When I think of veterans, I think of my dad.
As I understand it, my father joined the army when he was 17—I think he lied about his age—and he’s 88 now, so anything he remembers happened a long time ago. Some things about the army were very different back then, and this evening on Veteran’s Day I though I’d just share a couple of details about his pre-WWII service that struck me as interesting.
In one of his early jobs in the army, he says was the “pacesetter” when his unit would go on the march. I don’t really understand what that meant, but apparently it involved carrying one of the unit’s BARs. That’s a Browning Automatic Rifle. It’s a .30 caliber light machine gun.
Of course, a “light” machine gun is still a very heavy piece of equipment to be marching around with, especially with all the ammunition a gun like that can use. My father got the job of carrying the darned thing because he was a big farmboy who could manage the weight all day long.
The thing that gets me about it, however, is that one of my father’s roles in his unit was air defense. If they were attacked by an enemy aircraft his job was to try to shoot it down. Or at least spoil its aim.
He says he never got to try that tactic in combat, and even though it was propellers and bullets back then, not jets and smart bombs, he doesn’t seem to think it was a very good idea.
A little later on, he was with a pack artilliary unit. That means the artilliary pieces, the ammunition, and all the support equipment was pulled through the mountains of Panama by horses. His unit did have one truck. They used it to haul food for the horses.
That’s how long ago my father, Burnett Draughn, served his country.