On Veterans Day, the stories of a few who served

NEIGHBORS

November 11, 1999|By Jean Marie Beall | Jean Marie Beall,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

TODAY MARKS Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor all U.S. veterans of the armed forces.

It is a day to remember those men and women who served in the military. I would like to use this column to honor several Northwest veterans.

I wanted to include a woman veteran by the name of Makes, whose first name I don't know, who is said to have been the first woman to join the Air Force in 1948. If anyone reading this column knows where the former Union Bridge resident is, contact me.

From Uniontown are two men who served in Vietnam.

Tom Birchett said he joined the Army in June 1963. "I was a kid who had just graduated and didn't know what I wanted to do," Birchett said. "My father was in the Navy and he said, `Why don't you go into the service until you know what you want to do?' I will say, it made a man out of me."

He went through 16 weeks of basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., and then on to infantry training at Fort Benning, Ga.

"My first assignment was Vietnam," Birchett said. "I went over there as part of MAC-V or Military Assistance Command-Vietnam. That was 1964. I was an adviser. It was the first time I was really away from home. It was scary and exciting."

Birchett said that experience taught him a lot about life. "It taught me how to cope and deal with problems," he said. "It taught me how to survive."

After spending a year in Vietnam, he was assigned to the Pentagon to work in the Defense Atomic Support Agency. "We were in charge of all the nuclear missile sites in the United States," he said. "It was considered a prestigious assignment."

After four years, he was sent to Fort Meade, where he worked with the convoy routing system for National Guard and Reserve units.

"I spent three years there and then took an early out to join the Baltimore City Police Department," Birchett said. "I ended up spending 23 years with the Police Department. I retired from that in 1993."

Birchett has this advice for the generation graduating from high school today: "If you're mixed up about what you want to do, then join the military," he said. "It's the best place. I recommend military service for any of our children. The G.I. Bill paid for my college."

Birchett holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Baltimore.

Next door to Birchett lives David Bennett, a Marine Corps aviator who served from 1953 to 1975. Bennett said initially he had been in the Air Force ROTC program, but switched to the Marines' program.

"The Air Force had you doing all kinds of stuff and the Marines just let you go to college," Bennett said, explaining his switch.

After graduating from college, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and went through the Marine Corps' Platoon Leader Course. He then became a fighter pilot for 10 years. He served six one-year tours in Vietnam, flying fighters and later transport planes.

"My last five years, I served as the Marine Corps commandant's pilot," Bennett said.

Bennett said he enjoyed his service. "I would not give any of my 22 years in the military up," Bennett said. "I enjoyed every year of it."

Bennett holds a bachelor's degree in languages and philosophy from Colgate University in New York.

Elwood Myers is the owner of Myers Grocery Store in Union Bridge. Myers said he joined the Marine Corps in December 1953.

"I was boxing at the YMCA in Baltimore," Myers said. "I had gone to Quantico, Va., to fight the Marine Corps boxing team. I won in the second round. A major came up to me and said if I joined the Marine Corps, he would make sure that I was stationed at Quantico and be on the boxing team."

Myers ended up boxing with the Marine Corps as a heavyweight (188 to 240 pounds).

Myers first went to boot camp for 12 weeks at Parris Island, S.C., and then to individual combat training for the next four weeks at Camp LeJeune, N.C.

True to the major's word, Myers spent his entire three years in the Marine Corps stationed at Quantico and serving on the boxing team. He won many tournaments, including the Southwest Olympic Tournament in Texas in 1956.

"That's what gave me the opportunity to go to the Olympic trials in San Francisco," Myers said. "That tournament was a split decision, so I was not able to go on to the Olympics that year."

Myers said he learned a lot from the Marine Corps. "I learned discipline and to believe in myself," Myers said. "I'm glad I joined."

Christmas in the Valley

Christmas in the Valley will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 20 at Pleasant Valley Fire Hall.

"This will be our 18th year," said Kim Thomas, the event's chairwoman. "It is a fund-raiser that the Pleasant Valley Fire Department's Ladies Auxiliary hosts each year to help support the fire company.

"We usually have about 40 vendors, but we're expecting 50 this year," she said. "We'll have stained glass art, pottery, woodwork, home crocheted items and much more."

Jean Marie Beall's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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