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 July is Milton Herston.
*note Q is abbreviated for questions asked to Herston. A is abbreviated for Herston’s answers.
Q: Tell me your full name.
A: Milton Stradford Herston, Jr. and in connection with that, my dad was mayor here in Sylacauga from 1940-45, during the war, so I was fortunate enough to get his name.
Q: What is your date of birth?
A: An easy one to remember because they knew my memory would fail when I got older. Jan. 2, 1933. I had a retirement date that’s even better than that. It’s Jan. 1, 2001.
Q: What was your rank?
A: I went to officer candidate school after college. I worked for Kimberly Clark for a few months and then was in the Korean conflict. Instead of being drafted, I went into the Navy into the officer candidate school program in Rhode Island for about 16-18 weeks and became an officer. You start out as an ensign and then to Lt. JG and retired as a full Lieutenant. I served about 3 years after I went to officer candidate school in Rhode Island.
Q: So your branch of service was the Navy?
A: Navy, right.
Q: Can you tell me your job in the Navy?
A: Yeah. I had an eye problem and could not be what you call a line officer. Line officers are those that are aboard ship: captains and people that manage and operate the ship. I couldn’t be there because of an eye problem. So I was a staff officer. I was in the Navy but I was a landlubber. I never went aboard ship, except to just tour a ship. I served in the Bureau of Ordinance in Washington, D.C. for 3 years in a department where we oversaw the production of air to air guided missiles—the Sidewinder Missile Program, which is still being used 50 years later, an infrared heat seeking missile that’s been very effective. During that time, when I came aboard, they’d only made about 200. They used that for test purposes—to prove that the missile would work. And then when I got there, they got into production. I was in the production area where we managed the different components and supplied those to the Navy Units and eventually to the Air Force. When the Air Force started getting interested in them, the Air Force missile was inferior to the Navy missile. The Air Force wanted the Sidewinder and for a short period of time, I was a liasson officer between the Navy and the Air Force, equipping squadrons with Sidewinder missiles. I really learned a lot in the military. I worked with some wonderful people. I worked down on 16th and Constitution. I roomed with a friend here from Sylacauga—we went to OCS together. We roomed over on Elm Street and every morning we walked by the White House on the way to work. We lived 6-8 blocks from where we worked, so we just would take a stroll and go by the White House on the way to work. I was there for about 3 years and the blessing I got there is that I met my wife there. She came in as a secretary. So I was warned to watch out for the secretaries because they might give you trouble down the road. But no, I was blessed by my wife being a Christian and I became a Christian there and we’ve been married for 60 years now. I grew up here in Sylacauga, lived over on Norton Avenue across from the Episcopal Church on Norton Avenue. I went to both grade school on old Main Avenue and high school down here, graduated in ’51 from Sylacauga High, and went to Auburn. In 55, I went to work for Kimberly Clark for 5-6 months up in Wisconsin in research and then I went into the military. I had my physical to go into the military on Halloween. I never will forget that. They said report to Nashville, TN for your physical on October 31st. In the middle of November I was up in Rhode Island to go to Office Candidate School for about 16 weeks. Out of that, I was an ensign and served 3 years after that. I did not remain active after that in the Reserves. They were wonderful years and the highlight of that is I met my wife. I then had some wonderful people to work with there that really was just a blessing to me to be involved with that . That missile program, like I said, has been outstanding in its success rate. Practically every aircraft that has a missile on it, air-to-air missile, has a Sidewinder on it these days. So I was there when they first got the program started.
Q: What years did you serve?
A: I went in, in 1955 in October November and got out in 1958-59 and I went back to work with Kimberly Clark in Wisconsin. They came down here to Sylacauga in 1963 and have been here ever since.
Q: Did you serve Stateside or overseas?
A: Stateside. Like I said, I was a Landlubber and didn’t go aboard ship for duty, so I stayed on land and was stationed in Washington, D.C. the whole time.
Q: What is something you remember most about your time serving?
A: Well the thing I remember most is finding my wife. That was my biggest blessing. But the kind of excitement, for lack of a better word, that goes along with being on the ground floor of a weapons system that was just being developed, the air-to-air missile program—the Sidewinder program. That was exciting to see how it was developed and how it was coordinated. We oversaw production. The weapon is made up of various missile components and seeing how each area was governed by a certain group, making the rocket motors, the guidance systems, the propellant and so forth, and being able to see all of that come together. But mainly I worked with some wonderful men and women in that department and like I said, really enjoyed that time of my life.
Q: If you could say something to those that want to serve, what would you tell them?
A: I think that it’s a blessing. We have a wonderful country and we have many many men and women that have lived before and died for us, this privilege of being a free United States, the freedom that we have. My brother was in the military—he was in World War II on Okinawa. Her served and came back alive but a lot of people didn’t come back. It’s been a blessing to be able to pay back in a token way, the men and women who served ahead of me and did a lot more than I did to protect our liberty. But that’s been a blessing to be able to serve a little bit in the military. At least compared to most people, it’s a very small contribution but I was glad to do the little bit I did.
Q: If you could do it again, would you and why?
A: Yes I would do it again. When you go through life and you’ve got to make a decision—do you go into the military or not or do you go to school here or there. God led me to go into the military and I’m glad h e did because it’s a feeling of being proud, being part of the military. And I’m so glad as I look back that I chose to go in for a short term and be able to say that even though I didn’t do that much, still I’m on of the veterans the helped to keep this country safe and free.