He chose the National Guard
Sunday, July 4, 2010
In the late 50’s and early 60’s the Army draft was still in place, and a male high school graduate had few choices regarding military obligation, 1) join any branch, of the armed forces for 3-4 years, 2) get a temporary college attendance deferment, which only delayed the draft, 3) wait to be drafted into the Army for 2 years, or 4) join the State’s Army National Guard for 6 months active duty training and 5.5 years active reserve duty, which meant on call, just as it does today.
In those days employers did not supplement the difference in pay during the two weeks summer training obligation, so many used their vacation time, meaning they went 6 years without a vacation, however it was still better than the alternatives. It was certainly a very minor inconvenience considering the ultimate contribution many have made before and after that time.
The Vancouver Barracks was the headquarters for most of the National Guard Reservists in the Vancouver area, and during those years the Sunset Division, which had a colorful deployment history, occupied some buildings. Many young men took advantage of the National Guard training to fulfill their obligation of military service, as I did.
Pay in 1960 for a private recruit on active duty was $90 per month, and as my father said, when he took me to the train depot in Vancouver, headed for Fort Ord, California with $10 in my pocket, “$90 is all you need each month, because they give you everything, even free underwear”.
I hope preservation of Fort Vancouver and The Barracks area continues, it certainly possesses a rare history.
Don B. Gillingham lives in Clark County