The world is now a global village. People everywhere are realizing the importance of learning, understanding, and appreciating different cultures. Vietnam veteran Steven Wyke of Kettering shares how his life has been enriched by serving in the military.
Steven Wyke: My birth father had passed away and we went to live with my brother, who was in the Air Force in Biloxi, Mississippi. And after a couple years down there, I decided there was nothing available for me after high school. I just turned seventeen in September when I enlisted. So, I went in the Army. And my mother signed for me.
I spent the next twelve years on active duty. But it wasn't uneventful. I was able to work up to the rank of sergeant in my first tour in Vietnam. Then go to OCS (Officer Candidate School) and became an officer in ’66. I got out as a captain after those twelve years.
They fired me. I was riffed! I thought I was a pretty sharp guy. But they had too many captains. And I had my fill. I'm just fine, thank you. I got out.
Military service taught me the equality of human beings, and the value. Because I was able to serve with Okinawans, Japanese, Germans, Israeli, Arabs out of Jordan and Libya, Vietnamese, Cambodians. Within Vietnam alone, there were Tonkins, Cochins, Viets… all sorts of tribal backgrounds represented in the various training facilities we operated. And I just noticed how incredible it was for me and at young age to be exposed to so many beautiful cultures. And the question as young man was why can't we get along? Seriously, we're all the same. We're born into this world identical, and at some point, we have to check out. It's that point between the coming and going that we just have to get coordinated a little better.
I believe that everything we've experienced, especially in my case, through the military, those twelve years, was very significant. Because we’re able to glean from each of those experiences something that we can build on today, with the focus on trying to make things a little bit better. Because of those who have been in the military, we understand that things are not always perfect. We tried, on these various assignments that we went into, to find out who we were. What could we do to make things better? And I think I've been able to develop a meaningful philosophy over the years. And that's what I love talking about. So, if somehow, I can promote a little more respect and maturity between human beings, I would leave this world with a smile on my face.
Steven Wyke shared his story at WYSO as part of StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative which visited the Miami Valley last summer. Veterans’ Voices on WYSO is presented by Wright-Patt Credit Union with additional support from CareSource. This story was edited by Will Davis and created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.