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Sunday In Germany: Why Me?

by Ken Yeager (ACS)

Ken Yeager

Why Me?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days and decided it was time to set my thoughts to paper(?) so here goes.

I’ve been wondering how many SKs went in the direction that they had wanted to go as teenagers. Did you have the career you wanted? Did you marry your childhood sweetheart? Do you or did you live where you wanted to live or go to the university that you had set your sights on? Have you even thought about these questions? I have and I have to admit my life just moved forward with no real plan, just going from one event to another (if that makes any sense).

While I loved my parents and respected both of them very much, I have to admit that they were not the strongest in trying to guide me in the right paths as regards to education, or development of any sort. Dad was a high school dropout, not unheard of in the 1930s, and mom only completed what was at the time in England basic schooling as she was finished by age 14. But both were pretty damn smart in many ways and while not well educated in a formal sense, both did well in life (Dad could do the New York Times crossword puzzle most of the time, something that I have never been able to manage). So while I finished high school and eventually completed (barely) two years of college, I never got a degree. I did have the grandiose idea of attending West Point at one point after graduating from Dalat but it didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t have what it would take to do that place.

I joined the Army because my grades in college were nothing to write home about and I decided I was just wasting my parent’s money (actually I did learn some things, it wasn’t a total waste), so I dropped out after two years. Due to my two years of ROTC experience I was chosen to lead a platoon in basic training and was later identified to go to OCS after AIT but that didn’t work out in the end…another story. My typing skills, learned in high school in the US, got me a nice safe job in the Army and later on with the State Department in communications. Now note here that none of this was following any plan. I went into the Army because I knew that Uncle Sam would call in any case, so I just jumped the gun, enlisted, and managed to avoid combat.

OK, two years, nine months and eleven days in the Army and I was a free man again. Fortunately and because of my MOS, I was returned to my last position before Vietnam. The Army didn’t plan it that way but some help from my dad in getting my assignment changed (from Fort Bragg to Fort Gordon) and then due to a former neighbor at Fort Rucker (during my dad’s time and then a Personnel Sgt at Gordon) who recognized my name and contacted me, I was back doing what I had been trained to do and frankly wanted to do again.

During my last month of so in the Army and being close to home, I tried to get passes and during one, managed to find a job…police officer for the city of Titusville. With a hiring letter in hand, I was able to get out of the Army 90 days early. Despite my dad’s 26 year Army career, I knew early on that it was not a career for me. Too many asinine rules, make work, just silly stuff … lots of stories there but I know that anyone who served in the military as an enlisted will back me up with similar stories, and supposing of course, that life is different for officers. So I got out, and less than 48 hours later was a sworn officer of police and on my first shift riding shotgun with a police Sgt who was to mentor me until formal training (such as it was) started.

To return to the Army for a moment, during my final time at Fort Gordon, I came across an advertisement for communications personnel for the State Department to which I had all of the necessary qualifications except for the fact that I was still in the Army. I contacted the DoS (Dept of State) and was told to submit an application after I was out which I did only to be told then that there was a hiring freeze. So the police job paid the bills for the next two years.

Like most men my age, women were of an interest. I was living in Titusville, FL with my folks who had retired there in 1965 and I knew absolutely no one in the town except for my colleagues with the police and my family. Not having too much to do during my off-duty hours, I hired myself out as a security guard at various businesses and at one, I met my future wife to whom I married about a year later. The marriage failed after about five years, but the good part was a son, Ken Jr. Blame for the failed marriage is shared…she was too young and inexperienced and I suppose I was an idiot in a number of ways. We parted in Sweden and divorced about a year or so later.

About 18 months into my police position, I got a call from the State Department asking if I was still interested in a job. My answer was yes and in Sept. 1971, wife #1 and I were off to Washington, DC. Swearing in, training, etc and about six weeks later, off to Sweden, where as noted above, wife #1 and I split six months before the end of my two year tour. Son was born in Sweden.

If you would have asked me at any time in the years 1961, 62 or 63 what I wanted to do in life, I would have looked at you with a blank stare….no idea. Probably working pumping gas and earning $1.25 a hour would have sounded good at the time. Getting a good education…huh? Really? I really had no idea what I wanted to do in life, no goals and now here I am, 50 years later, retired with a decent pension and living in Germany with my second (and best) wife. Talk about good luck in life…boy, I’ve had it. I’ve not just traveled the world, I’ve lived in it. Think about it….Baghdad, Iraq as a kid, Saigon as a teen, back to Vietnam as a GI, then Sweden, Cambodia, Germany (twice), Tunisia, 18 different countries in Africa as a communications rover (another story), Niger, Burundi, China, Czechoslovakia (then), Austria, Morocco…..not to mention the countries I worked in on TDYs (temporary duty) like France, Qatar, Albania, Finland, Denmark, Cotonou, Latvia and a few others. No, I am not bragging or well, maybe a little bit, but not because I’ve done so much but more because I really feel I have been blessed for some reason. Why me? Why not some of you who went to the right universities, got the right education? Are you as lucky as me? Nothing planned but it worked out well, really well…..and I sincerely hope it did for all of you as well.

So that is my luck life in a nutshell (coconut perhaps?). Any other happy stories?

Winter is slowly approaching Grosshansdorf, Germany where I am currently ensconced. Motorcycle goes into winter sleep in a week or two and the snow blower will get serviced in time for the first snow, I hope. Snow tires need to be mounted and I need to start thinking about Christmas gifts for the lady in my life. Always a difficult talk.

I shall stop here. Have a good weekend.

3 comments to Sunday In Germany: Why Me?

  • Frank

    Wow! Ken, let me re-read and think about what you wrote. Frank

  • Frank

    Ken, After reading your posts (several times), I realize that I could keep up with the conversion unless I was sitting across from you at a “Gasthuas” having a beer. It is very difficult for me to predict where I’ll be, and remember I have to monitor several teenagers, but yes I’ll be going to Europe, as Forrest Gump says, “again” in June 2014 (Darn, that year seems so far in the future!). We will be in Heidelberg, Munich and Berlin..well we stop in Dreistern for four hours. I will know our exact schedule about the 1st of May.

  • tom rushton

    You’ve been lucky to have (divine) guidance.

    Your life has been what I would have wished for myself, if only I could have realized the wish before getting too old to follow my dreams.
    Thanks,
    Tom

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