Very humbled by the great turnout from clients and community business members for our Cleveland County Chamber Business After Hours event at the firm this past Tuesday. Thank you to those who came. #theelderlawguy
Very humbled by the great turnout from clients and community business members for our Cleveland County Chamber Business After Hours event at the firm this past Tuesday. Thank you to those who came. #theelderlawguy
Lunch with a Veteran: MIchael Carpenter, Marine and Barry Carpenter, Air Force… A father and son team that both served our country admirably. Every son should have their dad as their hero! #theelderlawguy
I’m Greg McIntyre and this is lunch with a veteran where we talk about the stories and experiences of people who served in our military. I’m here with Ray Kale and his wife Connie. Ray is a Vietnam veteran and Connie is a part of his story.
So, you were drafted into Vietnam. Where are you from originally?
RK: I was drafted April 26th 1966 and my best friend Tommy since sixth grade was drafted with me. We went to the induction center in Charlotte and I thought we would be able to go back home but they sent me straight to Fort Jackson. After one week at Fort Jackson they sent us to Fort Riley, Kansas. I did six weeks of basic training and then six weeks of advanced infantry training.
GM: Did they send you directly to Vietnam after basic?
RK: I got to come home for a leave after infantry training for thirty days, that was in August, then went back and while I was still doing the last bit of training in the field I got a call saying my father was sick, so I went home and he had already died. Then we left the first half of December, went to California and got on a ship for twenty-one days, and I was sick for twenty one days, that was a long way. The day before we landed they put us on a landing craft, loaded live ammunition and grenades, rifles, machine guns everything. There wasn’t a word spoken all the way to shore. We were all scared to death.
GM: You didn’t know what to expect.
RK: Right. When the ramp went down there was a band playing welcoming us there. They loaded us on trucks, there was about two thousand of us, so a long convoy of trucks, tanks and ACP carriers. The area had already been secured, I think by the 71st Airborne but I’m not sure. They cleared the area, so when we got there, it was just dirt with a berm around it. From there we started to make a couple of patrols. On the same patrols two people got killed and I’m not so sure there was any enemy out there but then we had a big ceremony and they really made up the stories. They don’t know what happens out there, they have to put a story with death or something.
Then we went to, well, I don’t know where we were. I was in recon, a thirty man squad. We wore soft hats, we didn’t wear the helmets and basically all we had were rifles and some grenades. Tommy was in the same company, Echo Company in Kansas. He was in the mortar platoon. Half way through our tour I went to the 450th Up north, I think I was in Charlie Company and he went to the Mekong Delta. They put him in the infantry there. They didn’t want everyone going home at the same time you see. I stayed a year. There was something every day, different highs every day and night. We didn’t get any rest and what people don’t realize is that it rained for six months, you basically never saw the sun, and then it’s clear for six months, you never saw a cloud. It was dusty half the year and muddy the other half.
We would ride on tanks or we were walking, that’s how we got around. We would put a handkerchief around our face but you would be covered in red dust. Your face would be like you had a red mask on.
I came home in April and went back to work where I was working before at Walmer’s Business Firms and Connie came to work there. Actually, it was a different job but the same department she was working in. That’s how I met her but she was engaged to be married and she got married a while after that. Her husband Dwayne went to Vietnam and he got killed July 28th. He was there three months in the 196th Infantry.
GM: Man, I mean war is hard isn’t it?
RK: That day I was working and my supervisor came up and said, they sent her to the front office and told her husband had got killed. That’s how it happened isn’t it?
RK: I don’t know how many got killed, I know it was a lot. In my platoon there were thirty of us and five got killed and ten or fifteen wounded. I was sick for one day the whole time I was there. I always wanted to get malaria cause then you got out of the field for one month but I got it after I came home. I was at Fort Eustace, Virginia and I got malaria and stayed in the hospital.
GM: How did you get malaria when you came home?
RK: I don’t know. You would take the iodine pills and put them in your water and it makes your water bitter. A lot of people wouldn’t do it. I don’t know if that was why but I didn’t get it. I did everything they told me to. I got malaria my last month and then when I got home I got malaria again. I went to the VA in Salisbury because the doctor here couldn’t treat me.
GM: I wonder how the natives in Vietnam deal with it? I guess they’re used to it?
RK: I don’t know but malaria is terrible. It makes you so weak.
GM: And you got it more than once?
CK: I guess something stays in your body.
GM: I guess.
CK: He would get really hot in the summertime.
RK: Yeah, I got sick at work one day, it was in July so it was really hot, and I got in my car and my teeth were chattering. I had the heater on in my car. Then I got sick at Fort Eustace and about died in my room before somebody came in. I bided my time up there.
CK: Maybe it was the leeches.
RK: Yeah, we had leeches.
GM: When you went in the water?
RK: You don’t have to be in water, they can be on the land. You would think it was mosquitos but I have more mosquitos in my back yard. We rented a place and the leeches would get all over you. You had to burn them off with a cigarette. You would have to put your boots inside your pants otherwise they would come right up on you but they still get on you. I’m trying to think of other things.
CK: You were supposed to be dead.
RK: Oh yeah. I went to a forward base camp, they were all forward base camps because we never came out of the field. I slept on the ground at least fifty weeks of the fifty-two I was there. They would come out to resupply us, and the helicopters wouldn’t even land, they would just kick it off, take our mail and they were gone.
The radio was quite heavy and someone had to carry it. This was when I was still in the 9th Infantry Recon Platoon, and there was thirty in that platoon. A normal platoon was about forty-four or something, so we split up three ways. We weren’t that far apart, but we couldn’t see each other for the brush and jungle. I asked this guy, will you carry this radio, I’ll give you five dollars if you carry it. Well, you’re not supposed to switch your squads, you stay where you were assigned. He agreed to carry it and he went in my squad and I went in his. Well they got ambushed and we heard the explosions and firing and everything, and we got all split up. So, I’m by myself and scared to death and I heard someone coming through the brush and it was the Sergeant. He had blood on his face and ears and he said they’re all dead. They weren’t all dead but he thought they were. They all got wounded. So, I went with him and went back and the guy was on the ground dead and the rest were wounded, but he had that radio. The wire so you can speak was cut and he had a spot of blood on his chest. That was the only mark on him but he was dead. So me and another guy had to carry him to a river because there was no clearing, we didn’t have time to clear, so we had to carry him to where the helicopters could come in and get him.
They called back to the camp and Tommy was there and they called out the names of the wounded and KIA’s and they had me as a KIA because that was where I was supposed to be. When I went to Washington DC to the monument the first person I looked up was that guy. For five dollars he lost his life. I saw that happen at other times too where people went where they weren’t supposed to.
I guess the worst thing that happened to me was guarding artillery, eight inch guns. You can’t hide from jets and artillery. Our artillery is fearsome. There was a one-seven-five (175) and a one-five-five (155). They were the biggest guns they had so they were always subject to attack. This was when I was with the 4th Division. It was a company of about two hundred and we had to build a perimeter around with foxholes but the artillery people didn’t dig foxholes. So, I took out what’s called a listening post. The part I remember was you set out the listening post. You have two guys and you sent them out in different directions from your camp. You take them way out there, and if the enemy comes up, they’re supposed to run back or they get killed. It was like a chicken in a cage out there.
GM: They didn’t have a radio or anything?
