Father Follows In Sons' Footsteps To The Call Of Duty

Boys March To Military Beat As Learned From Sergeant

April 21, 1991

ELDERSBURG — With four of his five sons either in the Persian Gulf region or headed there, Cornelius "Joe" Bacon decided to re-enlist.

The day the ground war broke out, the 55-year-old former U.S. Army sergeant called the Armed Services Retirement Center, in St. Louis, Mo., to say he was ready to go. He thought the Army could put his experience as a petroleum supply officer to good use.

"I told them to put my name on the list and call me any time," hesaid. "With my background and knowledge in petroleum operations, I figured they could use me in the gulf."

Bacon learned to handle pipelines and fuel operations during a 22-year Army career, which included two tours in Vietnam and one in Korea, where he was stationed along the DMZ.

He also served in Germany twice and taught at the Quartermaster School in Fort Lee, Va.

In 1966, he left Germany after volunteering for Vietnam. For the next 18 months, he set up refueling points in the jungle and helped run river barges.

"My family was with me in Germany when the Vietnam War started," he said. "I had threelittle boys then. I sat them all down and explained why I had to go.It was my job."

The family, which had grown to include his two youngest sons, eventually returned to Germany. Bacon retired in 1979 and now works at Towson State University, Baltimore County, as a maintenance chief.

Donald Bacon, 37, the only son who is not in the service, said his dad told him he wanted to re-enlist.

"There's nothing Dad likes better than the Army," said Donald, who served in the AirForce several years ago. "He could help put out those oil fires."

While Donald worried about his younger brothers fighting in the war,he said he figured his father would be fine.

Joe volunteered twice for Vietnam, serving 30 months there. Although Joe was wounded "a couple of times," Donald said the family always knew their father would get home to them.

"Dad has an uncanny knack for survival," he said. "In Vietnam, he spearheaded a convoy up Ambush Alley to get fuel to the troops. His convoy was one of a very few to get through."

Marine Cpl. Kenneth A. Bacon, 22, the youngest son, just returned fromfive months in the gulf. He also said he wasn't surprised about his father's attempt to re-enlist.

"He would rather be there in the same environment with us than be home worrying," he said. "My mother used to do the worrying. When she died, my father did it all."

Afterserving in the recent war, Kenneth said he now has some idea of whathis father went through in Vietnam and Korea. Now he, too, is doing some worrying -- about his brother Dwayne, a 23-year-old Army motor vehicle repairman, stationed in southern Iraq.

While in the gulf, Kenneth, a radio communications specialist, heard from his father frequently but was never able to contact his brother.

Both sons asked their father to send family pictures. Joe said he just took a Polaroid shot of the "family wall" in his apartment here and mailed it off to them.

"I could call it the military wall," he said. "I have all the boys pictures in their uniforms, surrounding a photograph of their mother."

Bacon wrote to his sons and talked with them on the phone as often as possible.

"I preferred phone calls to letters, though," he said. "Then I really knew they were all right."

He also did whatever he could to support them from home. He recently attended aVictory Support Rally in Westminster.

"I want to make sure my sons get a lot more public support now than I did after Vietnam," he said. "Support is what they need while they are over there and when theycome home. Protests only hurt them and their relatives here."

He said his time in the service may have influenced his sons to enlist, but he never insisted on it.

He said he always told them the military offered good educational opportunities and career options, especially in difficult economic times. Although he earned his high school diploma through the Army, he wanted his sons to finish school before enlisting.

After living, traveling and working with their Army father, the sons said they may have caught Joe's enthusiasm. Four of them have opted for the military life.

Spec. 4 Michael J. Bacon, 27, joined the Army after enlisting in the Ohio National Guard. After a three-year tour in Germany, he is stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. He plans to study communications at a nearby college.

"My father instilled the drive and initiative in all of us," he said. "His example helped us to succeed in whatever we do, but especially in the military."

Michael said the military life, marked by frequent separations from loved ones, can be difficult for families. A marriage has to be really strong, like their parents', to survive the constant upheaval, added Kenneth. The frequent moves also can be difficult for children.

"We were real Army brats, never spending more than three years inany place," he said. "We could write quite a book."

Kenneth said he always will be grateful for the example set by his father.

"We are all really proud of our father," he said. "We learned a lot from him when we were growing up."

None of his sons live here now. Theyall married women from out of town, said Joe, who keeps trying to lure one or two of them back. He spends a lot of time in his truck, driving to visit them, their wives and his five grandchildren.

"I just pack up my fishing gear and head for wherever they are," said Joe.

If Dwayne is sent back to Germany after his gulf tour, Joe said hemight fly over to visit.

And, he still has some worrying ahead. In June, Marine Cpl. Anthony C. Bacon, 25, will be leaving Camp Lejeune, N.C., headed for a six-month cruise in the gulf.

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