GM: I’m Greg McIntyre and I’m talking with Martha Bridges today on ‘Lunch with a Veteran.’
I really appreciate you being here today. I would like to talk about your years of service to our nation. Are you from Shelby originally?
MB: No, I’m from Concord, I grew up and was raised in Concord until I went to school in Appalachia in 1970. I graduated high school in 70, and in 73 I heard about the college junior program. I was not going to go to summer school, I was not going to get a job so I decided to see if I could do it, and I could. They took us in July of 73 to Fort McClellan, Alabama and it was for four weeks basic training.
GM: You were a very progressive lady, especially in 1973. How many women were in the military at that point?
MB: I don’t know but there weren’t a lot. After the four weeks, if you wanted to, you could go back and finish your senior year, then you would go back in the army as a Second Lieutenant.
I wanted to be a teacher and had invested that much in my education so I decided not to do it. At that point in time it wasn’t for me but it was an interesting experience.
GM: So you went to college to be a teacher?
MB: I went back for my senior year and I think it was 1974, because I went on to get my Masters, but in the summer I had the National Guard come and they said, we want you to join. They were looking for women for the military, but they said I would need to go through basic training. I thought, no, I don’t want to do that again. Then the Army Reserve came and they said, your four weeks will count as your basic training, because at that time when they were trying to get women into the military, they had a program called CASP, Civilian Acquired Skills Program, and they went for two weeks basic training. Well, I’d done four, and it counted. Years later when I started to pull my paperwork together, it was daunting the amount of paperwork the Sergeant Major had to do to get my four weeks approved for my basic training. But it was approved and I went in to the Army Reserve as a Spc 4 because when you went through the College Junior Program you were a Spc 4. I was in the 1st of the 485th of the 108th Division.
GM: We’ve always had women involved in wars and military effort but not as much with regular military service. Now it’s very common, but it wasn’t common back then. Did you get any push back as a woman going into the military?
MB: Only from my father. My father didn’t really like it. He was in the Navy and was in world war two. Women didn’t have the reputation, the honorable reputation that he envisioned, and so he took it as a negative. But as far as anything else, he did not dissuade me, nor did any others. When I went in to my unit, there weren’t but a half dozen women in there. It was drill sergeant unit, and the only position women had were clerk typist, so I started out as a clerk typist.
GM: Now you could serve in combat on the front lines.
MB: Absolutely, and being a Drill Sergeant Unit, people said, why don’t you get your Drill sergeant certification? I didn’t want to do that. By the time women were doing that, I had a family and I didn’t want to take away from it. It was enough to take away one weekend a month and two weeks a year annual training.
GM: That’s the Reserves, and the Reserves can be great as an alternative to going active duty for men and women alike. What benefits did the Reserves have for you?
MB: I retired one day short of twenty-two years because I did not want to go to AT. I was tired. Now I have retirement, I’ve got Tri-care, the military healthcare and I just went on Medicare in December, and when people call and ask, ‘do you have a supplement?’ and I say, ‘I have tri-care,’ they say, ‘you’re good’.
GM: Did the military help you with your education?
MB: No. At that point in time when I enlisted, I had already had my education. Eventually they would have rules and regulations that if you would re-enlist for six years you would get a bonus, but in the Reserves you never got the educational bonus, and it was only for those who were re-enlisting for the first time.
GM: Were you ever called to active duty?
MB: Yes, we were called up, and I remember because we were out of school for Martin Luther King Holiday, and got the call from the unit that said, we’ve been activated. We were one of the first in any of the 108th Division to be activated. So, we went for three months to Fort Jackson. Being a Drill Sergeant Unit, they would take people from the IRR.
GM: I was in the IRR for four years after being active, the Individual Ready Reserves.
MB: They took them and brought them back in and the Drill Sergeants would get them back to speed again and send them to Saudi, in Dessert Storm. So we were there for three months and that was stressful for a lot of people. We had two of our people die while at Fort Jackson, and when we got back, one went awol. It was very hard on the families because being in the military you’re in another world. When you go to AT, you’re putting your civilian world aside and you’re going into the military world.
