I’m Greg McIntyre and this is lunch with a veteran. One of the reasons we do this is to document a veteran’s experiences and where they have gone since leaving the military. My special guest today is Jim Quinlan. He is a resident of Cleveland County, a Marine and a member of Post 82 American Legion and has been extremely involved in American Legion baseball.
JQ: Yeah, I literally got out of the Marine Corp, got my degree under the G.I bill and ended up working for the American Legion back in Iowa where we did baseball, boys state, oratorical, all the youth programs. In 1986, I got hired into the national headquarters and ran the American Legion Baseball program. We had fifty five hundred teams nationwide, and did the world series in twenty six cities over that career time, so I got a lot of work into the American Legion.
GM: When did you go into the Marines?
JQ: I went in, in October 1971 and was put into personnel.
GM: I was born in January 1975.
JQ: So I was in and out before you were even born. I was a personnel chief, my job started off as a mail clerk. The mail comes into the troops, you sort it out by the different sections, S1, supply, operations whatever it was. We had to type up a lot of orders, so whenever someone flew, they had to go on flight pay because flying is hazardous, so every month if you have two thousand people you had to put on flight pay, at the end of the month you had to take them off, and then you have to put them back on. Whenever someone got transferred, or got promoted all that stuff had to be paper worked.
GM: I didn’t have flight pay but I had sea pay, and then we had hazardous duty pay when we went into a war zone, tax free, and I imagine someone in the payroll department had to make those changes every time there was a change.
JQ: Somebody in administration had to say, here’s a list of people who are now qualified for combat pay, or the hazardous duty pay, or the flight pay. Even if the troop wanted to get sunglasses which were authorized for troops who were flying, again you had to cut a special paragraph one order, he had to take it up to the base PX and they would order out his sunglasses, especially if he had prescription sunglasses.
GM: I think most people out there think of the military as being on the front lines but that’s not true. I say it all the time, any job you find in the civilian world, you find in the military.
JQ: Exactly, people have to fix and run computers, people have to do the payroll. Back then you didn’t get a check in the military, you got cash, so every month you had a dispersing officer come down and count out your pay. Then we had to have all that stuff typed up, and you had to sign to get your cash. When you were on deployment you got extra pay and again you had to go to the dispersing office and someone had to type it up, and they didn’t have computers or even have electric typewriters back then, it was all done with a manual typewriter.
GM: What did you say, a Remington Raider?
JQ: That’s right, I used a Remington Raider, I could type. Electric typewriters were just coming in but again, because our squadron was deployable, you may be going overseas, you may be going somewhere where there’s no electricity and you can’t plug in so everything was done with the old manual, hit the carriage return, type away, hit the carriage return.
GM: What if you made a mistake?
JQ: Then you had to retype everything over. We would handle CO office orders so we had to go through and type a perfect document, except we would deliberately make three mistakes. One was in the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end. The defendant who was being charged with these usually minor infractions would have to go through and find that mistake, fix it, and initial it, that way for legal documentation later, it proved that he read it because here are his initials on every page that had those three mistakes. So if you made a mistake, you had to start all over, you couldn’t use white out because everything was done with carbon paper. We had carbonless forms on paper back behind on everything so if you made a mistake it appeared back behind too. It was a slow process.
Now the stuff is computerized so you enter it in and it immediately goes to stores or to supply.
The advantage then was you worked with the First Sergeant, you got to work with the commanding officer and the XO. I was fortunate enough to get to know those people and those were the people who could recommend you for a promotion.
GM: And I guess that would help you develop people skills also?
JQ: It did. When the First Sergeant chewed somebody out you could learn an awful lot about how diplomatically he did it so they didn’t make that mistake again.
GM: Right, do it without breaking them. There are always different ways of doing that.
JQ: Bring them into line.
GM: That is something that is hard to learn. When you are trying to discipline someone so they know they did wrong but make them want to do better without just yelling, that’s a skill.
