5:18 | He had a lot of military in his family. High school student Larry Draughn was thinking about a possible military future but after the 9/11 attacks, the likelihood increased. Sure enough, he enlisted in the Marines after he graduated.
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Larry Draughn embraced the trials and tribulations of Marine boot camp. He had a lot of respect for the DI's, who were recent combat vets. Between boot camp and the School of Infantry, he had a solemn task to deal with, the death of his father.
When Larry Draughn made his picks for possible duty stations, he put Hawaii first. Fat chance, right? But he got it and with his fiance he went to the Pacific. He was a replacement in a fabled Marine outfit and there was a senior Marine there to help the new guys get settled.
Larry Draughn loved being a Marine and he looked forward to deploying to Iraq. He did have one problem, though. His upcoming marriage was going to cause him some trouble with the Corps. His advice? Get it in writing or, better yet, get married before you join.
Larry Draughn deployed to Iraq in early 2008. The majority of the work was winning hearts and minds in the local populace. He recalls the time a local landowner mistook a night patrol for insurgents. He nearly got a rude surprise. (Caution: strong language.)
The two main concerns were IED's and the occasional sniper. Marine Larry Draughn was on patrol when he noticed that he was right in the middle of something he'd seen on TV. He had a bit of trust in the locals, but that all changed after a fateful conference with a local sheikh.
He returned from his Iraq deployment a little early to care for his wife. This allowed Larry Draughn to take on a role he relished. He got to welcome new Marines to the battalion and show them the ropes before the rest of the unit returned.
Larry Draughn got to his base in Afghanistan in the middle of the night. He knew it was gong to be a rough time, but when the sun came up, it was absolutely beautiful, a stunning countryside. Then the dirty business of patrolling began.
He had only been in country for a month. Larry Draughn was supposed to be training with a drone, but when he heard that his unit was going out, he insisted on going with them. They found twenty IED's before he found the wrong one. (Caution: strong language.)
Only days after an IED blast nearly killed him in Afghanistan, Larry Draughn was awake and flattering nurses in a hospital in Germany. A man in a suit came in and he had the president on the phone. What happened next caused a bit of consternation. (Caution: strong language.)
His determination to recover from his severe wounds surprised his doctors. Larry Draughn quickly got free of the IV's and took his son to a baseball game. In less than a month, he was discharged. No one had ever recovered that quickly. Then he determined that he would meet the airplane when his unit returned form Afghanistan.
Fishing tournaments and training for hand cycle marathons have kept Larry Draughn busy since he was grievously wounded in Afghanistan. He relishes the time with his family and enthusiastically supports the growing movement for veteran reunions. (Caution: strong language.)
After being an advisor in Vietnam, Freddy McFarren returned to his first love in the military, artillery. As a commander with the 82nd Airborne, he fired some of his guns in Grenada. That operation convinced him and others that the military needed to increase joint operations training.
Bill Pearson had been to Vietnam twice and returned unscathed, but the Army wasn't done putting him in danger. He was assigned as an aviation consultant to Iran, advising the Shah's air force on it's supply of American aircraft. The day he arrived, martial law was declared and it wasn't long before there were mobs outside trying to burn down the building. The embassy was no help. Escape seemed impossible.
During the Cold War, Navy pilot Wes Ruth flew many photographic and mapping missions, including a memorable one to Central and South America. He then had his first shipboard experience on board a support ship for patrol planes. For a time, this vessel was stationed near China to keep tabs on the activities of the Chinese Communists.
As a Navy pilot, Wes Ruth had a number of assignments related to photo-reconnaissance during the Cold War, including the research and development of Navy technology. He also studied the progress of our Allies in that crucial area. He then took command of a patrol squadron. His last stop before retiring was in Naval Intelligence.
His aim was to help put his sister through college. Walt Richardson scored so well on the tests that he was inducted into the Air Force. Perhaps it was the schooling he received at the school run by the mother of Chappie James, who became the first black Air Force 4-star General.
Once Bill Greinke was made the intelligence officer of a battalion in Berlin, he began to have a lot of fun playing cat and mouse with the Russians and East Germans. They would pelt the cars driving around to gather intelligence with snowballs and the occasional bottle.
His time with the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood was the best time of his Army career. Bill Greinke bested a well known commander in a war game and he went on splendid maneuvers in Europe at the Fulda Gap. Then he moved on to specialized training in media and information.
After successfully completing aircraft mechanic school, Walt Richardson joined the crew on a commanding general's B-17 in Okinawa. As the only black crew member, he had to earn respect and he did. He was also part of the honor guard when the first freely elected leaders in Japan were inaugurated.
Walt Richardson was in the last all black training flight in the Air Force. His aim was to serve his three year obligation and then return to college, but he saw a musical revue put on by members of the fabled Tuskegee Airmen. They were holding open auditions and he went to showcase his fine singing voice.
He had been a glider pilot in the war and he was a bona fide power pilot who could fly many smaller planes. George Theis then became a flight engineer in a B-52 unit. He was in the cockpit readying for a flight when the pilot asked if he'd like to try a take-off.
When George Theis returned from occupation duty, he got married and began seeking a career in civilian aviation. The tough job market drove him back into the newly renamed Air Force. He had a good run as a flight engineer and worked on the conversion to computerized controls.
Army surgeon Quinn Becker almost retired but he was selected to attend the War College. That usually meant they were grooming you for higher up. As he moved up to higher commands, he set out to modernize antiquated field medical equipment, a need he had first noticed years before.
For Walt Richardson, it was all about the core values of America. As one of the first black airmen to integrate the Air Force, he calls on his unique perspective to explain why America is so much greater than other nations that are so much older.
When an alert was sounded, the procedure for fighter pilot Rick Hilton was to get his aircraft fueled and wait at the end of the runway with a live nuclear weapon on board. Someone thought this was a little too much power for a fighter jock so the procedure was changed to include blocking the taxiway with a fuel truck. Then a real alert came in.
It was a very difficult program to get into, but Marvin Cole persisted and was one of the final candidates standing to be admitted to the Army's physician assistant training program. After that, he was sent to Germany where his management ability got him noticed.
He was only four years old when Rick Hilton's uncle let him "fly" his airplane. The kid couldn't reach all the controls but he did get a deep desire to fly. He got his chance in college with the Air Force cadet program and was soon piloting jet fighters.
The 18th Field Artillery Brigade supported a lot of units during Operation Desert Storm, including the French Foreign Legion. Should the war have continued on into Baghdad? Going home was OK with Freddy McFarren. He had already been in the desert for eight months.