RK: Nope, no radio, they didn’t have anything, just a rifle and if it’s raining which it was a lot of the time, you just lay on the ground. Someone always had to be guarding. Whatever your position was, always one of you had to be awake, usually an hour at a time and then you rotate. Anyway, that night I was in a tent, we put up a tent made of two ponchos in front of the bunker and I took these guys out. That night about one o’clock, there was like a misty rain and pitch black and we started to get mortared and the LP’s, the two I set up came running back in, and the guy who was on guard he pulled me by my feet into the bunker. We would all have got killed if it weren’t for the bunkers because of the mortars. Then they tried to come in. I don’t know how many there were of them, at least several hundred because they wouldn’t have tried to attack the camp unless there was a bunch of them. It was such a roar, the noise.
When you get to the point where you’re afraid of being overrun, they take the guns and shoot beehive rounds which have hundreds of steel darts and shoot straight into the jungle. Just point blank shoot them. Then we always had artillery protection too, and they’re always set so all they have to do is fire for the effect, a fire barrage. So, the artillery strike was coming in and the two LP’s in front of me were, don’t shoot, don’t shoot, because the artillery was getting close to them. There was, we called them pom pom guns, two guns on a tank beside me and they cranked up and went over to reinforce that side where the enemy had come in.
The next morning, the Sergeant told me, you need to go over, take your men, your squad and piece up the bodies. So many times, things happened and you don’t see the enemy. I went over and there were dead everywhere, blood everywhere, they were just mangled, just mowed down. So we dragged them out.
Over in Vietnam, the goal was not to capture property, we didn’t take territory, all we did was, we were looking for the dead bodies, that’s what they were going by, the kill, so we always had to count bodies. Even the artillery kill we still had to count and call them back in. The kill ratio in Vietnam then was twelve to one, twelve Vietnamese to one American. We took them out and lined them up on the ground, I can picture it, and there was one still living, and they asked a medic to look at him and they said, don’t worry about him he’s not going to make it. So, we had an interpreter and he asked the guy what was going on, and all he said was, we walked in to a wall of steel. That was it, he was one of the thirty-seven bodies we laid out but I know there was a lot more killed. There was just so much blood, and there was a trail of blood down the trail. We didn’t go and check or anything. We loaded everything up and that day we pulled out.
There was two artillery guys killed and a helicopter that tried to come in and take the wounded out got shot down, so those four on it were killed. I didn’t see that, someone else saw it. The guy in the bunker he got wounded, shot, I got shrapnel. They were moving ammunition to the next foxhole, the Sergeant told me to send some more, I was E5 he was E6, you’ve got to do what they tell you. So, I told this guy and he said, I’m not going over there, and I said, you got to go, I’m E5 your Spec 4, so he ran over, got it and ran back. It was pitch black and I could feel my arm was all wet, warm and sticky like blood. When I woke up the next morning, I went over to get the bodies and there was smoke and the smell. Charges on our side were on fire, it looked like the forth of July. It was shooting out sparks and everything, lighting up the place. I was afraid it was going to blow up. The day after that you just move on wherever they take you. That was the worst thing. We did get ambushed, people got killed by friendly fire.
GM: I imagine it would be really confusing with everything going on?
RK: We didn’t even know where we were. They didn’t tell you where you were going, they’d just say, load up, the helicopters or transport will pick you up, especially helicopters. We were waiting on a runway in an operation and they always told us, one round will get you home, that’s what the saying was. I told my friend, you know it’s kind of dangerous us lying here all together waiting for the helicopters to come and get us. There was a roadway they were going to build, all they had was just the dirt, jungle cleared out. We were sitting there waiting to be picked up and I said to my friend Ben, we better go on the other side of the road where there’s no one else. I feared if you’re going to shoot somebody you’re going to look where the crowd is. So we went over there and a helicopter came over and they were firing because they were supporting another unit that was under fire, and they came over and I saw the smoke coming out of the guns and they were firing and went straight over us and killed the guy over in the group who had been sitting beside me. So it was a good thing we went over to the other side.
RK: Vietnam was laying in the mud and the rain, it was just being dirty the whole time, missing family mostly. The best part was when we came home. I was on interstate eighty-five sitting in a car with my mother and brother. My father had already died. To get to go home and sleep in my bed for the first time, I will always remember that, that was the best part.
CK: You have pictures that you would have to be in a totally different frame of mind to take. In our society it’s not something you would take pictures of. That always blew my mind.
RK: I told Connie, I didn’t get emotion about anything. That’s what you do when you’re on patrol. The Sergeant, he has to figure out where you’re going.
CK: He gets more emotional now in his old age.
RK: I do. When I came out of there I didn’t care. We followed this unit, there was two hundred of us, I don’t know how many of them, a bunch of them, artillery was always bombing stuff and they just buried their dead in their foxholes, so we had to dig them up and count them.
I’ll bet half of the people I served with are dead now.
GM: Just doesn’t seem like that long ago. You were young when you went. It seems like it was an absolutely crazy year.
RK: Yeah, but I’ll bet half of them are dead now. A Chinook took me out in to the field for the last time and about crashed in to a dead tree and they started walking and I thought, oh gosh, don’t let me die now.
GM: A lot of times I’ll interview veterans who spent a lot of their time learning a trade or they’re a doctor, your story is a lot different. You were drafted, went to boot camp, and dropped off to fight a war.
RK: Sometimes I’m a little bitter.
GM: I don’t know how something like that can positively affect the rest of your life?
RK: Nothing did, apart from Connie and I got married in 1970. I didn’t think much about it, but the older you get, the more sentimental you get. I think about the people who didn’t come home like Connie’s first husband Dwayne. You have your life cut off at twenty years old. They had a song out, Fortunate son, talking about the ones who didn’t have to go. You look at the last four Presidents, they didn’t have to go over there. I had a life that I didn’t want to give up but you get snatched up.
CK: Dwayne was in college in eastern Carolina and he came home, he was going to Gaston college and he took a break and they got him.
RK: My brother didn’t go, he stayed in college. I’ll be honest with you, I tried to get out of going to Vietnam. I was trying to get out because my father had died. I don’t think that was right. I didn’t get to be with my father for the last six months of his life. For my mother, my father died, I went to Vietnam, my brother was at western Carolina, my sister had a baby born dead and my mother had started to work. She was forty-two years old and I’m gone. I couldn’t help. I could have been there with her because she needed moral support. I’m not bitter but sometimes it doesn’t seem fair. I can picture a family worrying about their children who are in a war. I can say it was a good experience now that it’s over.
GM: I don’t know about that. I’m going to say, war is bad. But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger maybe?
CK: The main part about it was how they just left and came home.
GM: Just left it unresolved.
CK: We watched a documentary the other day, the last days of Vietnam. The Vietnamese people were running trying to get on the airplanes because they didn’t want to be left there. They helped the Americans and knew they were going to be in trouble for it.
RK: I had a chance to kill two guys and I didn’t do it. They didn’t see me and they had shot down a helicopter. We would have had to go back to the village and look for whoever shot it down. I saw them, and they’re in green uniforms, you can’t spot anybody in those green uniforms, you just can’t see them. I could have picked them off with my rifle easily but I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. Other people opened fire on them. There was a little fence made out of sticks and a helicopter gunship came in and started firing rockets into the place they went. I know they got killed. We didn’t check it out, it would take too much time.