JQ: Anybody can yell.
GM: Yeah, how do I get them to buy in?
JQ: And this is not going to be tolerated anymore, you’re going to do a better job because you are capable of doing a better job.
GM: One thing that comes up that always amazes me is the military will give a ridiculous amount of responsibility to an eighteen or nineteen year old without thinking twice about it.
JQ: Once upon a time we had an American Legion conference and we had the Captain of the USS Iowa there. He’s got twenty two hundred people on board, it’s a small city, and he says, three fourths of them are teenagers. They fire the sixteen inch shell, they’ve got the radar going, they’ve got all these things going on and they’re eighteen or nineteen years old.
GM: That’s the big difference between the private world and the military world. Most businesses or people wouldn’t think about hiring a teenager and giving them much responsibility at all.
JQ: In the military one of the things you learn is that you’re going to be on time. The First Sergeant didn’t let you sleep in because you wanted to sleep in. If you were supposed to report for muster at 0700, you do it or you’re in trouble. There are consequences. The military regiments cut into real life every day. Working with American Legion baseball teams, there’s these teenagers and you say, hey, you’ve got curfew at midnight, well, they’re not used to going to bed. We’ll say, you have an option, you can either go to bed or we’ll take you to the airport for your airline tickets in the morning. They get your message real quick.
When the team is working hard together, we rarely had problems but every once in a while they’d say, what are you going to do, send us home? and we’d go, yeah. You can sleep in your beds tonight or you can sleep at the airport, they got the message. With the military, those skills of being organized, being on time, getting things going, they work. We would have an American Legion tournament, and one of the things the American Legion does like other youth programs, when a team wins that state tournament, the American Legion steps in and takes care of all those expenses, air-fares, hotels, meals, baseball, umpires all were pre-arranged. Like with the team from Alaska, we know they fly out of Anchorage but you don’t know who’s coming until forty eight hours ahead of time, so you have to have twenty airline tickets waiting up in Alaska for the team who wins and flies down to maybe Portland Oregon, or it might be the corner of Washington, or it could be in Shelby. All that stuff needed to be pre-arranged. We would end up flying or busing around fourteen hundred kids all in one day, and checking into hotels. That was always the pat on the back we gave ourselves, that was our success getting all that coordinated.
GM: You were the national director of the American Legion Baseball operations from 1986 to when?
JQ: 1986 to 2012 when I retired. Twenty eight years there, and seven back in Iowa doing similar type stuff but on a state level.
GM: And now Shelby is the home of the American Legion World Series.
JQ: Again, totally changed the impact of American Legion Baseball World Series. We went to some great cities, Fargo, North Dakota, nicest people in the world, went to Rapid City South Dakota, Spokane Washington, went all over the place, Middletown Connecticut, great people who worked their hearts out for a year, but after a year we had to start all over. So, you end up at Middletown Connecticut in 1988 and you’re going to Millington Tennessee in 1989, a whole new committee had to start over, educate them and say, this is what has to happen. Back then, those teams worked their fanny off and if there was any money left over that money would go into the team coffers to help next year’s team. Here in Shelby, we can build on the success year after year. Quite frankly the world series barely breaks even, if it wasn’t for our sponsors we probably wouldn’t be able to pay all the bills. It gives us a chance to build on the success. We never had a concert down town in Shelby five years ago, and now we do. It keeps on growing, the attendance has been outstanding and it continues to grow every year.
Fargo North Dakota, their team actually got into the world series and they averaged almost two thousand people a game, while Shelby averages almost seven thousand people a game, and they don’t have a team in it yet.
GM: We have some good teams, we just need to win that championship.
JQ: Well, it’s tough. In ninety years, I think there are seven teams who have hosted a tournament and won. Back in the thirties and forties there used to be just two teams in there. You have one year it’s in the east, the next it’s in the west, a best of three. Starting in 1944, that’s when they started the double elimination tournament and it was rare for a team to win the state tournament, then go regional and go on to host a world series and be there in the tournament. It is extremely tough.
