In honor of Armistice Day (Veteran’s Day in USA and also called Remembrance Day), Club Member Roger Fox, a retired US Army Aviator, gave a presentation on his military career at the November 10 meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club (PCEC). Although originally scheduled for Wednesday (the usual PCEC meeting day), November 11 (Armistice Day), the meeting had to be moved Tuesday, the day before.
The focus for the meeting was remembering the value and cost of military service which in addition to Roger’s presentation included a minute of silence for the fallen and recognizing those in attendance who had served their country in military service.
Roger is a retired Army Warrant Officer who shared some of his memories of his 26 year career as a US Army helicopter pilot. He explained that the title of his talk, ‘The Army…The Career That Chose Me’, was because he did not choose an Army career as he was not influenced by any friends or family of military background to seek a military career to dominate his life. He was drafted into the Army, but was fortunate enough to be accepted into Warrant Officer School to become a helicopter pilot. He said what was thusly thrust upon him became a rewarding life’s adventure.
Roger interspersed his talk with many anecdotes that constituted a bulk of his talk, which are too many to include in this summary, thus the focus for this article is to cover the highlights of his career; the many benefits and costs of serving one’s country. Roger regaled his audience with hair raising events from flight school, basic training and his remaining career. To hear these anecdotes, visit the PCEC’s YouTube video of his talk at https://youtu.be/VPFGlGFF1rs
Roger said that serving in the armed forces transfers a certain honor, pride and distinction. Having been raised in a fatherless home without siblings, Roger led quite an undisciplined and selfish life. To him then the Army became the father he never had, providing training in self-control and proper habits such as submitting to authority and eventually to exercising it. These habits included proper dress, proper preparation and punctuality. Despite the adage joked about in the military ‘hurry up and wait,’ he personally has always tried to be early and hates to be late.
Travel, he pointed out, is a way of life for a military man or family. In a military career, a soldier may be ordered to move ten or more times. This nomadism becomes ingrained and many military men have a difficult time retiring especially in one place. Many Americans rarely leave their states much less the country, so worldwide travel exposes military families to new cultures, customs, foods and language differences that hometown families only read about in books. For example, Roger said at 25 and being raised in a meat and potatoes Irish home he had his first exposure to rice dishes when he had fried rice in Vietnam which he found startling and wonderful.
Roger while stationed in Germany was living in a ‘new’ 400 plus year old city outside Mannheim at a time America was celebrating its 200th birthday. He said this puts things in perspective, having an opportunity to explore a Western civilization’s glory; dripping with history. Something only halfheartedly read about in school, but in Europe was only short drives away.
Another aspect of a military career was that job training is inherent in military life. Having just quit school in late 1968, Roger was after only 18 months an advanced aircraft pilot and appointed a “property book officer” who was assigned responsibility for 40 million US dollars’ worth of taxpayer’s property. He had in that short period of time gone from a lowly private to an important member and officer in a Vietnam combat unit.
He said that flying wonderful machines that were much too expensive to operate privately (advanced helicopters cost hundreds of dollars per flight hour to operate) was a distinct privilege and pleasure as well. Also, teaching pilots, including later those that were to be instructors themselves, was a highlight of his unplanned career. He also commented on the uniqueness of military life where one basically lives on a self-contained base. Further, he commented that an added incentive to serve is the benefits of a US military retirement which can provide one with half pay for life after 20 years of service offering an opportunity for a second career. Additionally, another benefit is having health care provided after retirement.
After the presentation, MC Les Edmonds brought everyone up to date on latest events followed by the Open Forum, where attendees can make comments or ask questions about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya. For more information visit the PCEC’s website at www.pcec.club