All that stuff is a lot louder in real life. It’s a lot more dramatic when you see a jet come over a tree line and you can see the pilot in there and the five-hundred pound bomb tumble out of it. We got ambushed going up a hill one night, it was real late. We should already have been set up for a start, and we shouldn’t have been on a trail either, but it was all trails and that jet came down and I saw it firing across the wings, sparks coming out from them. It could have got us. One of the guys I was with put his rifle to the Captains head and said, if I get killed I’m going to blow your brains out, if I get hit I’m going to blow your brains out. We needed to get away, or stop the firing. They had already cleared the hill for artillery. The artillery was awesome, just awesome what they could do. I could see why people in world war two got shell shock by the artillery though. It sounds nothing like it does on TV than it does in real life.
CK: Ray was saying, he has never seen a movie that really depicts how it was. All this rough talking, it was never like that.
RK: Those guys didn’t use foul language. All that extra stuff they wear, we had to stay in uniform, we had to shave every morning, no matter where you were, first thing in the morning so everybody is clean cut. We didn’t have to shine our boots though, but the helicopters pilots, people like them, spit shine boots, pressed uniforms, all that stuff. You’re still in the military when you’re there. You’re not free to do what you want.
GM: It doesn’t matter how you feel, you still have to get up and shave in the morning.
RK: I can’t tell you how many ambushes I was on where everybody was asleep but me. There was probably twenty of us, may be thirty. We were on the side of the road and I saw them coming, probably about a hundred of them, the North Vietnamese army walking down the road and they weren’t very far from us. We were up there in the brush, and all I can hear was the guy next to me snoring like crazy. So I’m trying to wake him up and keep him quiet and I’m the only one awake. I can’t call it in on the radio, I don’t know where the heck I am, I can’t call in artillery.
Another time we set one group up on the road and another group here, it was at night. It was right on the edge of the road, and they came this way and you’re supposed to call up to the other group so they’re prepared so they could shoot them when they came by. Well, I’m calling and nobody answers, I was the only one awake. Then a whole herd of water buffalo came over and almost trampled me to death, breathing over me, blowing air out.
I’ll tell you one more thing, all we did all day long was patrol, then we stopped in the evening where there was water, and there was plenty of water. We would be on high ground and dig a perimeter with foxholes. There was four to a foxhole, four feet deep and six feet long and two feet wide, just so all four could fit in there. I’m talking about the work, after walking all day with a fifty pound pack, then you had to clear a field of fire with a machete, cut down trees and take the logs, you fill up sand bags and put them on each side, put the logs across them, then sand bags across the logs, then set up the trip wires with claymore mines, and then the next morning, you take it all back down. You had to put the sand from the sandbags back in the foxhole, roll them all up, pack and go eat something. C rations, that’s all we had. The whole year I was there I did not eat ice cream, I did not have alcohol or eggs, only C rations.
CK: They would send them stuff.
RK: They would send us drinks but the people in camp would just send us the off-branch stuff. They would keep the cokes and stuff and send us the Canada Dry Winks, we loved those. And we had to drink them hot you know.
RK: Winks, W.I.N.K.
CK: It came in a green bottle.
RK: They sent them to us in cans.
GM: I know Canada Dry Ginger Ale?
RK: Well Canada Dry makes this Wink. It’s sort of like a Mountain Dew but they would give us all the crappy stuff and take all the good stuff out. We were treated like dirt. We were called grunts, the grunts were treated like dirt. They took us out one time in trucks and dropped us off, and we said, can we have one of those cold packs, they said, no you can’t have one. So, one day they said, get off the truck, and one guy grabbed the cooler and we took it with us.
They hated to see us coming. If we came into a big camp they knew we would rob them. They knew we would take their stuff.
GM: I’ll tell you, I love to hear these stories but that was a tough story, that was a tough experience.
RK: I think about my grandson, I would be going crazy thinking about it. At least in Vietnam, it was daylight there when it was dark over here.
CK: If it comes to my grandson, I’m grabbing him and running.
RK: The only time I got emotional was when those two artillery guys got killed. They were separating their personal stuff from their military stuff so they could send the personal stuff home, and I thought, you know, here it is, it’s midnight back home and their families don’t know they’re dead. They don’t know they’re dead yet.
CK: Dwayne was dead a month before I knew it. I was still sending letters, and it took a month to get the information to me. For weeks after that I would get packages in the mail where they were sending things back.
RK: We sent letters, not that they got everything but we did send letters. My mother always sent me care packages. I appreciated all the people who sent me stuff. It made the C rations a little better, Texas Pete and all that, try to doctor it up a little bit. My father died September 27th. When I went home he had already died when I got there, when I got back, I think I was there a week, when I got back to the camp they gave me my mail and it was from him. I got so confused, how can I be getting mail, he’s dead, and somebody broke in to my locker while I was gone and stole my stuff. There are thieves in the military too.
GM: I really appreciate your time and I want to thank you both for what you gave to our country, for your service and for your stories.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
ELR: Lose Everything? Winning the Game with Long Term Care! What is it? What is it? Why you need it? With Jason Winn of Winn Insurance. #theelderlawguy
I’m Greg McIntyre coming to you with another elder law report. I am an elder law attorney and point of this show is to bring to our senior community information that can help them.
So, what is some of the information we bring to the community?
HS: We try to pick a subject that people need to know about, serious issues like nursing homes or social workers, hospital discharge planners, or the YMCA.
GM: Aging in place is one of my favorite interviews with Charles Tarlton. He talked about no-step communities where there are no steps from front porch to patio. We also have a happy place which is something Hayden talks about.
HS: I’m a wordy person and these are words you will never likely hear. Agastopia, admiration of a particular part of someone’s body. Kooora-fearaphobia is the fear of failure.
GM: I have that, I think everyone has kooora-fearaphobia. If you can get over your fear of failure that is when you will really move fearlessly and quickly.
HS: When I turned fifty, I got to the point where I was no longer concerned about what people think, to a degree.
GM: You’re worried about what someone will think of you.
HS: I could never have done this show with you in my forties but now I enjoy it because I feel we are really helping seniors and educating them on what you do.
GM: So your passion can help you conquer your fears of failure. We have a theme song for Hayden’s happy place on our radio show which is Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t worry, be happy, kind of appropriate.
HS: And I really am a happy person.
GM: This brings us to information we bring to our senior community and their families each week that they can use. As an elder law attorney, it’s odd how I got here. I used to be a door lawyer. A door lawyer is a lawyer who accepts anything that walks in the door. I worked for other attorneys and other firms as a general practitioner and over time you develop your niche. I was born and raised in Cleveland County, I was in the military in the Navy for four years, spent a lot of time on aircraft carriers. I help a ton of veterans with their issues. We talk about little known benefits that aren’t advertised that veterans have available to them. It’s hard to find a time between world war 1 and the present where we haven’t been in some type of conflict. If you were in during those times you may be eligible for what is known as veterans Aid and Attendance benefit. This benefit allows a married veteran to draw up to approximately thirty four thousand ($34,000) maximum benefit every year and add that to the income they already have, if they need a little help. It can pay for in-home care, or keep someone from going in to an assisted living facility or nursing home. There are some specific rules to getting this benefit but I am a certified attorney through the US Department of Veterans Affairs and I know those rules. We also know how to align your assets under those rules to comply and get you qualified. That’s one of things we do is to qualify veterans for that benefit when they need it. It is a means tested benefit, so it tests your means, your income and your assets. Those things can be characterized and positioned legally so that you don’t lose control of them and you still obtain the benefit. The aid and attendance is not limited state to state, so we will help someone with aid and attendance who lives in South Carolina for example.
HS: It always surprises me that veterans are not at all aware of that program. It’s a pension benefit, not a disability.
GM: That’s right, it is not disability.
