you weren’t satisfied with that, you really wanted to see some action.
TH: Yeah, I was in that category, I’m invincible, I was 23 or 24 years old and it’s amazing how many people think that. When I was a kid I used to play war with those little green plastic men, creating situations but of course none of those guys were dead. They were all alive and aiming their rifles. You don’t really think of the fact that, well, it might be in the back of your mind but, I might get killed.
My dad might easily have died, he got shot in the back in a crossfire sniper attack, the bullet ricocheted of his trenching tool and missed his heart by this much. So, I knew that, and if you’re going to be in a battle, there is a chance you’re not coming back. I made a lot of impetuous decisions. The reason I dropped out of OCS was because it dawned on me that I was going to be responsible for the lives of 43 other people and I wasn’t prepared for that.
GM: They showed that in the movies of those days, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, there was a series at one time about Vietnam where they would put this young green officer out there with the enlisted gristled war vets.
TH: If you didn’t do your job, there was a chance that your own men would take you out. That happened more than once. My room-mate who went through all this with me until we got to that little room, they put him in an MP unit and I’m not sure where it was but he told me some stories where you just shake your head and say, this is insane. The war was insane in itself, there was no reason for us to be there.
The reason for being in Vietnam changed a number of times. Now we’re here for this reason, now we’ve got to stay because of this reason.
GM: Now, I wasn’t actually alive at that time but from what I’ve read, the initial reason to go in, or at least the way it was sold to the American people was to fight the spread of communism, to hold that line between North and South Vietnam.
TH: That was the initial reason. It changed because the head of the country, Diem died and the new guy coming in made everything worse. It was basically a civil war between North and South but we were fighting it as a regional kind of thing and afraid that communism would overtake the entire region, and thus make our situation a lot worse.
GM: That seemed to be the legitimate reason to be there in the beginning perhaps.
TH: Then we didn’t fight the war to win it.
GM: In fact, it was never declared an official war.
TH: It was not a war it was a conflict. What I got out of it was really interesting stories. I was only there for 5 months, 13 days, 12 hours, 7 minutes and 6 seconds, give or take a second, because I was short going over and they allowed you to get out of the Army early to go back to school. I didn’t want a Masters so I went to East Carolina University to their School of Art. I have a BFA candidate, and the reason for that is, I did all my course work, everything done but I never did my senior show which was a requirement to get your degree. That was because I went into the night club business and it started eating up all my time.
GM: Looking at your bio, it’s very interesting going from college in Pennsylvania to Vietnam to college in ECU and then to being in the night club business hanging out with all these cool cats in the day.
TH: The reason I ended up in the night club business was they tripled the tuition for out of state students. I’m from upstate New York in a little village called Endicott. That little village was the home of IBM. Because I was from New York my tuition was going to triple and I knew I couldn’t afford that but if I dropped out of school and went to work for six months in North Carolina then I could become a resident. So, I just went around looking for places to work and I found this night club that was closed, it was a pretty big one, capacity was close to eight hundred. I got an appointment with the owner and I said, I’m going to make this easy for you, I know what beer tastes like, I know what rock and roll sounds like, I’m your man. He said, okay, you know what beer tastes like, you know what rock and roll sounds like, you’ll work on commission won’t you? So, I did. We struggled for a year or two and the club ended up staying open for thirty years and a week. The main reason for that was, we decided early on that we weren’t just going to be a rock club. We did jazz, we did beach music, we did heavy metal, punk and pop, even Christian music two or three times a week.
GM: Did you evolve with the times?
TH: We didn’t change with the times because we never got involved with disco. That came in really heavy during the time. We picked and choose the music we were going to do. We never did rap or country but we did a lot of country rock and blue grass. Then we latched onto comedy and starting doing that, and that got me into the comedy business after twenty years at the Attic. I switched over came to Charlotte and worked with the comedy zones, the largest comedy club.
GM: Did you manage the zone?
TH: I was part club owner and I did most of the booking. In fact, between me and one other guy at the company we booked more comedians than any agency on earth.
GM: Did you meet everyone personally?
TH: I met quite a few of them.
GM: Who are some of the people that you met?
