WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — One veteran said he knew what the infantry was going through in Vietnam, so he signed up for the Air Force.
“Vietnam was really geared up, like for the Air Force, they had two basic trainings started,” Air National Guard/DOD Retiree Stan York said.
Stan York said, in the beginning, he was eager to do his four years in the service and get out, so he could get home and drag race Main Street.
“When you are 18-years-old, and you leave home, it’s quite a shock to go,” York said. “To get off the bus with a duffle bag, and you have no idea where you are at or what you are doing.”
He said the lack of a warm welcome or any direction at Boot Camp was his first shock as an airman, then came his assignment.
“They came down and said we want to thank you for volunteering for Special Ops.”
He said he never did volunteer, but he was thankfully right off a Kansas farm and in pretty good shape.
York said that came in handy, as they trained since the Special Ops training was rigorous.
He said in10 months, they learned everything from sea survival, jumping out of a plane, rappelling and evening training with the Army rangers.
They were preparing the airmen for Vietnam.
“We watched the Ho Chi Minh trail a lot.”
He said they would drop them off in the jungle.
“Like a mile and then work our way in,” York said. “We were long-range reconnaissance, they called it.”
He said the key to surveillance and survival was silence.
“You couldn’t use any scented stuff. You couldn’t smoke because they could smell you,” York said. “We didn’t want them to know that we was there.”
He said they were often doing recon in places he can’t even talk about.
“I’ll tell ya it was Laos, technically the U.S. was not there, but it was pretty much fighting going on in Laos.”
They moved important war documents from one point to another.
“We carried a lot of classified information, handcuffed, you know, briefcases and stuff.”
The enemy was everywhere, all the time.
“They could carry loads and stuff, and like I said on a cup of rice and fish head,” York said. “They could go all day on a cup of rice.”
He said their resilience cost our country so much.
“Very solemn,” York said.
That was how York described the mood at the Vietnam Wall.
“It tells what part of the wall they are at, and stuff.”
He knows far too many names now etched in stone, and he will always cherish a special gift from his son.
Even after his time in Vietnam, he looked to re-enlist until he found out he was destined for Da Nang.
“I said I am not going back.”
That’s why he got out of the Air Force, but he joined the Kansas Air National Guard just four years later.
“I said I am going to work my way up and be able to change things like this.”
That was his thought at basic training, so that’s exactly what he did when he started a Sponsor Program.
“We put somebody to write them a letter and say okay, let us know when you are here, and that sponsor would go and pick them up at the airport or wherever they came in.”
He understands service more than most. He went on to retire from the Kansas Air National Guard.
“People that knew me signed, and when I retired, boy, it was quite a crowd.”
York later went on to retire again as a Department of Defense Director of Transportation.
He said he was in charge of organizing and coordinating convoys in Iraq.
They asked him to go to Afghanistan in 2017, but he said he probably couldn’t pass the physical fitness test to do so at his age.
He said his greatest accomplisments were changes.
“I got to make policies and stuff like that. That has really helped the Air Force personnel and stuff.”
He said making those changes will always mean more than the medals he earned in the jungle.
“Those medals and two dollars will get you a cup of coffee.”
He earned quite a few, including a Purple Heart and the Vietnam Gallantry Cross Medal.
“You had to be a good guy to get one of those.”
In all, he gave more than 35 years in service to his country and inspired and mentored countless Air Force and Guard members all along the way.
“They were 18, and I worked 28 years, and I thought you know I need to retire,” York said. “It dawns on you, you know, I’m getting old here.”
York was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam and has had quite a few health complications and surgeries.
He said some of the tumors he developed were very rare.
“The surgeons had never seen them. They had to go to their medical books to find them,” York said.
York is very proud of his two sons. One is an Air Force retiree, and the other serves in the Derby Police Department.