HS: One of the big things we do is educate people, not just veterans but everyone. When I first came to work with Greg, I did not know what I needed to know. I am a senior, so things like how to protect your assets and your home. There are just a lot of things that people do not know.
GM: Don’t get hurt by what you don’t know. That is what’s great about being an elder law attorney is I know property law, I know how to draft caregiver contracts to off-set your income on paper for VA, because the VA allows for care cost, even if it is a familial caregiver to be counted against your income, which is awesome and it should be.
If you think you can’t benefit from this and you hold your hands up because some street lawyer thinks they know what they are talking about you’re wrong. Everybody knows a street lawyer in your neighborhood, someone who will get you in just enough trouble, or steer you away from a benefit that can really help you and your family.
Before you throw your hands up, give me a call if you have any questions and if you are in the Hendersonville and Asheville area on 828-398-0181. We operate from Charlotte to Asheville, our mothership is in Shelby North Carolina. Just like the doctor on little house on the prairie, I really believe in catering to the client by bringing our services to you on your terms. We go to your home and meet with clients and their families, so if you want your son or daughter, husband or wife to be there, I would like to meet with everybody at one time and help you decide what’s best and how to move forward. I try to keep a close relationship with other attorneys who do what I do, and other attorneys in different fields also, so we can help their senior clients too.
HS: What about we mention Medicaid planning because I think that has for me been the biggest shock.
GM: I like for people to plan ahead, it is the cheapest, least costly, less painful way of making sure your affairs are in order. Isn’t it always better, not just planning for long term care, or planning for retirement but for anything to plan ahead. If you plan ahead your day works out better, my day works out better.
On the estate planning side we like to make sure people have their foundations in place: General Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Will and Will. Whether you are eighteen or one hundred and eighty, you should have those things in place. They should also be well drafted and have a durability clause that survive incapacity and incompetency and recorded at the local register of deeds, otherwise it won’t be good or valid when you need it.
And there are other documents you can put in place.
One question I get all the time is, at what age should I start to give away my property? The answer is, Never. There is never a good age to start giving away your property. We can empower you with Ladybird Deeds and Life Estate Deeds so you can control your property for the rest of your life and not risk giving it up to the Medicaid system if they come in and pay for long term care.
HS: We will try and share information each week about one of these things because it can be too much information at one time to remember it all.
Sometimes people don’t know until it is too late and they lose their home and assets.
GM: You mentioned the Medicaid Crisis Planning. I am fortunate to be in a national group of elder law attorneys which gives me a lot of resources. It’s not just me you hear when I speak, I have a thousand attorneys behind me that I can ask questions of.
HS: And you can refer people who live in other states to elder law attorneys practicing in those states.
GM: Yes. So, this gives me very deep resources to answer questions. You want to simply make sure you are talking to someone who knows what they are talking about. Someone who is serious and devoted to what they do because this is serious.
HS: If you are faced with a long-term care situation, you need to call Greg now because there are things you don’t know and you are limited to how much time you have before Medicaid will pay, or how long your supplement will pay before you have to start paying out of your own pocket.
GM: We see the crying spouse on a regular basis because they have spent down a couple of hundred thousand dollars over a few years and they both saved for retirement their entire lives and it’s been spent down on just one of them for healthcare and the healthy spouse may have a good twenty or thirty years to live. What are they supposed to do? We can help in that situation to get in and evaluate to see if an asset protection is in order to protect the spouse, or a VA benefit might be able to cover this private pay.
HS: Remember, we are living longer and not necessarily healthy longer.
GM: If you are in that situation where you are spending down your money over time, then I can help stop the bleeding of assets and activate a healthcare benefit to come in and pay for the spouse that needs care. We call that Medicaid crisis planning and we do that on a regular basis.
Sometimes you find people with a ‘hang your head spend down’. They basically give away everything they have ever owned to activate a healthcare benefit. That’s not right. I have experience with that in my family and I write about that in my book ‘Saving the Farm’. I feel very passionate about helping seniors protect their assets and legacies. That’s what we do and that’s all we do.
If you need to contact us in the Hendersonville/Greenville/Spartanburg area our number is 828-398-0181. We are located in Shelby at 123 West Marion Street. We have meetings by appointments only and they can be in-home or at our Biltmore Park meeting space.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
I’m Greg McIntyre and this is lunch with a veteran. What we do each week is sit down, eat lunch and talk about our veteran’s stories. My guest’s today are JD and Virginia Thomas and this is somewhat a love story. Did you know each other when you went in the military?
JD: No, I’m from Georgia, she’s from Connecticut.
GM: How did a country boy from Georgia, or you might have been a city boy?
VT: No, tell him.
JD: No, I’m from the back woods.
GM: So, why did you both go in the military?
VT: I had five uncles in world war two and I was down in Hartford and the recruiters were around so I went in, got some information about the Airforce and I was just thrilled. I had two years of college at that time and I signed up and went down to Lackland Airforce Base in San Antonio, Texas. It was a completely different part of the country, so it was interesting.
GM: I’ll bet San Antonio was a little different from Connecticut?
VT: Yes, they had people dressed up in Mexican costumes going down the river playing songs. It was a wonderful place because you hardly ever had to leave as there were movie theaters and a hospital there.
I did a thirteen week basic because it was patterned after the army. By the end of the basic I was getting pretty sick of trying to be perfect all the time, you know, everything had to be neat. Then I was sent to a base called Lowry Airforce Base in Denver Colorado. I worked all the time in an education office doing GE and CLEP Testing and helping people become officers and all that. He (JD) came to the education office to have some things done. I didn’t know him then until I met him on the police gate when I was going out. On the way back they would ask to see our ID cards so they knew your name, and they were ready to have a little conversation with you. Way to get acquainted.
GM: What year did you go in the military?
GM: Was it common for women to go in the military then?
VT: Yes. We were like in a college right there. Women Commanders, First Sergeants, we were really protected from what happens these days. Everyone seemed to be treated pretty well there, the girls and the men. It was a different era. It’s kind of sad what goes on now, like, they interviewed me and said, what do you think about going in to combat? I said, I’m not so much worried about the enemy, I’m worried about my own troops.
GM: So, you met JD when he came in for education?
VT: I did but he was just one of the people coming in. I really got to know him when he was an air policeman at the gate. The base had a cafeteria which was where most of the enlisted men went to get coffee.
GM: I want to know the details of how you both met. So, JD, it looks like I will have to come to you to get the whole story behind this. Why did you go in the military?
JD: It was a way out of the south. I grew up in Georgia where the Appalachian trial starts in Haven. There was nothing down there but a cotton field, there was no work down there. I was born and raised down there until I was about ten or eleven when we moved away to South Carolina. I went in the Army National Guard there in 1953 with my cousin.
VT: His cousin was fifteen years older.
JD: I was in the 51st Infantry Division 51st Signal Corp. I took boot camp at Fort McClellan, Alabama and then we moved again to Belmont North Carolina and a friend of mine came home from the airforce and I asked him, can you get me in the airforce, and he said, yeah. So, we went to Charlotte and he swore that I was seventeen and swore that he was my guardian and I boarded that plane and went to San Antonio Texas.
VT: He never went back.
JD: I went to San Antonio and from there to Lowry Airforce Base as an Air Policeman. I did the flag detail, raising the flag, lowering the flag, running security and I worked my way up. They put me in charge of the arsenal, of all the base defense weapons, so when someone brought weapons on base they would have to check them in to me and check them out. The ammunition would have to be through me also. I worked mostly for a colonel on the base and he would handle all the military funerals for the state of Colorado. In fifty nine the commander called me in and said, you’re going to meet some VIPs out at the funeral you’re going to, so just do your job and get out of there. I came to find out the VIPs were some of the astronauts Kennedy introduced.