TH: Let’s see, Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Harvey, Greg Allman, the list was quite extensive, I’m just drawing blanks right now. We did the Pointer Sisters and we did that when we were selected to do a concert on NBC at primetime. It was called the Blue Jean Network and we were the only night club in the history of the state to ever have a full concert on national primetime TV. That was a nice feather in the cap, and then a few years later Playboy magazine selected us as one of the top one hundred college bars in the country.
GM: That was the Attic in Greenville North Carolina?
TH: Yeah. We were also on the cover of Performance magazine which was the international magazine for the industry.
GM: It’s not your standard career path getting involved in night clubs and promotion and management but a career path and quite fun I guess.
TH: Oh yeah, it was, and going back to what you said earlier about Tom Hanks, I used to call Hollywood on a fairly regular basis, I never had a problem getting through because the second the secretary answered the phone, I’d say, just tell them Tom Haines is calling, and they heard Tom Hanks, and I never had a problem getting through to anybody.
GM: There’s a couple of things that interest me about military service and about the Vietnam war in particular, one is your experiences, and two is the psychological effects of what was going on between the different movements, the peace movement and the movement to end the war. You were over there at the time, right?
TH: It actually started before I went, the summer of love and all that.
GM: So, you were affected by that prior to going over?
TH: Right, in fact we were called into formation one morning but not at formation time so everybody was saying, what’s this about? They got us out there and usually it would be a First Sergeant or a Lieutenant who would talk to us, but it was the Captain. He said, gentlemen, the rest of our day is going to be focused on riot control. There were four or five different ways to control a riot, then he said, then we’re headed out to a college campus, but it ended up not happening, thank God. That was something I would definitely not been into.
GM: I feel the whole country was behind our world war two veterans but Vietnam veterans did not get that full backing, and it was because of the different views of whether this was a just war or what the purpose was, and how that affects you as a soldier who is over there, or do you not worry about it? Is it demoralizing?
TH: And the thing is one of the key elements of the war was, it was a guerilla war which gave us a slim chance of winning.
GM: I have spoken with people who said, during the day they worked with people who might have been an office clerk or something who might actually be involved with the movement on the other side who you would be fighting at night.
TH: I was driving back from, I wasn’t in a jeep, it was a two ton truck and I had just come back from delivering something, and there was this little boy walking down the road dragging this box behind him, he was real thin and really pitiful looking, and I stopped. I didn’t know there was a little girl straddling the ditch urinating, and she just jumped up and started bolting across this field, she thought I was going to molest her. There were all kinds of feelings about the Vietnamese people towards Americans, North Vietnamese, the Vietcong, and even the French before we got there. They’d been at war for three hundred years. So, then I looked at him and he was kind of startled, and I said, you want a ride, and he recognized the word ride and said, yeah, yeah, yeah, and he said, take home, and I said, yeah, I’ll take you home. So, he jumped in and I had a sub sandwich on the seat and he kept on eyeing it and I said, hungry, and he went into that thing and it was gone in a matter of seconds. Actually, when I stopped and picked him up, you know when you pick up a gallon a milk when you don’t know it’s empty, that’s how it was when I picked him up, I threw him into the air because I thought I would need the strength to pick him up, but I didn’t. He got a big kick out of that. So, we drove down into Pleiku and he said, house, and I said, I can’t take you there it’s off limits. He didn’t understand of course There was a sign that said, no military personnel beyond this point. Well, rules are meant to be broken, and so I broke a rule and turned into the neighborhood so to speak. It was just an unbelievable third world. The Vietnamese took care of their own homes very nicely, cleaned them and swept them, but once you were out of the house, the streets were just piled high as far as you could see with garbage. How often someone picked it up I don’t know, but it smelled pretty bad. So, I’m driving down the road and after about a half mile or so, he hits the floor hard, he went down and covered up his head and said, VC, VC. I looked out the window and there’s a guy standing there and he had a package in his hand, and our eyes locked and stared. I’m feeling for my M16 and there was a water buffalo crossing the road and we just stared at each other. The buffalo made it across the road and I started up again and I looked in the rearview mirror and he was just starring at us the whole time. I said to the kid, you sure he was VC? He nodded and said VC. He was very insistent. The people in Pleiku knew who were VC and who weren’t. That’s one of things that made the war so difficult, it was a guerilla war. Somebody said to me, you were in Pleiku, you must have been pretty safe during the war? No, rocket attacks would take place and there was always that fear of death but most people just accepted that they were going to get by. I ended up with about thirty percent PTSD from the experiences I encountered.
