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[WATCH NOW] Veteran of the Month: Erskine Penton – June 2019

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SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Each month, SylacaugaNews.com and Yea!106.5 feature a veteran online and on-air, honoring them for their service to our country. Presented by Radney-Smith Funeral Home, the SylacaugaNews.com and Yea!106.5 Veteran of the Month for June is Erskine Penton.

 

*note Q is abbreviated for questions asked to Penton.  A is abbreviated for Penton’s answers.

Q:  What is your full name?

A:   Erskine Ramsey Penton

Q:  What is your date of birth?

A:  7-19-32

Q:  What was your rank?

A:  Sergeant

Q:  What branch of service?

A:  Army

Q: What was your job in the Army?

A:  I went to Korea and I had several different schoolings before going over there. It was right at the end of the war and we worked on refrigerated vans that transported the food to the front lines. But I always told them that they heard I was coming so they stopped shooting before I got there. (laughter) They had a cease fire while I was in Seattle being shipped out, which was nice for me. So I did that and we kept the food for the troops up front, on the front lines, supplied with perishable food that had to be refrigerated.

Q:  What years did you serve?

A:  1952-1954.

Q:  You said you went to Korea. Did you serve anywhere else overseas or stateside?

A:  I took my training at Ft. Belvar, VA. I had 2 basic trainings; my first training was for infantry for I think 6-7 weeks. And then I was transferred into Combat Engineering for another 6-7 weeks, and then schooling for the work I did in air conditioning and refrigeration. I took 10 weeks of schooling for that. And then went to Korea and spent 14 months there. I was in a little place called Yun Dunpo, outside of Seoul at that time. Wasn’t much city there at that time, it was all flat—been bombed out.

Q:  What’s one thing you remember most about your time serving?

A: I guess in particular, meeting buddies and friends, many of which I’ve kept in touch with for the rest of their lives. I learned to know people from all parts of the country.  That was really unique and nice to learn people that you never dreamed of seeing.  We had about 15-20 people in my squad that worked together. And it was just kinda like a job for us. We not only kept the vans operating but we still were doing guard duty on the trucks as they went up to the front to take the food up front. That didn’t last long thank goodness but that was a little scary. You’d be out on those roads that you didn’t know who was there. But since they had signed the cease fire, we stopped having to do that about 2 months after I was there. But it was different. We worked on the vans to keep them cool and transport the food as well as protect it.

Q: If you could say something to those that want to serve, what would you tell them?

A:  I was drafted. I finished high school at BB Comer, and a hometown boy. I didn’t go to college at that time. So one of the things that I found, that benefited me was I was able to get an education because of the GI Bill to go to school. So that’s how I started my college, having been in service and getting the GI Bill. My wife was already out and she was teaching, so we were able to make it at Jacksonville State here in Jacksonville where I went to school. I went to Montevallo, took some courses through Alabama and Auburn, vocational courses while I was in. I ended up getting my Master from the University of Montevallo. So anyone who don’t have the money or so forth, I think it’s a good place to start.  Now they still have the GI Bill—I understand they do—they may have stopped it I’m not sure it’s been so long ago.  But it was very helpful in financing. We didn’t have children at that time so I found it, not really asking for it. I was drafted and just luck—not necessarily all luck—just being at the right place at the right time. I had advantages that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. So it helped me. And I understand it can help people now. They have a little better benefits. I think I got $130/month while I was in school. That helped a little—didn’t help much but it helped.

Q: If you could do it again, would you and why, or why not?

A:  As things worked out for me, yes I would. It was a benefit.  Just being away from home for a couple of years was I guess the disadvantage. But it was more like going to school and then just working, as it turned out to be. Being at the end of the Korean conflict, it was a lot of things that you do that you never thought you would have to do. But I didn’t get into any combat or anything like that. So I was very thankful for that. But yeah I would do it again. I benefited from it.  I was just fortunate to go to school and get an education. I got my BS from Jacksonville State, Master’s from University of Montevallo, and then many hours of vocational education from various other colleges including Alabama and Auburn that I took while I was in training. So it was advantageous for me. I’d do it again.

 


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