GM: I just watched The Right Stuff again last week.
JD: There was Gus Grissom, Alan Shepherd, John Glenn, Gordon Cooper, I buried his father, he was a Colonel in the Airforce in Rifle Colorado. They sent me up there with eighteen men by train because there was so much snow. If you have eighteen men and there’s three bars in the whole town, I knew where to find them. We did a good job up there, it looked like Boot Hill. I buried thirty six troops in the state of Colorado. I enjoyed my time in the service. It was a good education for me and a good learning experience. I only came home once or twice in the whole eight years. I got the Airforce Commendation Medal for being on the funeral detail and setting it up, handling it and making sure it went off all right.
GM: That’s a lot of salad over there?
JD: These aren’t all of them but I just don’t want to show them all off. Do you know who only wore one ribbon, and I stood honor guard for him? Eisenhower. The Good Conduct Medal is all he wore.
GM: And he probably had a lot more than that?
JD: Oh yeah.
VT: Mamie, President Eisenhower’s wife, her family came from Denver.
JD: He used to come out fishing in Colorado. I got out of the Airforce in 1960 and we moved to Connecticut. I went to Barber School on the GI Bill. I had to work for somebody for eight years before I could get my own shop. I owned my own shop in 1967.
GM: At that time, you had to work for another barber for eight years before you could own your own shop?
JD: Well you could own it but you couldn’t run it.
VT: It was the old European apprenticeship system. Apprentice, journeyman and then a master barber.
GM: Law used to be an apprenticeship profession as well.
JD: That’s the way the barber pole got started. What the barber pole represented was the blue is for the veins, red for the blood and white is for the bandage they used when they did bloodletting. They’d pull teeth and everything. When I would go to the doctor I would tell them, we gave up your trade.
Anyway, I got back to Connecticut and opened my own business in 1967 and ran it for a couple of years then sold it and came down to North Carolina, but didn’t like it so we turned around and moved back two years later.
VT: We came down in seventy two and we thought the segregation issue was over but it wasn’t.
JD: I had got on the board of education in Lincolnton. The schools were just like open barracks, no doors on the showers, it just wasn’t suitable for school, so we moved back. I brought my old house back and my old shop back, it cost me a lot of money to make that mistake but I got it out of my system. And here I am again doing the same thing.
What I miss more than anything down here is my clientele. You can’t be cutting hair for fifty years and not know somebody. You realize when you cut a head of hair, you’ve got to have another one right behind them because one hair cut doesn’t pay a living. You realize how many people you’ve got to know to have a barber business. I started cutting hair in Granby Connecticut. In the sixties for men it was a dollar and a half, kids were a dollar and quarter. In 2013 in my shop, haircuts were sixteen dollars. I cut most of the military guy’s hair and state cops.
VT: He would come home with some funny stories.
JD: You’ve got to have a good story. Cutting hair and talking, it’s the same thing. You know, a guy comes in to get a haircut, he wants in and out, he’s on his lunch hour. He’s working at Hamilton Standard or Pratt and Whitney and he’s got to eat and get back to work in an hour. The best thing you can do in business is, you don’t talk religion, you don’t talk politics and you don’t talk money. Those three things are no one’s business, how much money you make, which party to belong to or which church you go to.
GM: But you do talk and I think that is a lost art, small talk, being able to talk to somebody else.
VT: We are against the technical world because we were never in it.
JD: It’s here to stay and let’s just hope it works. Eventually they will have robots doing mine and your job. What are we going to do?
GM: I see a lack of connection to people even other business people now. You go in to a department store and you’ve got to help yourself. When I was growing up here I would go in to a department store with my mother and there would be multiple people in there who knew her and would help her. That’s not the way businesses are set up anymore.
JD: Technology runs us in some ways, there’s no longer a family life because of technology. The dishwasher, the TV, the telephone, all these technologies have taken family talk out of the house. The mother and daughter used to wash the dishes and talk.
GM: I still like to do that, wash the dishes and have my kids dry them and talk with them.
JD: Technology is here to stay. Cities used to be the place to shop. It was safe to walk around in the cities. In the sixties when we got out of the service we shopped in Hartford. What did away with the city was the mall.
GM: Same thing in uptown Shelby, when the mall came about, everybody moved up there.
JD: And you know what, they’re now doing away with the mall. Everybody shops on their computers and has it delivered by drone.
VT: When I finished, I got a degree and worked in the schools, but because of the times changing it was very difficult. Like here, the mothers are working and the kids are left alone and there are so many incidences of child abuse or neglect, it’s terrible.
GM: There are a ton of problems. I was talking with someone at church about that very issue and the lack of employment in Cleveland County and how to put people back to work and get off drugs.
VT: It would be wonderful if they opened up the CCC again.
GM: What’s the CCC?
VT: Civilian Conservation Corp.
JD: They built a lot of the state parks and the roads and dams.
VT: It was in the thirties when it started. They had places to stay and were paid and would send money home because it was hard times.
JD: They had these camps and would give whoever was in the CCC five or ten dollars and send the rest home to their spouse. We’re just at the beginning of the technology thing. We’re not always going to use money. A lot of people never see money, it’s always on a card. I never had a credit card, an atm card or a debit card. If somebody stole my identity he wouldn’t know how to use it. He’d bring it back. It’s good to be that way. A lot of people buy on impulse with a card and get themselves in trouble.
GM: I agree that not having the cash in hand and having to count it out for this bill, and this for that bill and this is what I have left over to spend, but when you have this money on a card it’s not as real to you.
JD: It’s too easy to overspend, you don’t see the money. I went to the store the other day and got some food, and it came to nineteen dollars and sixty seven cents, so I handed over a twenty dollar bill and sixty seven cents and the cashier didn’t know what to give me back. If the machine didn’t tell them what to give you back they don’t know. They can’t count money. You’ve got to know how to count backwards. The world is moving too fast in some ways.
GM: I wonder how we’ve got to a point where many people don’t care about themselves anymore? It might be related to education and jobs.
JD: It might be that people are just too busy with all this electronic stuff. You go into any dentist’s office and everyone is sat around playing on their phones.
VT: His sister is in the hospital here, she’s very ill, and so everyone was going up to see her and sitting in the waiting area on their phones.
JD: No one was talking to each other or seeing what was going on. Their minds were ten thousand miles away.
GM: It is distracting. People are not living in the moment when they’re doing that.
JD: More people get killed on the roads because they’re texting on their phones than drunk driving.
GM: Let me just bring you back to the beginning, do you remember meeting Virginia?
JD: Yeah, I remember meeting her in the service. She was coming in to the gate, gate fourteen, and I was checking entries. It was a Nash Rambler fifty four.
GM: What’s a Nash?
JD: It’s a car, it’s a green station wagon.
VT: I was working part-time.
JD: She worked at Chicken Delight. So, she came in and I checked her out, and said, what are you doing out this late at night? I took my time checking her out because there was no one around.
I worked three jobs in the service. I worked at a service station and the commissary taking groceries out for people just for tips, and then I would go to work at seven in the morning until three o’clock for the military running the arsenal and checking people in and out. At three I would go down town off base and work at the service station until ten at night. I would close the service station and walk across to the bar and grill and wash dishes until two in the morning. I did that for three years. I was about the only guy on base with money before payday because I never spent any. People knew where to come to get money, they’d come to me because they knew I had money. They’d say, I need ten dollars, I’m going down town to see the girls. I always carried checks for the bank on base. I’d say, okay, here’s what you’re going to pay me back for the ten, sign it. Two days after payday you come and look for me, I’m not coming to look for you. I’ll cash this check and the old man will have you in the office if you don’t come and get it.