GM: Do you go into all those in your book SNAFU?
TH: Oh yeah, not all.
GM: I was reading the book and you have a very funny writing style.
TH: I was in the comedy business for twenty years and I wore all the hats. I was club owner, booker, I wrote comedy, I ended up on Jay Leno’s facts team and he closed with one of my jokes one night. I wrote for Carrot Top and a bunch of comedians, I also managed comedians. I co-managed Rodney Carrington, and I was on Carrot Tops management team.
GM: How do you think your military experience affected your life? How did that help, hurt or stimulate different course?
TH: It definitely set me on a different course, unintentional but it worked out pretty good in the end. If they hadn’t tripled tuition for out of state students, ECU was a party school but they did have a really good art school, school of medicine, school of business. It was a really good school but these people knew how to party, so, being ion the night club business, it was a good town to be in.
GM: Some people are interested in experiences, some are interested in going into the military and for me, going into the military enabled me to sort some things out, become independent, get out on my own and be disciplined I guess. I won’t say the military gave that to me but it certainly provided some structure that I felt I needed at the time. I was not ready to go to a place like ECU at eighteen.
TH: I had a lot of leadership positions when I was at Gannon, I was president of three different organizations, which is why they thought I would be perfect as an officer.
GM: You already had those leadership qualities at Gannon before you went into the military?
TH: Right. I want to tell you one more story before we wrap up because this was an interesting one. I had just gone on twenty-four hour guard duty, I had an eight or nine day beard growth because I was never in base camp I was always out doing other things, and some guy came up to me and said, do you know how to type? And I said, yeah, and he said, okay I got a thing for you, and they had me type up the death reports of two of the guys who were killed by our own men. It was a helicopter accident that decapitated one guy and killed the second one. They assigned a guy to work with me and this guy was like luney tunes to say the least. He was going through the guys things and putting this to go home and that to throw away but he decided to reverse it. He took a pack of condoms and a Playboy magazine to go home, and some letters he had written to his parents to get thrown away, and I said, what are doing? I made him change it over and that was the end of that, but while I was finishing it up, and you had to hit the keys on the typewriter pretty hard, this guy comes in and he says, is your name Haines? I said, yeah. He said, CO’s got a detail for you. I said, while don’t you go tell the CO to find someone else, I’m busy. He said, you can’t do that, anyway I’m off duty. So, I went up there and knocked on the door really hard and came in and immediately I said, sir whatever assignment you had I’m not going to be doing it, and he said, okay. Now, when someone says to their commanding officer, I’m not doing it, and the CO says, okay, that’s not right, so, I turned and said, just out of curiosity what was it you wanted me to do? He said, well, I saw you were from up-state New York and Miss America and her runner ups are going to be here and I thought you might just want to escort Miss New York state but you said you weren’t interested so. So, he said, sit down and we’ll discuss it, and he looked at me and said, when was the last time I saw you? Because of my nine day’s hair growth. Take today off, take two days off and make shaving part of that detail.
We went to pick up the girls and they flew in on a helicopter. They were coming towards us when another helicopter with all their stuff was landing and it was noisy. They were trying to introduce each other, and I shouted, which Miss state are you? And she said, huh, which mistake am I? I said, no, no, which miss state? She was Miss Kentucky and asked where I was from, and I said New York, and she grabbed this other girl by the arm and pulls her over, and said this is Patricia Burmeister and she is Miss New York state.
So, we were there escorts the whole time. There was a big show they were putting on that night and I checked the duty board and my name was down for guard duty so I was going to miss the whole show and I thought, that ain’t going to happen. What I did was go to her and I said, I’d like to see your show tonight, and she said, of course you’re going to see the show, why would you not, and I said I was put on guard duty. She said I think I can talk to someone and get you off, and she did. I watched the show and was back on guard duty the next morning.
