Words From A Veteran
November 11th is Veterans Day in the US, and we are definitely observing the holiday here at UMC! We are honored to say that over the years, thousands of Veterans have made their home with UMC. That proud tradition continues today at Bristol Glen as we honor our very own, Korean War Veteran, Donald B. Guide, Air Force, Ret.
Sharing Donald’s experience in the Air Force during the Korean War helps bring to life a piece of American history, and also reminds us of the debt we owe so many generations of soldiers.
Meet Our Veteran Donald, 91 years young
Donald was in the Air National Guard for three years and actually lied about his age in order to enlist in 1947 – he was only sixteen at the time! Then when the Korean War started, he enlisted in the Air Force, where he served for an additional four years. During this time, he discovered a new career path, took part in some unexpected extracurricular activities, and was formally recognized for his service & capabilities during active duty.
Bootcamp and a Change of Plans
As it turns out, bootcamp was the least of Donad’s concerns. It’s what came after Bootcamp that really challenged his character and skill set. According to Donald, “Bootcamp was not too difficult. The Air Force was expanding due to the active war, so they opened a new base in New York. At times it did challenge me, but it was okay. It was in the Finger Lakes area, so even in May it was cold. Everyone was getting sick. I got sick and ended up in the hospital for a few days and missed a few things. After boot camp, it was off to electronic school in Mississippi. It took six months to complete. I qualified for pilot training but was informed that instead, I was going to Special Weapons Training. Nuclear training was in New Mexico and when the course was finished, I was assigned to the Roswell Base in New Mexico, the 509th Bomb Wing. It was famous because they were the unit that dropped the bomb on Japan. When I got there, only a few of the original guys were still there. Very quickly, I became head of the electronic section. Others were shipped overseas. It scared me because I was not sure if I knew enough.”
An Award, A TV Appearance, and Some Volleyball
When asked about his most memorable experience while serving, Donald nonchalantly mentioned his television appearance about an award he received for “Outstanding Airmen.” This experience proved to be more difficult than expected because he was not allowed to divulge any details about his duty. Donald said, “In Roswell, there was no television at that time, so the Air Force built a station and broadcasted a series. I won an award, “Outstanding Airmen” and had to go on the show, however, we were directed not to answer questions regarding our duty. So, on the show, I said that the reason I received the “Outstanding Airmen” award was that ‘I kept my nose clean.’”
Donald also mentioned an interesting sport he took part in during active duty. “I was stationed in Roswell for three years during what they called the “Cold War” period. We sat around in a barbed wire-enclosed base for three years waiting for the world to be destroyed. We dug fox holes, and we rotated shifts in them waiting for the Russians to attack. There was not much to do, so many of us played volleyball to keep busy and in shape.” As Donald was relaying this, he became flushed, chuckled, and said “If I tell you anymore, we might both get arrested.”
The Letter Struggle
When asked about how he would stay in touch with his family and friends, Donald spoke about his struggle on keeping up with letters. Because of the nature of his duties it was very difficult for him to come up with news he would actually be permitted to share. “We would be allowed to write letters but no great detail of our duties. One time my mother could not contact me because I was not a great letter writer or phone-home type of guy, so my mother contacted the general and asked him to give me orders to call home. ”
Serving Shaped Donald’s Life in More Ways Than One
Before serving in the Air Force, Donald had plans to work in the corporate business world. During his Special Weapons Training in Roswell, however, he realized his passion for physics and science. “Serving really shaped my life. When I joined, I was attending Seton Hall for Business. However, after the Air Force, I was interested in Physics and Science. I went to Newark Technical School, what is now called NJIT on the GI Bill. I was able to obtain a great education. I went on to work for Honeywell and then eventually took over my family’s oil business.”
Over the years, Donald also found ways to translate his experience serving into spending time with the people he cares about most. He said, “I share my love of science and volleyball with my family. After I retired, I coached volleyball for the YMCA, Fairleigh Dickinson, and Saint Peter’s Prep. I won an award for coaching which remains incredibly special to me to this day.”
His time in the Air Force has also opened doors for him, in terms of once in a lifetime experiences. Because of his involvement with the American Legion, Donald was able to experience the “Honor Flight” – a special, all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. for U.S. veterans to see the memorials of the respective wars they fought in. “I was in the American Legion for a while. I am not much of a joiner, and I was surprised that I even got into it, however, being part of this led me to the “Honor Flight.” It was amazing, they flew us down to Washington D.C. There were about 80 veterans, most from Vietnam. It was such an honor to be included…I am proud of my daughter who served as Assistant Deputy for the Secretary of the Interior and my son in law who was the Executive Director of GreenPeace. They were able to experience this with me. On the way home, they gave us letters from family and others – My granddaughter, daughter, and cousins wrote me. It was thoughts on paper that you would normally not say or will not say. It was just great!”
Thank You Veterans For Your Service
A Happy Veterans Day from all of us at UMC, and thank you to all the U.S. veterans who have served. We are eternally grateful for your courage, valor, and sacrifice. We would also like to specifically thank Donald for his service and for sharing his incredible story with us, it is an honor to have you as part of the family here at Bristol Glen.