VT: If you wrote a bad check back in the service they really dragged you right in.
GM: So you would take a check back and get a little interest?
JD: The banks would do it, why shouldn’t I?
GM: You were the base bank?
JD: Yeah, the banks were closed when people wanted to go out. I’ll tell you a good little story about Wells Fargo as we’re talking about banks. They were hauling a big load of money out in the bad country out west in a stage coach and the wheels were real deep in sand. They were going along pretty good with the shotgun rider and driver and soon the shotgun rider said to the driver, you know there’s an Indian behind us, and the driver said, how close is he? The shotgun rider said, I don’t know, and the driver said, well how tall is he? Oh, he’s about knee high, oh he’s back about thirty miles back, he’ll never catch us. So, they’re going along good until the shotgun rider says, that Indian is gaining on us, the driver said, how tall is he now, he said, he’s about waist high, the driver says, he’s got one horse we’ve got six, we’ll outrun him, so, now they’re making a load of dust. Pretty soon the shotgun rider says again, you know that Indian is about ready to climb aboard, the driver says, hell shoot him, and the shotgun rider says, I can’t shoot him I’ve known him since he was knee high.
VT: He should tell you about one of his air policeman friends who noticed one of the girls in the military and you had the car. We were going to meet at the cafeteria, I was with my girlfriend.
JD: He was an air policeman and he set this thing up through his girlfriend. I didn’t know who I was going to meet, I knew she was a female. So, we went up there.
VT: Yeah, I knew the other air policeman, I had talked to him, so when everyone got in the car, the other air policeman got in the car with my girlfriend and I was stuck with him.
JD: We’ve got four kids now, enny, meany, miny and randy, ain’t gonna be no moe.
GM: People don’t tell jokes like they used to either. They’re scared to offend somebody.
JD: Do you know the best person to tell jokes, a salesperson.
GM: It’s a great icebreaker.
JD: A sales guy once told me, he says, the worst thing you can do when you go in to sell somebody is to sell somebody who smokes a pipe. I said what do you mean? He said, all you do is watch him clean that pipe, he’s not listening to a thing you’re saying. You might as well leave, you’re not going to sell him nothing.
VT: I grew up on a dairy farm in Connecticut, I was really lucky to have that kind of a life. There was a lot of dairy farms there, and it was a period of time where, heavens to Betsy, any woman who smoke and drank was looked upon as someone of ill repute. That’s how it was with my family so I never got into smoking or drinking. His sister was working in the mills down here and they never used masks or anything. This was what was so unfair, breaks were given only if you were a smoker, so if you wanted a break you smoked to get out.
JD: In the whole of America, if you do things in moderation it won’t hurt your body. You can over drink, you can over smoke, you can over work. You’ve got to know when to say when.
GM: You two seem to be two of a kind who met in the military and are still together today.
JD: I think everyone should go in to the military after high school, men and women. Makes no difference if they have brains or no brains, they’ve got jobs for you. They’ll teach you to take orders from someone other than your parents, teach you right and wrong, it’s a good upbringing in the service.
GM: I agree. I grew up by being in the military. It gave me a better foundation to build a life on.
JD: I had a sign in my shop which said, Attention teenagers, now is the time to take action. Leave home and pay your own way while you know it all.
GM: Getting out of your parent’s house, seeing the world, getting some discipline and making some money, it’s not bad for you.
JD: Everybody talks about the good ole days, well, the good ole days are right now.
GM: Live now and take advantage of your opportunities. I want to thank you both very much for being on lunch with a veteran today.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
The Job No one Wants to Do! Keith Hawkins of Caring Transitions of Western NC. Keith relieved he stress out of being trapped by your home for seniors & their families. They move you, de-clutter. Clean. When a senior has to move or sell the property. #theelderlawguy
LWV: LIVE: Vietnam Veteran Ray Kale tells his story along with his wife, Connie.what a story about the “Real” Vietnam War and the grueling day to day of the soldiers. #theelderlawguy
I’m Greg McIntyre and this is the elder law report. Our topic today is things we forgot. What’s ironic about today’s show is we forgot all our show notes so what we’ll do first is go to Hayden for an interesting story.
HS: My granddaughter is going to her first prom and I was up until midnight last night sewing on little pink, silver and turquoise beads.
She was very smart, she did a lot of study and found one of the gowns from a friend of hers who is older, and she found another one online, a gorgeous dress for a great price, and it made me wonder what the average prom dress costs? Well, I could not find the exact figure, but I found the average cost of the prom is from $175 to $2100, the average being $1139 which includes a limo and dinner out. It was simpler at my prom. My two best friends and I went to the prom in a bread truck, so we could stand up and not wrinkle our dresses. The after parties were at people’s houses with parents supervising and I know it sounds nerdy but at one of the parties we played board games, and we had a ball. I do Christmas at my house, and I build it up and up and suddenly in an hour and thirty minutes the meal is gone, the presents are open and everyone has left, and I think the prom happens the same way, build up, build up, build up and boom it’s gone. They have such great expectations.
GM: It does go quickly, you have to live in the moment. So, moving on, the things we forgot, I have forgotten a ton of things in my life, usually when I’m giving a big speech or another big event like that when I’ve forgotten something I really needed. The whole point of the forgetting is, I have met with families or couples who want to protect their house or farmland that has been in the family for two hundred years but the dad is now incompetent, or he had an accident and can’t sign and they haven’t done a general durable power of attorney to allow the kids to protect it.
I know of one instance where a husband wanted to sign a protective deed while his wife was deemed incompetent, and I’m stuck, I can’t do anything, I can’t help.
HS: We’re talking about a whole new area of forgot when we’re talking of things like this. These are life changing, life affecting, not just the little things.
GM: That house, that money, those things that could be protected and passed to the grandkids, I forgot to do it, and I know you hate this but I’m going to say it anyway, it’s basically saying, I forgot to send my grandkids to college. It can change the whole trajectory of a family if you protect those assets and use them wisely. My plea is, call me and I will figure out how you can hold on to your assets so you can pass them on.
HS: We get so many calls from people who say, I’ve been meaning to call you and do this but they leave it a bit longer and sometimes it can get too late.
GM: You don’t want to get into guardianship situations where you have no choice.
HS: You are at the mercy of the court in a guardianship situation.
GM: That’s right, anytime you want to spend some money for a family member you have to ask the court if you can do it. There are much easier ways to operate those things and it is less of a headache for the court system. How many tax payer dollars are jammed up in the court system all the time? Then there is your time and your families time. These things can be avoided by simply putting certain documents in place.
If you have questions about that, call us, let us take care of the things you have so you don’t forget, then you can forget about it. It’s a good feeling when you’ve taken care of things, then you have peace of mind.
HS: In the office right now we are having our awards because we actually have clients who come in and just want to shake our hands.
GM: Yes, we have awards day scheduled for our office. We have the ‘best unsolicited hand shake’ award, and the ‘the above and beyond’ award which is where you go out of your way to go to a client’s house to get a signature or whatever so we can please our clients and create raving fans.
HS: Things like that are not unusual.
