Veterans' Reflections: Military Provides Conduit to World
By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2010 As a child, John McAllister saw the military as a ticket to a new world, beyond anything his rural Midwestern home could offer.
John McAllister, a veteran who served both in the National Guard and the U.S. Air Force, stands at the World War II Memorial in Washington. D.C., July 1, 2010. In an interview McAllister reflected on the dramatic impact military service has had on his life. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer Second Class William Selby
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I’m from a small town in northern Minnesota, and it was a way to learn an occupation, and also to get out there and see some things besides the small town we grew up in,” he said.
His two older brothers had set the example for him, both joining the Army National Guard and then going into active service. It was easy to follow in their footsteps, because McAllister also had a strong desire to serve his country.
“It all comes back to being grateful for what we have in this country, and being a representative of that when we’re over there in these other countries,” he said.
In 1988, two years after joining the Army Guard, McAllister enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and went to its firefighter academy. His service would take him far, far away from Minnesota, around the U.S. and eventually to Guam, where he was stationed when Operation Desert Storm commenced.
Though he was far from the war geographically, working at what he called a gas station for large-frame aircraft carrying people and equipment to the battlefield, he had close friends stateside who were departing for the war zone.
“The day the ground war started in the Persian Gulf War happened to be my 22nd birthday; it was February 24, 1991,” McAllister said. “I remember waking up the morning they were pushing in -- up to that point it had just been aerial bombings going on -- and I knew that it was my friends going into harm’s way.”
“I was concerned about them, so I made a point after I left Guam to touch base with them, and to make sure they’re all okay,” he added. “I took a trip down from Minnesota to New Mexico, just to visit with them.”
McAllister said he recalls his military service with fondness. Without it, he said, his life would be drastically different. He wouldn’t have met his wife in Greece, and he wouldn’t have developed the lifelong friendships only the services’ camaraderie can foster.
“They’re probably the best friendships you’ll ever make, the ones you make in the military. The things you learn, the places you see, the people you get to know [are indispensible],” he said.
(Veterans' Reflections is a collection of stories of men and women who served their country in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm and present-day conflicts. They will be posted throughout November in honor of Veteran's Day.)