GM: So, you think the organization skills and discipline you learned in the military translated to your career?
GM: You got the G.I bill, right?
JQ: I was hurt when I went in the Marines, I hurt my knee real bad and so I went to school under what we called VOC Rehab, where I probably got fifty dollars less a month than the G.I bill guy but it paid for books and tuition, so that money could be used for grant, food, electricity and everything.
GM: That’s what the G.I bill paid for me was rent and groceries but that allowed me to step out of the job I was doing and get my education.
JQ: All those skills, and I came from before computers were used, and I’m not intimidated by computers so I hopped right in because it was so much nicer than doing it with the old carbon forms. You had to make six copies and if you made a mistake you had to start all over again. The commanding Officer doesn’t like typos on their paperwork. And in the military, you would have the inspector general come around every year and so your paperwork was in fact judged. They came through and they would be looking for mistakes and in the end those mistakes would count against your squadrons. It made a big difference.
GM: Well, I want to thank you for your service and your contributions to the American Legion and Post 82. I am honored to be a member of Post 82.
JQ: Post 82 does a much better job. They had a kid who was a champion at the oratorical last year, and five kids are going on to boy’s state, and they’re sending a young man off to the student trooper which is like highway patrol class for a week. They’re doing a lot of good over there.
GM: And they’re starting a biker club.
JQ: Yes, American Legion Riders.
GM: They do a ton of fund raising.
JQ: They raised, I want to say, one point seven million dollars which goes into a scholarship trust, and that money goes to kids whose parents were killed on active duty since 911, or if you’re a fifty percent or more disabled veteran you can draw scholarship money. It’s all put in a trust so the interest is earned and again goes to those kids or veterans.
GM: American Legion does a ton, and in our last meeting it was the Legions ninety eighth birthday and we talked about how it began and the monumental things it’s done. I think it was the first million plus donor to the Heart Association.
JQ: The Cancer Society also, and they are a big contributor each year to the Ronald McDonald houses.
GM: Most people out there probably think only of American Legion Baseball but the Legion does a ton of stuff. If you are a veteran, we need younger veterans in there. I know there are a lot of younger veterans who could benefit from the camaraderie and fellowship of the Post 82 members and their support. The ridiculous number of young veterans coming back with real problems for real reasons, I think these things can be somewhat offset by a support group. The members have been through similar things. When I sit down and talk to Vietnam vets, I realize my service was not dangerous or hard at all. The veterans of today are going through some very dangerous and tough situations with injuries and trauma but that support can help, it certainly can’t hurt.
JQ: There was a chaplain in the National Guard who came and talked at the American Legion and he said, you need to get these young guys in because when the world war one and world war two boys came back, they called it combat fatigue but it was post traumatic stress, and get them in with other veterans. If old Joe talked about when he was in Korea or Vietnam and he related some of that combat, that can help younger guys to think, he can talk about it, so I can talk about it, it does relieve stress.
You talked about the G.I bill, it was a Legionnaire called Harry Colmery, a past national commander, and member of congress who wrote the G.I bill and the American Legion got that passed by one vote. It was opposed by some other organizations who wanted the money to go strictly into hospitals.
GM: I believe the American Legion is the only non-profit who can lobby congress?
JQ: For the most part but the other organizations can too, there is the DVA, and the VFW, I’m not sure how it works but they have a political action arm. With the American Legion, we don’t care if they’re republican or democrat, the issue is the issue and that’s what we are going to argue about.
The American Legion is a non-profit charter organization, any veteran who needs to put in a claim, we will do that at no charge to them, put in the paperwork and send it on up through our chain of command.
GM: I urge any veteran out there to look to their American Legion Post and get involved. Any time you go into a room full of veterans and you are a veteran, there is an instant connection and you feel at home.
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