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Veterans’ Reflections: Two Wars, Two Services, Three Decades

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William Selby
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2010 – It is an American tradition to pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of members of the armed forces in November on Veterans Day.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Roy Penman discusses his time in service, June 24, 2010. Penman served in the armed forces for 30 years and fought in two wars. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William Selby

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

But remembering veterans is something that some Americans do every day, especially those who fought side by side during times of war.

Monuments and memorials around the nation’s capital offer a chance to reminisce and to share their stories with families and friends. Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Roy Penman recently took advantage of that opportunity. He volunteered 30 years of his life to the military, fighting in Vietnam and deploying for operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

“When I first joined the military in 1964, it was right in the middle of the draft, and I was 20 years old and afraid to get drafted, so I joined the Navy, a family tradition,” he said. “Well, while I was in boot camp I was drafted by the Army. I spent four years in the Navy, three of [them] in Vietnam.”

Penman said he came under fire in both wars. “It was a scary situation,” he said. “While I was in the Navy, we were offshore getting shelled by the Viet Cong, and there was no place to go. It’s either stay on the ship or swim.”

For Penman, it wouldn’t be the last time he would find himself in the line of fire. Years later, while serving in Operation Desert Storm, Penman said, “we were under scud attacks pretty regularly.”

After Vietnam, Penman switched to the Air Force and served at 12 different bases in 26 years before he retired. He spent the last 18 years of his Air Force career working as an F-15 avionics technician, and now works for the Air Force as a civilian.

“Every airplane I’ve ever worked on is in a museum now, so I figured it was time for me to retire,” Penman said.

Penman said he enjoyed the military life and the job security that the armed forces provide. “All you have to do is keep your nose clean and re-enlist,” he said.

But job security wasn’t his only motivation for his career of military service. “I guess you could call me a patriot, because I just love my country,” Penman said.

(“Veterans’ Reflections” is a collection of stories of men and women who served their country in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and the present-day conflicts. They will be posted throughout November in honor of Veterans Day.)


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Related Sites:
Veterans’ Reflections special link


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