GM: The book is called SNAFU and you can read about it at thebooksnafu.com where you can read three chapters of the book. Thank you, Tom for taking time to talk to me and thank you for your service.
TH: Thank you, I appreciate it.
If you have any questions you can contact my office at 704–259–7040.
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
Should I improve my home for aging or go to a new senior community? Expert, Charles Tarlton Tells Us! #theelderlawguy
Lunch With a Veteran: Ludy Wilkie – Veteran, Journalist and The World’s Greatest Undiscovered Playwright. #theelderlawguy
I’m Greg McIntyre with a special chef’s version of lunch with a veteran today. Martin Mongiello is executive director of the United States Presidential Service Center and owner of The Inn of the Patriots. He is a 30 Year retired military vet, chef to Presidents, stars and a lucky few under the polar ice cap in a submarine and others.
So, how does a young guy say to himself, I want to do this and somehow the military is going to be a part of it?
MM: I was seventeen, I was trying to do something with my life. I did not want to wait and waste away and I was smart enough to get out of town. That was the first time I flew on an airship. We landed in Texas so I put a check mark for Texas, then I transferred and landed in San Diego for boot camp.
I was just putting one foot in front of the other. I swore up and down there was no way I would sign up for anything beyond four years. It was scary to me, but I ended up retiring in, that’s how hilarious it is. When you’re younger you don’t look back like we do now, and I think that is one of the biggest secrets of life. Listen to the old people because they are trying to tell you something, it’s always coming through in their speech, it’s a message.
GM: You feel like a lot of people are in a hurry, for instance, my seventeen year old is always in such a hurry to do everything perfectly, and get everything done and get into college early. I think we are in too much of a hurry. Learn a trade, a skill, a job, sure, but travel the world and have a great time.
MM: I was afraid to travel the world. For the first ten years, they offer you things like, go live in Japan, all expenses paid, or we’ll fly you and your household goods and you can live in Europe, and I was like, there is no way I’m leaving where I’m from and my family. How silly was that? It took ten years to get pass that. I lived out on Point Loma. That’s the nice part of San Diego, that’s some of the highest priced real estate.
GM: When people think about a military base, they don’t understand. The military bases I was on, the Naval air station North Island, the golf course there looks like something out of a pro golf tournament. You’ve got beautiful weather, the ocean, Point Loma has all the yachts.
MM: People have a lot of their weddings out there if they’re in the military.
GM: I remember the gym I was working out at on North Island, it was several hangars strung together. They would open the hangar doors, there was six basketball courts in there, weights or whatever you wanted. I always had time to do it during my day. I was looking out at several aircraft carriers parked just across the road and the city of San Diego in the back ground. It was a view and that was your day.
MM: I was surface warfare qualified and submarine warfare qualified and I had a weird opportunity where I never even knew I was interviewed by White House military office to do a job. Where I was going, Camp David, was a Seabee run command, so I was a Seabee for a couple of years without having any Seabee training.
GM: So, Seabees are people who put up construction.
MM: Airstrips and such. Camp David was always in need of endless construction. We built a few cabins while I was there and just kept up the facility. It is on top of a mountain after all.
GM: We build, we fight.
MM: Yeah. Who knew I was going to be a Seabee, I never planned on that.
GM: But food is your life, and centers around it, and that is something that people who aren’t involved in the military, especially the Navy, may not know. From second hand knowledge, my suspicions are the Navy has some of the best food. I can tell you, even going out on aircraft carriers the cooks are serious about their job. It’s one of the best run departments on the ship.
MM: Any number of entrees.
GM: They will fry up an omelet with anything you want in it, and you learn to order quick because they are servicing so many people. Hash, bacon, sausage whatever.
MM: Food has certainly gotten better in the military.
GM: I heard submarines have some of the best food.