GM: So, you’re doing a job as a teacher and all of a sudden you have got to drop everything and go where they tell you to go. How did you do that?
MB: Well, I called my husband, my daughter was in 4th grade and my son was in 2nd, and we went to the county office and did all the paperwork. We did the Power of Attorney and all the paperwork needed so I could go on leave. I told my principle and they had to find someone to cover my position while I was gone.
GM: What was your rank?
MB: I went in as an E-4 and I retired as an E-7.
GM: What is that considered in the Army?
MB: Sergeant First Class.
GM: Man, twenty-two years is a long time. I was born in 1975.
MB: I was married in 1979.
GM: It would hard for me to still be in the Reserves and just pick up and go.
MB: You know, being in the Reserves is the smartest thing for anyone coming off active duty when they don’t do twenty years in active duty. That’s the smartest thing they could do in any military branch. Do your twenty years.
GM: Take your retirement, take the benefits.
MB: Absolutely. My husband hated me being gone but he never gave me the ultimatum, and right now it has really paid off. Just tri-care alone has really paid off.
GM: These are the medals you received. You received two ‘Meritorious Service Medals with Oakleaf Cluster,’ the ‘Army Commendation medal with Three Oakleaf Clusters.’
MB: I received four commendations.
GM: The ‘Army Achievement medal with Two Oakleaf Clusters,’ ‘Army Reserve Components Achievement medal,’ and the ‘National Defense Service Medal.’ Then there is the ‘Armed Forces Reserve Medal,’ the ‘NCO Professional Development Ribbon,’ and ‘Army Service Ribbon.’ Which one is your favorite?
MB: Meritorious service, because I got my first, I can’t remember the year, they had a position, an MOS 79 Delta. It was retention NCO. The first time they did this we went for Second Army they had competitions, and I won Second Army, and you had to go to Forces Command in Atlanta but they did away with it because of Desert Storm. So, the next time they did this I won Second Army again and went to Atlanta. The competition was from all over the United States. After the interview, I went upstairs and talked to my husband and said, ‘we might as well go now, I did horribly.’ The one thing I remember they asked me was, ‘where the page number of a map was?’ I didn’t know, it had been years since I’d had it. For some girl just coming out of basic she would know all of this, but this was a retention competition. But, we went back down and they announced I’d won. We got to go to the Pentagon and accept the award.
GM: That is awesome.
MB: That was my crowning achievement, to win a national competition and it was the first time so I was the first winner.
GM: After twenty-two years in the Army Reserves, with active duty time mixed in, a career as a teacher, what did you teach?
MB: I taught reading, education and then technology at Casar for thirty-three years.
GM: After all that, what advice would you give to a young lady out there who maybe hadn’t considered going in to the military? How could going in to the military help a young lady or young man?
MB: It gives you discipline, if you don’t know what you want to do in life this is a way to find out quickly. It gives you a socialization with other people, a different way of life and because the military is a different world, you view things differently. It has such heavy discipline going through basic but don’t let that discourage you. Basic is designed to weed out the weaker and designed to make you stronger. It will either make you or break you. If you are a strong person it will only make you stronger. And then after basic, you’ve got options. How many people can leave school, go into the military for twenty years and then retire, many times by forty and then start another career. After those twenty years, you get retirement, medical, you get such great benefits, and you’re a veteran.
Regular Army didn’t appreciate Reserves, we were weekend warriors and you didn’t feel appreciated. I remember when I got into the post, it made me feel like, yes, I am a veteran, I did serve, I did something. To stand up and say, I’m a veteran and salute the flag, and go places and hear the Star-Spangled Banner and salute instead of putting your hand over your heart, I’m really proud of it, I’m proud of my service.
GM: Well thank you for your service and thank you for joining me on Lunch with a Veteran.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
Greg: Little House on the Prairie, what has it got to do with elder law? I miss good shows. Didn’t shows use to be great on television? What happened?
