A STORY OF INTEREST . MY EARLY YEARS IN THE AIR FORCE

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In 1951 after graduating from radio school,  I began working on the Flight line as a radio technician at Tyndell Air force Base in Panama city Florida.  I worked at the NCO club part time to make an extra $30; per month. After 6 months ,I was promoted to 2nd shift Stewart ( Assistant  Manger)  It was a fun job with much responsibilities,but it had it,s moments. The Club Secretary talked to me about having a beer inventory shortage and he asked if I would  look into it.  Being young and ambitious I followed orders and on a busy evening while making my rounds at the club; I noticed one of the bartenders passing a case of beer over the bar, I watched and waited for him to collect the money but it didn’t happen, I went behind the bar and took a reading from the cash register as I normally did. I then took the tape into the office to review the sales;. When I found that the beer was not charged;   I immediately called the bartender in to the office and fired him. It was obvious; he was part of the problem.

I returned to the bar shortly after and, a Master Sgt. who was one of the bartender’s friends and who was involved,   confronted me concerning the incident and began to challenge me. When I told him it was none of his concern, he looked at me and suddenly pulled a switchblade from his pocket.  The bar became deathly quiet as the Master Sgt. whose face was cringing with anger, began circling me as though he were in a combat mode and I was the enemy   He was trying to impress his friends while not thinking about his family, who was sitting with him. He was surprised when I didn’t run or become frightened, it wasn’t the first time I had a knife pulled on me.

The sergeant expected me to react with fear but instead; I ignored his threat and calmly looked at him.   You’re drunk; I said, put the knife away, I am going to forget this ever happened.

I felt sorry for his family, as they stood there frightened and embarrassed. I thought he would realize how stupid he was and would listen to reason; instead, he continued to point the knife at me.   He had a habit of bragging and was a hotheaded redneck who liked to show off.  Thinking I would defuse the situation, I turned my back on him, walked out of the bar, and went into my office.

A few minutes passed as I sat there thinking about what had just occurred. One of the members at the bar came  into the office and asked me if I was out of my mind; he told me the Master Sgt.  became so upset that I embarrassed him; he started after me the moment I turned my back. A couple of men grabbed him just in time, took the knife from him and had his family take him home. I didn’t think the man had the guts to harm me with the number of people who were watching the confrontation.

The next evening, the club secretary met with me and mentioned he had heard of the confrontation with the Master Sgt. He said the Sgt. was at the club early that morning, waiting to apologize for what happened.  The Sgt. was grateful I didn’t report him; he was ready to retire and would have lost his stripes and his pay because of his stupid actions. 

The NCO club was also a gathering place for family , everyone on the base heard about the incident the next day. With out realizing it at the young age of nineteen , I had been recognized as a brave individual and was shown great respect ; this changed my life and caused me to act accordingly thereafter.

The memory of that day remained with me for the past 68 years. Strange how one incident can affect and shape the character  of a young man; however, I learned something that day; Showing bravery is one thing but, never   turn your back on a drunk holding a knife and making threats.

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