MM: They do, we get more money so it makes it easier per day. You can get fifty-five or so more per person per day, so instead of feeding a human with seven dollars and fourteen cents, you’ve got seven dollars and seventy cents. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot to people but that is what food costs the US Government. People might say, how can you feed a person for seven dollars fourteen cents a day? When I first went in the Navy in eighty three right out of high school, we had a lot of junk food. We had third world butter and stuff that was clearly marked for donation by US Aid program. That was what we fed sailors and marines, some of the worst products, and contributed medically to terrific damage cardiovascularly. In the beginning when I first came in we used animal lard and the Navy was very proud we were switching to Crisco? We would only be ingesting Crisco from now on. What we know now is eating Crisco is also not a good thing. Crisco is kind of horrific. You get smarter and you change what you’re doing so the food has come a long way.
About that ten year mark in the Navy, when I was recruited by the White House military office, just as I started doing a lot more than managing hotels, I started managing private homes. The biggest homes you could manage would be the Presidents private home.
GM: How do you get to that point? You went in the military, you were a Seabee, how did you start cooking? Did you start cooking in the military?
MM: Yes. I was cooking in my house from around the age of four. I always loved cooking, so when I went into the military that was a huge aspiration. To pay for my private all boys catholic high school, which was very expensive, I worked in Italian restaurants and for iHop and worked these all summer long so I could save enough. In my senior year I worked full time at iHop which was hilarious. Twenty one years later when I was retiring, the CEO of iHop sent me an apron, hat and a letter to my retirement ceremony. It was hilarious to see it come full circle. That’s how I got cooking, and that lead me to hotel management school in the Navy.
GM: Why would the Navy have hotel management school?
MM: Because of barracks, housing millions of sailors on land per year. As soon as I graduated from that, I did four years at sea which is how the Navy goes, when you’ve done that you get to come on land. My first duty station on land was a huge resort in Pensacola Florida, the cradle of Naval aviation, that’s where I had a fifteen hundred room hotel that I was helping to manage. I was one of the managers and on duty general manager of the entire resort. That was a massive responsibility for a twenty or something year old. I was like twenty two, and that’s how the military works.
GM: They give you massive responsibilities at a young age.
MM: The military philosophy is, push down the most responsibility as humanly possible onto the eighteen years old back, neck and face. If it’s not something that’s unsafe, it will be pushed down onto them. Then if you want to become a chief, I was acquainted with the philosophy of, here’s how we will know if you are a good chief or not. When you go on thirty day vacation, called leave in the military, if everything runs like a clock and no-one can tell you’re gone for a month, and we don’t need to call to ask one single thing, or send an email or text, you have done your job as Chief Petty Officer. If stuff goes out of control or haywire, then you’ve not done your job.
GM: That’s because you are doing everything as the chief to keep everything running? Instead of delegating it to other people.
MM: That’s the problem, the military teaches that you will not hide any information, or skills, you will immediately remove all knowledge you bring to the workforce and give it to the eighteen year old, which is different than out in town. People hide information for job security, they won’t teach everything to some snot nose kid.
GM: I had to learn this to be a good manager. A manager does not do all the jobs. In fact, the game becomes, how quickly can I get this hot potato off my plate into someone else’s hand to accomplish that. I do not want to be the bottleneck. I want to oversee the process and make sure everything works. That’s hard as an attorney, someone who is so used to doing everything, having to find great people to hand those things off to. You make a great point, the military does not care that you are eighteen, they fully expect you to accept the training and responsibility and step up and get it done. They will show you how it’s done and if you do it wrong they will let you know.
Why do you think the private sector doesn’t operate the same way? I think there is some of what you say in the private sector but I think there is too much coddling. Kids stay home too long, then they go to college and they coddle them, then they go to more college and the same. Why don’t we put more responsibility and more faith in young people like the military does?
MM: The mass proliferation of the computer was not where we needed it, not like today. Today a child can attend college with just a laptop while living in Australia working at the American Embassy on a two year program, but still be in college in the US. You could send a kid to Zaire with the Presbyterian church on a program but the kid is in college doing his or her degree.
GM: I think we need to put more responsibility and faith in our kids, I suppose that’s what I’m getting at. The military does put that faith in you and expects you to step up. You’re tested so they know what your aptitude is and puts you in a job that coincides with that. Do you think that was a good thing to put that responsibility on your back, neck and face to start out with?
MM: I didn’t appreciate it then like I do now. I worked one hundred and twenty six hours per week because when you’re at sea, you’re either working or training, or doing your watch.
