By Jessica Crabtree
November 11 we celebrate Veterans Day. It is a day specifically intended for honoring and thanking all military personnel who served the United States in all wars, particularly living veterans. It is a minor way to express our appreciation to those who served in any capacity, living or since passed. These are the people cut from a different cloth, the people able to make the sacrifice you and I weren’t able to.
These are the people who carried the world on their shoulders, bravely forged on into enemy lines and fought for our freedom. Young and old, these people were husbands, sons, boyfriends, brothers and sisters, friends and family members. Some had dreams and aspirations that never came to pass after giving the ultimate sacrifice for you and me. This article honors each and every man or woman who served. We thank you today, and every day, for your unselfish attitude, unwavering courage and ability to lay your life down for your fellow man. You are the true version of a hero.
Carl Kirksey was born in Wichita Falls and raised at Amon G. Carter Lake in Bowie before it was even a lake. In fact, his family bought the first lot. His youth consisted of long summer days with his parents, siblings and cousins on the lake water skiing. He even recalled memories of making pyramids while skiing on the water, and always being on the bottom.
His raising was as American as they come: a mom, dad and large family sharing memories at the lake, barbecue and belief in God. Kirksey graduated from SH Ryder in Wichita Falls in 1964. That same year, on July 16, an 18-year-old Kirksey joined the United States Marine Corp.
“In 1964 there was a draft. You were just waiting for your notice to show up in the mailbox. Back then you had to show your draft status when applying for a job,” Kirksey explained. At the time Kirksey was a 1A to draft and working for a construction company when a new straw boss was hired and fired anyone younger than 25. His reason was because he thought anyone that young should be in college. “In a fit of inspiration, we flipped a coin and decided to get our time over with.” To the young Kirksey, he liked the outdoors, the military and was active in ROTC throughout high school.
In July of 1964, Kirksey reported to San Diego, Calif. A month later, the Tonkin Gulf affair occurred. It was the entrance into the Vietnam War. Attending boot camp, he said, “We didn’t watch television there. We were totally isolated. But after the Tonkin Gulf Affair our drill sergeant brought in a television, and we watched as President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed the situation,” Kirksey said. He went on to describe, “We knew our career had just changed. We were going from spit shine to combat. Everything took a more serious note.”