Vietnam vet now teaches military discipline in ROTC

Published 12:43 pm Thursday, November 12, 2009

For Demopolis High School JROTC instructor Sgt. Mike Black, what started as a draft order more than 30 years ago ultimately proved to be a lifetime of dedication to the military.

“I was in the very last group that got drafted. I was drafted and went to Fort Bragg, N.C., for basic training,” Black recalled. But Black, like many of his generation, was less than enthusiastic about his selection to go to Vietnam.

“I really, to be honest, didn’t want to (go to Vietnam),” he said. “My dad sat down and talked to me. He was a veteran of World War II. After my dad sat down and talked to me and I went through basic, I realized I was going down the wrong road in a hurry. The Army helped straighten me out with that.”

After that conversation with his father, Black went on to a considerable military career.

“I went through specialized infantry training,” Black, whose son is an MMI graduate, said. “I was with the 25th infantry division and then went to the 8th infantry division in Germany. I was involved in the build-up on the Czechoslovakian border.”

While he remembers the time fondly, Black admits that military service is anything but easy, noting the sacrifices that soldiers must make in order to fulfill their service.

“At times, it is trying. I know one time I went three years without being home for Christmas and that was a big thing in my house,” Black said. “(Soldiers) have to give up a lot. Sure, they volunteer, but the sacrifice is no different whether you’re drafted or you volunteer to do it.”

Once he finished his service in Vietnam, Black attempted to leave the military. He stayed away for nine months before re-enlisting and then ultimately landing in the National Guard. He went on AGR with the Guard after a year and a half of service and remained there until March 27, 2001. The very next day, he began his tenure as the JROTC instructor at Demopolis High School.

While his military career was certainly noteworthy, it may be his work as an ROTC instructor that proves to be Black’s legacy.

“I have nine former students in JROTC that are in Afghanistan or Iraq right now,” Black said. “The military has been good to me. This school system has been good to me. If I can change one person’s life, then I’ve done my job.”