The 1950's are calling back to me. One year before the classic 1957 Chevrolet came out I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.
Those were better years. We didn't seem to have a left/right political system in those days. It may come as a surprise to some of you, but we had blacks, Mexican-Americans, and boys like me who was affectionately called Hillbilly by my New York and other northern fellow airmen.
To some that would be insulting, but I was from Kentucky and it fit.
One of my best friends was a Puerto Rican from Spanish Harlem in New York City.
And yes, we had black airmen who saluted the same flag as the rest of us. Mostly it was them who called me hillbilly.
There was a lot of friendly kidding and name calling but we were all Americans and proud of it.
I served from 1956 until 1958 at an Airbase near Tripoli, Libya, and the aforementioned Puerto Rican and I were Radar crew members at the 633rd AC&W (Aircraft Control and Warning) Squadron at Wheelus Air Base (we didn't use Air Force on foreign bases for diplomatic reasons).
My Puerto Rican Friend Greg rotated (returned to the states) a couple of months before I did and I would see him again two years later in the most unexpected way imaginable.
Back in the States on an assignment in Virginia, I was watching my little black and white (can I say that today?) TV. "Sanford and Son" was on and it was not to be missed.
Fred and Lamont were talking about Julio and his goat who had moved in next door to their junk yard and Fred was concerned that he was going to ruin the neighborhood. Julio and Lamont were becoming friends and that troubled Fred. At that point in the show Julio walked in their front door and I almost fainted.
I jumped up from my sofa, pointed at the screen and said, "that's Gregory Sierra," and it was.
Greg became a regular on "Sanford and Son" and also appeared in several movies (he was the bartender on "The Towering Inferno," a regular in the "Barney Miller" series and more).
How he made the conversion from the buddy I had spent almost two years with I never knew.
What I do know is that lots of GI's of all races worked together in harmony. Have we progressed as a society since the 1957 Chevy? The car is still here and we still love it when it is beautifully restored. Will this nation be restored?
Dave Henderson was born in 1937 and lived his earliest years in Hickman Kentucky on the banks of the Mississippi River, once called the prettiest town on the Mississippi by Mark Twain. Hickman was blessed to have a Carnegie Library at that time. It was there that his love of reading and dreaming began. A highlight of his professional career was to have led the public response to General Westmoreland's battle with CBS over their TV program, "The Uncounted Enemy, A Vietnam Deception." He also served as the General's press spokesman during the following years leading up to and during his libel suit in Judge Pierre Leval's Federal District court in New York. Dave contributed his services and expenses during those years. He previously served on The American Spectator board of directors. He is the author of the book "The Arkansas Project: From the United States Jaycees to the United States Justice Department and Whitewater." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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