GM: We were on twelve hour shifts unless there was an emergency. When I first started, I worked on Hawkeye radar systems and I’d go out with a senior tech who knew the system like the back of his hand. We supported that airwing. That was four planes. Each was kept up twelve hours then switched out, so we kept the radar part of the aircraft up and running. That was our job. If we didn’t have it running, essentially the whole carrier group was blind. That was on the heads of some young guys. That kind of responsibility is put on you.
MM: I liked what the secretary of the Navy said with this promotion for the first female four star Admiral in United States history, he said, this is direct proof how far this country has come. Not only is she a lady but she is a black lady, and he stated this shows how far she has taken the United States because she wasn’t a token black lady, she worked her buns off for that position.
GM: The military is very diverse. Let’s get back to this, how did you learn to cook? I know you said you cooked before the military but were you a chef in the military as well?
GM: At what point when you were managing these hotels did you become a full-time chef in the military?
MM: As soon as I graduated basic cook school in San Diego, the guys came through and said they were recruiting for a new submarine. This was in the beginning at eighteen.
Boot camp, then cook school, then I flew to nuclear submarine school in Groton, Connecticut. I graduated that and went to my first boat the USS Sunfish and I was living in Charleston for four years. So, you’re under water, there is nothing to do, it’s seven days a week, eighteen hours a day, just cooking, it’s easy to rack up one hundred and twenty six hours a week. That’s really where I learned how to cook the best. In fact, Hillary Clinton used to ask me in her kitchen, where did you learn to cook all this gourmet food, and I would tell her, self-taught in a sewer pipe first lady. She would say, in a what? Inside a sewer pipe with one hundred and fourteen other men who generally used F and MF every third word, that’s where the learning center was. I never went to culinary school. That was my big dream when I retired was to go to college and I just graduated from Charlotte in 2010 summa cum laude at the arts institute with a bachelor’s degree. I used the post 911 G.I bill. I was the first duel enrolled student for the art institute in history under the post 911 G.I bill.
GM: What’s different about the post 911 G.I Bill?
MM: In the sixties and seventies they had a thing called VEAP, Veterans Education Assistance Program, and I was on VEAP. It was kind of like, you put in a dollar we’ll give you two. So, you could rack up three times the amounts.
GM: With classes while in the military I think I had to pay for a third.
MM: I did to while I was in but I didn’t have enough to get a degree. MGIB would pay ten times what you invested. The new post 911 G.I Bill has some requirements, and it’s based on percentages. I was one hundred percent qualified because I exceeded the three years in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. And for the first time it said you should be able to attend some courses online. The biggest thing is the payment for a certain amount of money for a housing allowance, so someone can go to college and still pay their rent. That has never been granted before.
GM: You talked very casually about talking to Hillary Clinton in her kitchen, can you tell me more about being a chef to Presidents. How does that happen?
MM: Only the Navy works in the White House staff mess, and only the Navy runs two restaurants underneath the Oval Office. Reservations are booked thirty to ninety days in advance at every table. The Navy also runs a take-out counter, sometimes up to a thousand gourmet lunches a day for staffers. Obama had four hundred and seventy three people on his staff, those people are all hungry. The worst thing those staffers could do would be to go out for lunch because you would have to go through security to get to your car which is super far away.
GM: So, you were recruited to work in the White House?
MM: Yes, I did state dinners and special events in the White House. I never knew the Navy did all the cooking. No other service is allowed. My Captain was explaining this to me one day. He said, we also run the Camp David resort. With you having graduated first in your class for law enforcement academy and doing all these special schools with the Marine Corp and Anti-Terrorism, and being a cook and having graduated from hotel management school, we think you’re the perfect candidate for Secretary of the Navy to nominate you for Presidential duty. I was like, alright, sir, yes sir. It was weird being invited into his state room. I had never been in that man’s state room other than to clean the baseboard and dust.
GM: But they had a job to fill and somehow because of all that training you came up.
MM: It was God’s plan.
GM: I say that, at the time I could not see why when I was doing this and that but looking back, those pieces of the puzzle fit. They make sense and make me who I am today. It sounds like all those different trainings made you the perfect candidate.