GM: I listened to a speech by a guy named Andy Frisella who is huge on customer satisfaction and performance and going above and beyond. That’s where I got the idea for the awards in our firm. He made large revenues with his company before he spent one dollar on marketing. The way you do it is to go above and beyond to please your clients. That’s what we do. That is something no company should forget.
Let me ask you this, what is the one thing you can do to protect your assets?
HS: A ladybird deed.
GM: Okay, that’s a good one, a ladybird deed would ensure your house was protected no matter if Medicaid had to come in and provide for your care. You’ve got to make time to plan ahead.
HS: An example of that happened to me this morning, when I was walking along and I tripped and slide. I was cartwheeling, I thought I was going to hit the ground but I recovered. I could have had a head injury and brain damage right there and not be able to make any decisions. Just a fall like that could have put me in a nursing home. Something as simple as that could happen to anyone, not just seniors.
GM: For the Shelby/Charlotte region call us at 704-343-6933 and for the Hendersonville/Asheville area call us at 828-398-0181.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
I’m Greg McIntyre and this is lunch with a veteran. Today’s guest is Dr Frank Sincox who is a physician and a Flight Surgeon for years in the US Navy.
He already has a warm spot in my heart because he was in the Navy and spent time on aircraft carriers. I like to say there is no better uniform out there than dress blues.
FS: I like dress whites.
GM: You like the dress whites better?
GM: You were on the CVS15 USS Randolph, that was a big carrier. I was on the Nimitz and the Constellation. I want to say the Constellation was CVN64 and I think the Nimitz was CVN68. The difference was the Constellation was a diesel and the Nimitz was a nuclear carrier. The Randolph I’ll bet was a conventional diesel.
FS: It is. It’s basically Essex class left over from world war two.
GM: On the picture of the Randolph you can see more advanced aircraft.
FS: They had hydraulic catapults and they can’t handle the weight of new aircraft. They require steam catapults. There’s more energy in steam.
GM: Now there is a new catapult system?
FS: Yes, there is electromagnetic.
GM: Like a rail gun kind of thing in the new, is it the Reagan class?
FS: I’m not sure.
GM: I think they are going to shift to those. I remember sleeping in a ninety man berthing on the Constellation and the Nimitz right below the flight deck essentially. In that front area of the carrier on the hangar deck level up in the front they had the steam catapults going off and you just learned to sleep through it.
FS: My sleeping area or berthing compartment had the same thing, it was on the 02 level and all night long you could hear that catapult, CABOOM, and the whole ship shakes. Tremendous amount of energy.
GM: I don’t ever remember not sleeping because of it though. I just got used to it.
FS: Yeah, it’s like living in a town close to the railroad tracks, you get used to it.
GM: And it is like living in a town. You’ve got a ship full of five thousand men, or men and women now, it’s like living in a town.
FS: It is.
GM: So, you live in Kings Mountain and practiced your career there?
FS: Since leaving the Navy.
GM: You were born in Michigan and moved around with your parents, and you have gone through experiences with different levels of service. I think this show is a great example of how the military can assist you, although you may have been a physician without being in the military but it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you are doing, the military can assist you as long as you have the drive and the intelligence to do it. You were closely affiliated with the military from a very young age?
FS: I was, my dad was in the Navy, he was in the Navy in world war one. He sure did a couple of different ships, and I think, what the veterans have given this country and the people of this country is not fully appreciated by the young people today. They take it for granted that all these freedoms were somehow descended from heaven and weren’t earned. There are people like me who served and came back and there are people who served and didn’t come back. We talk about the national debt but there is a debt that everyone is this country owes to veterans as a group. Those who served in combat and those who didn’t serve in combat but at any time could have, it’s not like I respect them any less. Anyone who was a store keeper or worked in a warehouse could have been pulled and sent to the front lines at any time, so I don’t think there should be a distinction between combat veterans and non-combat veterans. I think organizations like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and many others as they try and tell people what veterans do for them, they need our support.
GM: I agree, when you sign a contract to enlist or be commissioned into our armed services, you are basically signing your life away saying, do with me what you will and I’m willing to sacrifice my life, and in exchange the military gives me certain benefits. Sometimes this includes healthcare and paying for college.
FS: I think one of the biggest benefits, there are so many young people growing up who maybe don’t have a good role model, or have no goal orientation, they are just sort of drifting around and the military is not for everyone but the biggest benefit is, you learn some self-discipline, goal orientation and you learn the satisfaction of a job performed well.
GM: I think another big thing for me is when you’re a kid going in, we don’t like dealing with things, people don’t, but you learn to, and I learned to operate in their system and accomplish my goals was a big part of it.
FS: Some of the things in the military system such as taking orders, if you don’t like it you get out and get a job, and guess what, you have to take orders there too.
GM: I have my own business and I have a ton of bosses to contend with. First my wife, my employees, judges, clerks, so I have a ton of bosses and systems that I may not always agree with but I need to learn to operate within it to be successful.
FS: And that is one of the advantages of military service is you learn there are some great bosses and great leaders and there are some that aren’t so great. You learn how to get along with them and do your job. Another benefit of being in the service is goal orientation.
GM: And it’s the same in civilian life as well, people conduct their lives with their habits and how they take care of themselves.
FS: Self-discipline is another thing. I had junior ROTC and ROTC.
GM: So, you started off in high school in junior ROTC when the Korean war was going on.
FS: You march and you drill and you say why is this important? You learn how to do something with a group of people. I really didn’t like the marching and drilling until I had done it a while, and then it was like, this is how you work as a unit. Yes, in the military you have to work as a unit but in civilian life you also have to.
GM: You have to work with people. Some people will say, I just couldn’t go into the military and I just chuckle because I wonder how you conduct yourself with your regular job. Can you perform well for your clients, or employees or your boss?
FS: In the Navy, you stood watches and showed up on your watch ten minutes before duty time. If you’re not on time, you’re in trouble. If you don’t like that, go into civilian life and you show up to your job not on time, pretty soon you won’t have a job. There’s not a lot of difference.
GM: After the junior ROTC you were in the US Navy reserves inactive during your first two years of medical school. You said you went to medical school from 1954 to 1956 at Emory University in Atlanta. In 1956 to 1957 the rules changes and you were allowed to join the US Naval Reserve.
FS: One weekend a month and two weeks in summer.
GM: And 1957 to 1958 you were active duty.
FS: You had a chance to go on active duty, get Ensigns pay and that helped with my medical school expenses. It also incurred another one year obligation.
GM: You had to pay back the military?
GM: So the military paid for your medical school?
FS: No. Now they pay for it all but then they didn’t pay for med school, I got a monthly check.
GM: The military paid for my undergrad and when I got out I went through the GI. Bill and I got about a thousand a month which paid for my mortgage and some groceries. It allowed me to complete my education.
FS: The GI. Bill has helped a lot of people. None of what I was on was GI Bill. The military is a great opportunity for our young people, whether you stay in it or not for a two year reserve or a four year active duty, it can help in civilian life. Sometimes you go in and have a job that has a close connection to a civilian job and other times there is no connection. If you were on a carrier and you’re loading bombs, well there’s no civilian job like that. There are hazardous material jobs so it can be useful.
GM: It would be like the AO’s, or red shirts. I would walk past the AO stations on my way to breakfast or wherever, and there were the bombs, right beneath where we slept. I never thought a thing about it then but if one of those had gone up, the whole thing would have.
FS: You wind up having so much trust in your fellow shipmate. You feel safe because this guy took fire training and knows how to put out a fire. It is said that in actual combat, the usual fear is not of getting injured or dying, the average guy in combat, his biggest fear is that he will let his buddy down. There is such a bond in combat and even in practice for combat. There is a pride and a bond that makes you proud that you’ve done that.
