Veteran Salute: Air Force vet follows siblings in a long line of service

Veteran Salute

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – One veteran said he always wanted to be a pilot, so he did the same when a few friends joined the Air Force.

John Hammel said he never had a problem falling in line since he came from a long line of service.

Hammel said he met people from all over and from many different backgrounds in the military. He said it was a fascinating time in his life.

“The good ole days, I guess,” Air Force Veteran John Hammel laughed.

Hammel may look back and laugh now, but he said boot camp was no laughing matter.

“It’s aggravating at the time because you are young, and you think, why am I going through this.”

After lots and lots of marching, he said his dreams went sky high, so he took a test to become a pilot.

“When I got done, they said you can’t fly,” Hammel said. “I says why, they says, you’re color blind.”

The military also determined he would never take flight in any role, but they did give him several choices.

Hammel landed in dentistry.

“I’ve cleaned teeth. I’ve done x-rays. I’ve made teeth. I’ve assisted in all the stuff.”

He was at Scott Air Force Base and said he was one the dentists always preferred to work with.

“I always felt like that proved your honesty and dedication to your job.”

He learned dedication early on.

His oldest brother joined the Army and served his time before World War II.

“It makes you pretty proud of him to know he was so dedicated to the country.”

When World War II broke out, his brother joined again and was wounded in action.

“There were several people injured or killed, and he was carrying them back to the ambulance when he carried the last one, they told him to get in too, and he said why and they said you are injured too.”

His brother-in-law was a cook on the front lines.

“He would get up in the middle of the night and fix donuts and coffee and take it to the guys on the front line,” Hammel said.

Hammel’s sister joined the Navy.

“I’d hear she was coming home, and I would be out in the yard waiting on her,” Hammel said.

She went on to marry a serviceman as well.

The year his brother, a sailor, got out of the Navy, Hammel, the youngest in the family, joined the Air Force.

“Everybody had been in it, and I felt like I needed to be in it, too.”

He’s proud he kept the family tradition going, but he also remembers when they asked him to re-enlist.

“They said when would you like to get out, and I says this afternoon.”

That was after Hammel did his four years.

“Once you get out and look back, you realize that was a very educational time in the service,” Hammel said. “It was a good experience.”

Hammel said that if he had had the money, he would have started a dental lab to make and repair teeth when he got out of the military.

He said he weighed his options before getting into the scales business.

He said years later, he had the opportunity to buy the business in Wichita, and Hammel Scale is still going strong today.

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