Hayden: That’s why those shows are still around. The TV series are different now. It used to be they were wholesome, you had Merv Griffith and Little House.
Greg: There was more respect.
Hayden: The parents were idealistic parents, they were good parents and the kids respected them. Now, all the parents are idiots and the kids know it all.
Greg: We had the Brady Bunch which was really progressive back in those days. Two households coming together. The parents were respected and treated well and the acting was smart. They seem to act like they’re stupid now. That’s the way they’re written.
Hayden: They make fun of people, and the shows you think should be the least offensive like on the Disney channel, are probably the worst offenders. I doubt parents watch these shows.
Greg: If they did they would monitor more carefully what their children watched. So, what can we learn from Little House on the Prairie?
Hayden: It was a moral show. The parents made good decisions for the most part and the ones who didn’t, there was always a consequence.
Greg: So, we are well into 2017 and I feel like I’ve been planning and getting going for the last month. I think we do a lot of things that are throwbacks, and what I mean by that is, when I’m thinking of how to offer services to clients, I’m trying to meet them where they are.
I think attorneys a lot of the time make mistakes being ivory tower attorneys, very hoity-toity, where there is the mahogany desk and walls and ‘you need to come and see me and pay tribute in my office and see all my degrees,’ kind of thing. I think we as attorneys make a mistake by doing that, we should be meeting people where they are with what they want. Doctors have this ivory tower thing going too, no offense. They’re so damn expense it’s ridiculous.
Hayden: And there’s not much of an option at all to see a doctor.
Greg: You can’t have a doctor visit your house. They don’t need to hustle or advertise. They have a corner on the market and they know it. We make a mistake by doing that and I apologize for that. I apologize for the legal industry. I don’t think it needs to be that way.
At my firm, we routinely go to see people where they are. I had someone say to me, and this was a great attorney very high up in management at a multi-million-dollar firm, he said, “Greg, you think your clients like to come and gather up all their stuff and meet you at your office? Because they don’t.” This spoke volumes to me. We go and meet clients at their homes. We have clients outside of our home base in Cleveland County, where we’ve built a hub of elder law services; Probate, Estate Planning, Medicaid Crisis Planning, and Veterans Aid and Attendance Planning, that’s what we do. That’s the nuts and bolts of our services.
In Cleveland County and beyond, we have options to meet with our clients. We will go into your home anytime you need us. We will be there to talk to you and your family, your loved ones, or you can come to one of our satellite locations where we meet with clients. We have one in Asheville, Greensborough, Charlotte, in fact we have eleven different locations available to meet with clients in Charlotte, and anywhere in between. If you don’t want to, or can’t come to our office in any of those locations then we will meet you in your house or set up a separate meeting location in your town. Cultural centers, senior centers are great places to meet.
So, how does this relate to ‘Little House?’
Hayden: Back then there were no doctor’s offices, so if you got sick the doctor came to you.
Greg: Here’s what happens when I go to someone’s home to meet with them. I bring my laptop, so I can type everything up. I don’t rely on scribbly legal pads anymore, this way everything goes in the system straight away. I bring my bag which has a Bluetooth portable printer and a separate scanner. It’s my doctors bag. It has everything I need to see clients in their homes.
We think we have advanced and come a long way since Little House on the Prairie. I think things have come around full circle.
Hayden: Yes, maybe, in technology and knowledge and the discoveries that have been made, but compassion, that hasn’t followed the pattern.
Greg: But now, I can take my doctors bag out and get back to really serving people.
I hate technology for technologies sake, but if it helps, we can plug in and have the same law office in someone’s home. Why wouldn’t you want to do that? Ego keeps lawyers in their offices.
Hayden: Well, a lot of times people identify with their specialty and yours is caring for older people and helping people prepare for those times. That is a more compassionate type of being.
