In observance of Veterans Day, The Harlan Daily Enterprise is pleased to feature local veterans this week.
Veterans Day has been set aside as a time to honor all U.S. military veterans of all branches and eras. Harlan County has always answered the call with scores of men and women ready to enter military service.
James L. Casey, of Cranks, is a Vietnam era veteran who is also a member of the Harlan County Honor Guard. He joined the Army in 1960 when he was 17 years old, having obtained his parents’ signed permission to join at that age.
“I went to Fort Riley in Kansas for basic training. It was so hot it was incredible. We made it through there, then I went to Brook Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas,” said Casey. “I took medical school to be a medical corpsman.”
After his medical training, he was stationed at Fort Knox where he finished his active duty at Ireland Army Hospital.
Casey was on active duty from 1960 to 1963, leaving the service in 1966 following three years in the inactive reserve.
“We had to let them know where we were at at all times during the Vietnam era,” said Casey. “We were still more or less under their authority.”
Casey pointed out he never saw combat.
Casey said he didn’t consider making the Army his lifelong career at the time.
“I got a short-timers calender. I couldn’t wait until I got out, but I’ve been sorry ever since. I wish I had stayed with it,” said Casey. “That’s a good career for a person if they would think about it a little bit. I just jumped up and quit when the time came.”
Casey said he appreciates Veterans Day.
“I love the celebration of Veterans Day,” said Casey. “I think we ought to remember them. Those guys that were in war, they laid their lives on the line and I think that a few minutes honoring them on Veterans Day is great. I think there ought to be a little more, as a matter of fact. More people ought to get involved. Old Glory, that flag is one of the prettiest things there is in this country.”
According to Casey, “The United States of America is second to none.”
“We’ve got the greatest nation in the world,” said Casey. “Even though we’ve got a lot of faults, we’ve still got the best nation there is.”
Casey said his military training and the time he spent in the Army has influenced his entire life.
“I’ve been a first-aid person off and on all these years since,” said Casey. “I’ve always liked to help people. I had some real good experience and met a lot of good people.”
Casey left the service with the rank of E-4, or corporal.
When asked what he felt was the most important result of his military experience, Casey said it taught him self-discipline.
“I think every young person needs to have that (experience),” said Casey. “It would be good if they could get just one year under that kind of authority. It would make a better person out of them. When your 17 years old, you don’t really know what’s going on in this world. They’ll learn you pretty quick.”
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510, ext. 113, firstname.lastname@example.org