GM: You have had a distinguished career. During the cold war you were on the USS Randolph aircraft carrier which was a sub hunting aircraft carrier and you were patrolling the Atlantic and between Cuba and the North Sea ports of Russia.
FS: The Russian subs we were concerned about were the guided missile subs. They had sixteen nuclear weapons, that’s sixteen American cities. Each sub could destroy that. We knew we couldn’t get all of them but one we got would save sixteen cities. The submarines would come out of the North Sea ports and transect the Atlantic to be near our coast and go down to Cuba to refuel. We could destroy them but we sure wanted to keep track of them. We also kept track of the ships going to Cuba. We would take pictures of them. One time we took a picture of one of them and right on the deck was a missile, and then we knew Russia was sending missiles to Cuba and that was when President Kennedy came in.
GM: The Cuban Missile Crisis.
FS: Yes. From your time at sea, that ocean is big. You get on a ship and you figure it’s going twenty knots, that’s twenty two miles an hour, and you go for a day, that’s four hundred miles, two days that’s eight hundred miles and you don’t see another ship, you don’t see anything, just the sea. That’s a big ocean.
GM: They’re a lot faster now. I would think the fastest ship would be a carrier, that’s my guess.
FS: Well, some of those new subs are pretty fast too.
GM: I don’t consider those ships though, they sink. Who would get on a ship that sinks. I’ll have to interview some bubble heads.
FS: For us, subs weren’t ships they were targets but to them we were targets. The submariners that’s what they say, there are two kinds of ships, submarines and targets.
GM: I met some of our submariners at the Military extravaganza recently, they had a booth there.
FS: I saw them too, I talked to them.
GM: They told me they were called bubble heads. I didn’t realize that was the nickname. They affectionately call themselves bubble heads.
We were like the geeks who worked on the electronic circuitry. It was very good experience in trouble shooting problems.
FS: When you trouble shoot a radar set, there are certain steps you go through like a logarithm, I’m sure how you trouble shoot a problem has helped you through school and in your job.
GM: It helped my trouble shooting skills as well as discipline, and I imagine trouble shooting a human being isn’t too far off.
FS: Same thing, you say these are the possibilities and how am I going to separate which is which. Problem solving is the same whether it’s legal or medical.
GM: It’s just simply problem solving, and you can get really creative, even within the discipline of that.
Now, you were a Flight Surgeon in the Navy and you were involved in some of the NASA pick ups, such as John Glenn?
FS: Well, he came back to the carrier but I wasn’t directly involved, I was aboard the ship.
GM: If you were aboard the ship you were involved.
FS: Well, actually what happened is, the NASA physicians came up and they sort of took over our sick bay area, our medical area, and so when John Glenn came aboard I was all excited and wanted to offer my help as a Navy Flight Surgeon, and I said, what can I do, and they said you can get out of here and leave us alone. They chased me away, didn’t want anything to do with me.
GM: The only time I remember going to sick bay on the aircraft carrier was when I was walking through the hangar bay one evening, it had been a long day, we worked twelve hour shifts and there was an F18 Hornet rear wing that I didn’t see and I walked right into it and it split my head right open. I have a scar on my head from it. I had to go get a shave and get stitched up.
FS: Like you said, an aircraft carrier is like a city, and just like in any city there are accidents. If you cut your head, I would be the one who stitches you up.
GM: I might have had some dental work also.
FS: The sick bay aboard ship is just a couple of rooms where you could examine people, there’s an operating room and about twenty beds for sick people, but there is another area of about a hundred beds. We talk about a carrier fighting wars but if there is volcanic activity, or a hurricane, or typhoon in one of the Pacific islands, you send a carrier down there, they can distill and produce enough fresh water for a town of ten thousand people. They can serve ten thousand meals a day to people and provide hospitalization and care for several hundred people. It’s a war machine but it can be used as an instrument of peace too, so when there is a natural disaster just send your carriers there. How many other countries do that?
GM: Not a lot. There’s not many with that type of capability.
FS: Other countries would to but don’t have aircraft carriers.
GM: The US, Britain, Russia, France and now China.
FS: It can be used as an instrument of war and has a tremendous destructive capability but can be used as an instrument of peace too.
GM: And political capabilities. You can park a carrier in Hong Kong Bay and you are there to protect and intimidate.
FS: The one that first came out with that, a great president Teddy Roosevelt came out with what he called the great white fleet. He painted his ships white so they would stand out. He would send them to foreign ports to say, hey, this is the United States Navy, don’t mess with us. Speak softly and carry a big stick. The white fleet was his big stick, and today our carriers are our big stick for war but also for peace.
GM: You guys also picked up Gus Grissom right?
FS: Yes. John Glenn was supposed to land close to the carrier, he actually landed near a destroyer, the USS Noah which picked him up and brought him to us because that was where the media was, Walter Cronkite, and the NASA physicians. Gus Grissom we picked up directly. That was an exciting thing to be a part of.
You know how crowded it is aboard ship but imagine you bring your whole group with you. There’s about five or six thousand men and then you bring in five hundred media and press and NASA and everybody else. Everyone gets sandwiched in like sardines in a can.
GM: They would bring people on ship from time to time, movie stars and such people and the press, and it was crowded. I never felt too crowded when aboard even though we had two or three berthing but I always managed to get top bunk.
FS: Let me tell you another story of peace time. One time I was aboard the carrier in the sickbay and we had to do an inventory of all our surgical instruments. We had a bunch of surgical instruments, but way down in the hold of the ship we had tons more of them and we had to do an inventory.
FS: You had to do it periodically. So I went down there.
GM: Into the bowels of the ship?
GM: That always made me nervous the lower I went.
FS: There was all these surgical instruments ready to be sterilized, there was forceps used to deliver babies in there. We didn’t have women aboard ship then. I said, what in the world is someone thinking putting all these things aboard ship. There were boxes there and I’m thinking they don’t know what they’re doing, why would they do this? Well, a couple of months later we were cruising around and the dictator of the Dominican Republic got shot and they thought there would be a civil war, so we went full speed towards the port. Our job was to evacuate American citizens and I said, you know, some of them might be pregnant women, and so the people who provided those instruments weren’t so dumb after all. I was the dumb one, I didn’t think. I thought it was a fighting ship, I never thought it might have a mission of evacuating civilians from a civil war possibility in a foreign country. Things that look like they don’t make sense may make sense after all.
I’m sure during your career you got an order and you thought that doesn’t make sense, they don’t know what they’re doing, and later you found out that the one who didn’t know was you.
GM: You were called back up for service in the Gulf War as well. Did you go to Iraq?
FS: I was. We went over and were about twenty miles from the Iraq border because we were in Saudi Arabia which was friendly to us. We flew Cobra helicopters over there which were basically tank killers, and Saddam had tanks but someone had got there before us and most of the tanks were smoldering ruins. That was a war that was over almost before it started. We faced the possibility of doing an amphibious invasion on the beaches of Kuwait to push Saddam out. We knew the beaches were mined and from a medical side we were looking at five to ten thousand casualties first day from mines but it never happened, we didn’t have to invade so we didn’t get the casualties but you had to prepare for it. Things like the cold war and the military in peace time, it seems after every war we just tear down our military and then something happens and we are caught unprepared. We need to keep ready, not just stand down.
GM: I agree, we need to be ready. Thank you so much for talking with me and for your years of service to our country.
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