“I was fortunate to not be in combat,” explains Don Coulson, formerly of the United States Army, “I was one of the lucky ones.” A lot of Coulson’s friends weren't so lucky, he explains, “they're the ones who deserve all the recognition.” He emphasizes his point with a solemn tone of voice, Mr. Coulson is a humble man, even-tempered and thoughtful with his words. Coulson joined the army at just 24 years old, something he had very little choice in as he was part of the draft. “I used to be a teacher, I taught high school football and baseball… but they just pulled us all into the conflict.”
What was that experience like?
Different. Back during that time, the draft meant every young man had to sign up and there was a lottery system, but if you were physically able, you went into the military draft. If you were a teacher or a student, you used to be able to get a deferment from the draft, but they did away with all teaching and student departments as a means to get as many able-bodied young men as possible. And back then, being drafted was a one-way ticket to Vietnam, I was very fortunate to be sent to Korea instead of Vietnam.
What were your duties while you were in the service?
After they sent me to Korea, I, along with four other officers, was in charge of 24 officer’s clubs. My job was to clean and repair slot machines, keep them well stocked, and see to the entertainment. We were so close to North Korea that you could wave to the marching soldiers. All of the waitresses and managers of the clubs were Korean. We also had a Korean driver, a large part of what we did was club auditing. I think a part of why we were chosen for this job was because we all had college degrees.
Who are your heroes?
I very much would like to see David Cook get more of the spotlight. He served the entirety of his military career as chief navigator of Air Force One for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, he was right there with those great men in that era. Also, in Korea there was the MASH unit, which stands for “mobile army surgical hospital;” those men and the doctors that were flown in on helicopters were instrumental in saving a lot of lives, they were true heroes. And anyone would be fortunate to hear the stories of WWII veterans, or a WWI veteran if you are truly lucky. There aren't many WWI veterans anymore, and for me, it’s about honoring those that have passed.
A lot of my friends that I went into service with never returned home, those are the heroes, those are the men we need to continue honoring and telling their stories.
“…It’s about honoring those that have passed. A lot of my friends that I went into service with never returned home, those are the heroes”