I was born at an early age in Madera California on May 5 1947. My family stayed in Fresno County for all of my childhood. From the age of eight until about fifteen I was raised on a family farm where we had horses, cattle, pigs, and chickens.
I am the husband of a beautiful girl named Raelyne. We married in 1972. We raised two successful children, our boy, Brian, and our girl Sarah. I am the grandfather, (Papa) of five children, Ayden 9, Nolan 7, Wyatt 5, Juliet 2, and Asher, also 2. We live at 9674 E. Dakota in Clovis, CA 93619. Our home is on 5 acres where we raise a crop of weeds each year. The price of weeds is down.
I joined the Army in 1967 during the Viet Nam War to avoid the draft. I applied for medical lab school and graduated. My first duty station was Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana. In about 1969 I was offered the chance to be deployed to Germany and was transferred to the 655 Medical Company. UIt was the Blood Bank. We all have many stories about the times we had there and the friends we made; our first trip to Landstuhl the car catching fire and blowing up that we left burning in the street, the Led Zeppelin concert, the trips to the Rhine river and the races at Nuremberg, and the walks through the woods to Art and Patty’s house. Then there was the time I painted half my room florescent pink and didn’t get court-martialed. We were young and shared experiences that have influenced us all these years. I was discharged in October 1970. After that short year I returned to Fresno anxious to find a job and go back to school.
I wanted to stay in the medical field as a Laboratory Technician. I applied to the VA Medical Center in Fresno, where there were no immediate openings so I worked at a nursing home until I could find something different. I seem to be more interested in the girls than in the work and this is where I met my wife. After a couple of short-term jobs I was called by the VA and took a job in the Sterile Supply and Distribution Department, (SPD). Eventually I transferred to the Warehouse where I waited for a chance to transfer to the Lab. That opportunity never came because the only position available there was working in the mortuary, which I didn’t want to do.I transferred from SPD to the Warehouse simply because I didn’t like my supervisor. I was happy with my position for years until the opportunity arose to work in a supervisory position.
In 1984 my supervisor, who was a Major in the Army Reserves, talked me into joining for a year to try it out. I became accustomed to the couple of hundred dollars each month I used for buying my toys. Also the training got me away from the VA for a couple of weeks each year, which gave me a break from the routine.
In 2003 I was deployed to Kosovo for nine months and was put in charge of the lab because I had attained the rank of Sergeant First Class. I told them that although I had some Lab training I hadn’t worked in a lab for over thirty years, but that didn’t make any difference to the Army. I found myself doing cross matches in the middle of the night and working with a persnickety Vetros 250 chemistry machine. The transition time to learn all the new equipment and procedures was less than two weeks. The Kosovo experience was very stressful because of the responsibility but I would not trade the comradely with my new friends for anything. There were Guns, convoys and Black hawk helicopter rides.
A year later I was again called for deployment and I was deployed as a Blood Bank Technician again and was sent back to Landstuhl Germany. The Blood Bank had been eliminated but because of the war it was being initiated again and our commander was struggling to get technicians to do the work. The staff then was a few technicians gleaned from the hospital lab and several contracted people. A big push was underway to get as many fresh units as possible for wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan that were being flown in. All soldiers participated in moving patients off of the buses and ambulances that came in to the hospital. It gave all of us a perspective of what the war cost us. We immediately began going to the surrounding military units to draw blood.
The old blood bank building is where the dental department is now. Our old barracks buildings are still there and after the third floor fell in, about 2003, the building was renovated. I walked all the paths and visited all the places that I remembered from 1970.
In February 2011 the old Medical Lab Company 655 had a reunion in Reno Nevada which I did not attend but I did talk to my old friend Pete Nicholas who lives in Ohio.
Five of us were deployed from the 6253rd USAH in Arizona. Raelyne took a year’s leave of absence from her job and joined me in Germany on Christmas day for the most incredible year of our lives. On our first day we stayed in the overflow barracks at Frankfurt am MAIN and had Christmas dinner at the mess hall. We then rented a temporary room on base at Vogelweh. Raelyne showed great courage by going out on her own in a country where she could not understand the language to look for apartments we could afford. Finally after looking at a few apartments she chose one in BANN a little village about 5 miles West of the hospital base. The apartment had 6 rooms, a bath, large kitchen, two bedrooms, and a living room. It was unfurnished except for the kitchen. We bought furniture at IKEA, and found an ad for used shrunks, (cabinets used for closets). I rented a diesel van and we drove in the snow out into the woods to this little village 20 or 30 miles outside of town to pick them up. Ultimately Raelyne made our little apartment into a home, which we enjoyed for the year. We purchased a BMW, which we brought back to the states. Every morning I would drive the two miles to work then home after eight hours, except for the time we were on a blood drive. Raelyne volunteered for blood drives; one of the blood drives was to Aviano Italy. We drove the Alps in a near blizzard, arriving 15 hours after we’d left Landstuhl. Aviano’s blood drive coordinator had arranged an entire barracks for Raelyne and me for privacy and gave the whole company two bottles of wine each to share. We had wine tasting parties every night we were there, buying more when their gifts ran out.
We traveled to many places that I had missed in 1970. Our daughter spent the summer months with us. Her husband was there for 3 weeks and we went to Venice together where they celebrated their anniversary. On another trip, we visited Cinque Terra on the Northern coast of Italy where we hiked to each of the small towns on the cliffs and I kayaked on the Mediterranean with my daughter. We also visited France, Belgium, Holland, Prague, and Switzerland.
I retired from the military when I was sixty years old and from the VA a year later. We purchased a motor home and we spend summers traveling. Our retirement is largely spent with our grandchildren and trying to keep up with home repairs and improvements. There is very little time for relaxation, but we’ve had a wonderful life and I’m very grateful to know all the people we have known and the experiences we have had.