MM: You work with veterans and the law, so, as a veteran who would you rather go to for advice? The person who graduated from boot camp right? What it took for my wife Stormy just to graduate boot camp and to make it to the fleet is not something to take lightly.
GM: I say boot camp or any other school in the military or in civilian life is not meant to weed people out, it’s meant to get you through if you play ball. Do what is asked, have a decent attitude and you’ll be fine.
So, you go to the White House and then you get sent to Camp David?
MM: I was groomed and picked. I knew I was going to Camp David to work from the beginning. It took about a year and a half, so it was under H.W Bush when I was initially interviewed and selected. There were fifty six chefs that went through the interview that day and they picked three. About a year and a half later it was down to two of us who made it. This was where the United States will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to clear you and investigate both sides of your family. You can get bumped by close family members, it’s not just about you anymore.
GM: That makes sense, you might end up cooking and serving food to the President of the United States, that’s a big deal. That’s one of the most important jobs you could have.
MM: And people there know who you are and where you are.
GM: I’m sure they watch you.
MM: You must know what to do. If they test you to take a bribe in the men’s room at Lowes for eighty thousand dollars in tens to see if you will call it in on the phone within an hour and report it like you were taught by the CIA, and they will tell you, oh yeah, we were just testing you 14592. Don’t worry we will meet you and get the money, just make sure you don’t finger any of the five thousand with the purple band or take anything. But it’s the people who don’t call it in.
We had a thing at Camp David called the Sequoia Express, it was a blacked out car which would drive up and the agents would get out and everyone would start to scurry. They would go over with a magistrates order, and you could see it had a gold embossed seal, and they would say they were here to pick somebody up, and it would be like a sailor or a marine, and it’s like, you’ve got to be kidding me, that guys been in the military for twenty seven years, what did he do? You might hear weeks later that they went down to his house that night, cleared his children out of school, trucks down there, they emptied the whole house out, his wife and everything gone by the morning. They had a social services lady in there to interact for him to say goodbye to the children for an hour.
GM: So, quick question, how many Presidents did you serve under?
MM: I served four Presidents. I was hired under H.W Bush, Bill and Hilary Clinton, they did not allow a lot of people in the house ever. There were other Presidents who would come and visit the White House from different countries and you’ve got to cook for them and take care of them, and famous stars and CEO’s would sleep over at the White House at night. One night a guy that I really liked Steve Jobs was there for dinner and the White House Usher told me, oh he’s staying overnight too. That’s unbelievable man, cooking for Steve Jobs.
GM: So you met Steve Jobs?
MM: I didn’t meet him or shake his hand because you don’t bother them, that’s not your place.
GM: You’re not there to be seen.
MM: But it was still cool to be cooking for Steve Jobs and then he was hanging out staying the night. I only had one question; on the paper why does it say PIXAR, what is that? Oh, you didn’t hear, you didn’t know he was thrown out of Apple. I’m like, What, Steve Jobs, and he said, you don’t need to keep saying the man’s name. They’ll probably make a movie about what happened in ten or twenty years. Did you watch the movie?
GM: Oh sure.
MM: Just guests like that, it was unbelievable. From there I went to Japan and cooked for Prime Minister Hashimoto, I went into the deserts to cook for King Abdullah the second and his wife Queen Ranja. I worked at NATO cooking for the United States and United States Embassy.
GM: And now you employ those talents at The Inn of the Patriots in Grover, North Carolina which is right off eighty five on exit 2 (I 85, exit 2). You are also the owner of the United States Presidential Service Center in Grover North Carolina.
MM: Our bed and breakfast is called The Inn of the Patriots. There is a museum inside and a Presidential center. We have two gift shops there, the culinary school and we do consulting for resorts and private homes.
GM: Thank you for coming here, sharing and talking with me about your incredible service, it’s a real honor.
If you have any questions about Senior or Veteran’s Benefits, please contact me at 704–751–8031.
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
Great book signing and local author fair at Kings Mountain Library. #theelderlawguy
– What’s the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
– What is a Lady Bird Deed?
– What is the difference in a Will and Trust?
– …and much, much more!
Hayden, Angela and Lawyer Greg answer these questions and more in this exciting episode.