SALINA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Salina veteran said he loves everything about flying, and he said he started doing so, with a license, at just 16.
Roger Young started flying more than a 1,000 miles away from Kansas.
Young said he first took flight spraying cranberries in Massachusetts where he’s originally from.
He said the home he was raised in, is still standing.
Young said he was inspired to serve and fly by his father’s love for aviation.
His father worked as a civilian for the Army during WWII.
Young said he would fly his plane up and down the coast looking for submarines.
“I love to fly by myself, it is quiet, and peaceful,” Young said.
Young joined the Navy in 1956.
“I entered the Navy first to go to flying school,” Young said. “They wouldn’t accept me, because I did not have a four-year degree.”
So, his military career started on the ground in aircraft mechanics.
“I inspected everyone else’s work,” Young said.
After four years, he was released from the Navy into the Army.
His graduation gift from Army flight school was a tour to Vietnam.
“You are only supposed to fly, you can’t do anything else, but we were short officers, so I was a platoon leader in Vietnam,” Young said.
He said it was challenging because the soldiers were all so young.
“I felt sorry for the high school kids, that, you know I already had the Army experience, and they came out of high school, eight weeks of basic and immediately hit the combat, miserable combat,” Young said.
He said the Vietnam war was brutal on both tours.
“The last tour was at Camp Evans, up on the DMZ, just south of there,” Young said.
He said they were flying Cobras.
“Armed helicopters, Cobras, the new ones, they were the real armed helicopters,” Young said.
He said despite what Congress reported about the war, the troops did the job they were sent there to do.
“We won every battle we fought,” Young said.
He said they never knew what the jungle would bring.
“We had a prisoner walk into Camp Evans, holding an artillery shell,” Young said. “He wanted to give up, he was from North Vietnam.”
Young made it home safely, and then went on to train the next generation of pilots.
“Spooky, new guys have never flown, anything,” Young said. “Some of them couldn’t chew gum and walk upstairs.”
He said he was even chosen to be an instructor pilot in Saudi Arabia.
He said most of them knew how to fly, his job was to teach them to shoot, but that also came with challenges.
“They all graduated from English college, but not one of them knew what a screwdriver was or a wrench, they knew English, but it didn’t take equate very good,” Young said.
Young earned so many medals while in service, including four Bronze Stars, and 16 Air Medals, so he had so much to share.
“That’s where we did all of our Agent Orange spraying was on that trail,” Young said.
All these years after his time on the Ho Chi Minh trail, Young still deals with the effects of Agent Orange, but he said that’s not the worst part.
“Sleeping is the hardest, you wake up, bad dreams,” Young said.
He said the stories behind his many medals, and how he earned two Purple Hearts in the same valley, off the same hill, are still too difficult to talk about.
He said two of his flight school classmates, never made it home from the Vietnam War.
“This is from the Flying Cross I got in 1966,” Young said.
He said he retired at Fort Riley, as high as he could climb as a pilot, as a Chief Warrant Officer.
“So I did my job pretty good,” Young said.
He said when he looks back at his uniform, and his more than 20 years served, he’s most proud of the two Distinguished Flying Crosses he earned.
“That is the ultimate for pilots, really,” Young said.
He went on to pilot planes of all kinds, and even took historical flights, like when he flew single-engine planes to Scotland.
“Took seven, single-engine airplanes, for K-State,” Young said. “They opened a flight school in Scotland, and I flew them over there for them.”
He said it was cheaper for the company, for him to fly the planes to the destination, rather than shipping them.
He said it was interesting because they only had 16 hours of fuel.
“One night, I was going in bad weather into Shannon, Ireland, at 0-0, no instruments, compass or anything, made a landing, ran out of gas taxing to the terminal,” Young said. “Interesting!”
He said so was his time as Dickinson County Sheriff, a position he took on an appointment from the Governor.
He said his law enforcement career actually started when he was a police officer in Hope, then he became the deputy sheriff of Dickinson County, before the Governor’s appointment.
Young has seen and done so much in his life, and that includes watching his own son, and two grandsons take the same oath he did, to serve.
He said given the chance, he would do it all again.
“We showed the world, that it would work, they needed us, still do,” Young said.
Young was licensed to fly just about every aircraft you can think of, and he did.
He said he sure enjoyed giving helicopter rides for fun and said he once worked for a contractor friend who would take his helicopter to fairs across the state.
He said he once took an 86 year old to touch the clouds, and he also loved flying kids, on those helicopter joy rides.
Young said over the years, he raised quarter horses, and even placed with top finishers in the nation.
He also had a farm in Hope where he raised wheat and cattle.
Young said he has never been unemployed, and at one time worked for the Rock Island Railroad.
He said the company went bankrupt and he was on his final run from Peabody to Herrington, and he couldn’t even drive the train home.
His wife, Patricia, had to come and pick him up.
The two have been married for 60 years after meeting while Young was serving at Ft. Leavenworth.
The two raised five children, and they now have great grandchildren.
Young says his wife is the one who deserves a medal.
The two were long time volunteers with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and Young was also a little league umpire.
Young also served as the commander of the American Legion Post in Hope at one time.
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