Former serviceman recalls tour of duty

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 10, 2007

Gary Williams, a graphic artist for The Demopolis Times, grew up in a family familiar with the U.S. military. His father was a career Air Force NCO and his two brothers each have 20 years with the Air Force and Navy, respectively.

In 1970, when Williams was 21-years-old, he decided to follow in his family&8217;s footsteps and joined the Air Force. He was trained at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. and Maxwell Air Force base in Montgomery.

Williams&8217; specialty was with repairing air and ground radios for communication with aircraft. Shortly after being trained in both basic and advanced electronics, Williams was shipped to Berlin, Germany, where he was stationed in an isolated tour for two years.

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When asked about his memories of being in Germany during the Cold War, Williams said, &8220;A lot of the time I was kind of nervous because we were completely surrounded by Eastern Germany. You have the three little plots of French, British and American. Really the locals after WWII weren&8217;t enamored of being occupied still.&8221;

Regardless, Williams continued his tour there, where he saw the now fallen Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, which was designated as the single crossing point (by foot or by car) for foreigners and members of the allied forces.

Williams remembered the only way to get through the crossing point was to wear his Class A uniform, or dress uniform, and only those with certain papers were allowed through. For some, Checkpoint Charlie became known as a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of east and west.

The main focus of Williams&8217; tour was working on emergency radios.

Williams said he chose to go into this particular branch because it allowed him a choice in the kind of work he would do for the military.

When asked about his contribution to the country and also to the history of the service, Williams was nostalgic.

For Williams, the service he performed back then was something that came natural. When asked if he would volunteer again, given he was a young person in today&8217;s military situation, Williams said he would still enlist.

Williams described himself as patriotic, saying he enjoys celebrating the Fourth of July and is invested in &8220;seeing America&8217;s enemies vanquished.&8221;

On this Veteran&8217;s Day, in addition to honoring servicemen, Williams said there is one person he will be thinking of in particular.