Greg: Some clients cannot come and visit me at my office. It’s all about the client relationship and experience and delivering quality services to your client wherever they are on their terms. I think we have got away from that as a profession. I respect the old way of doing things. If you mix the old school with the new, you can have the best of both worlds. That is what we are here to provide.
Our region is western North Carolina, from Charlotte to Asheville, we do phone consults and we are glad to have consults in home, it doesn’t matter where, we will get it done, that’s a big push for us.
If you or a loved one is in nursing home or assisted living care right now, or has been, or is going to be in the near future, we can help you and your family. That is one of the best things we ever do. We do it well and we really love doing it because we help you and your family protect your hard-earned money and property. You may have saved your whole life with your spouse, and all of a sudden you find it dwindling down to nothing because you don’t know what to do, and social workers with the best of intentions, cannot and are forbidden from giving you legal advice.
Where do people go for answers?
Hayden: Some people don’t know the questions to ask. They think they have a will or power of attorney, health care power of attorney, or living will and they think they are all set.
Greg: If you are in that situation and you think you have a will, you could be in the worst bad situation, how about that? Call us at 704–259–7040. We serve the Carolinas and we would be happy to serve you.
It has been a pleasure doing a show on Little House on the Prairie, I remember that show so much I get nostalgic thinking about it.
Next week the show will be about a senior subject, so please watch because we provide services a different way than most professionals.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
GM: Good morning to all. We are talking about Medicaid Crisis Planning today, Nursing Home Crisis Planning, which is a big deal, oh my gosh.
HS: It’s a really big deal if you are in that situation and all of a sudden you realize all the money is draining out at a rate of $5000 to $10,000 per month.
GM: $5000 to $10,000 per month. That’s a lot of money. We have great nursing homes in the US and in our geographic area, but it costs a lot for nursing home care, and the question is, how are you going to pay for it?
But, why should you care about nursing home care? It’s not going to happen to me or you, right?
HS: Statistically, there is a 70% chance it will.
GM: If the report of 2005 from the US Department of Health and Human services study is accurate, and there is a 70% chance that people over 65 years of age will need some type of long term care, in-home, assisted living, or nursing home care, those are huge numbers. If there was a 70% chance of rain, or snow, or something, you would prepare, you would plan by bringing an umbrella, or rain coat, or something warm, wouldn’t you?
They are only statistics, but when the odds are stacked against you, you don’t gamble, you plan ahead. It’s always better to plan ahead. We have a plan ahead department in our law office, which really helps you get your estate planning in order to protect your hard-earned money and property for the rest of your life. Hopefully, this will be the last legal planning and legal documents you will ever need, but just in case, there needs to be some tweaks. I offer a free update and consult every year with our clients.
This way, we can sit down and discuss any new thing in your life, like you’ve got a new piece of property, or you’ve come into some money, or you sold the house, or you had a Ladybird deed on your house and you sold it, what do you do?
HS: That’s a good point to bring up, because most people think selling their house is a cure all.
GM: Selling the house can create a whole new set of problems.
HS: If you are getting up there in years and decide you want to sell some property, you should talk to Greg before you do it.
GM: Talking about the pros and cons of selling your home, what kinds of problem or opportunity might that create for you? Problems really are great opportunities by the way. Even though you might have a Ladybird Deed on the house that protects the house, you could sell that home and have a couple of hundred thousand on hand, then what are you going to do with that money? How will you protect it in case a long-term care situation comes along, so you don’t lose it all?
The first question I ask when I sit down with a client is, do you have long term care insurance? And I sit down with families all the time who are spending down $5000 or $10,000 like it’s water because a husband or wife has gone into nursing home care. They saved their whole life for retirement and there’s nothing left or there soon won’t be.
HS: They didn’t see the roadblocks.
GM: They didn’t realize that, like my grandfather who I wrote about in my book ‘Saving the Farm’, he never saw that he would lose everything. He was in assisted living for 14 years. The cost of care, in reality, the average person cannot save enough money in their life, not even a couple, to pay for the last few years of their life in a long-term care facility. That machine, that system, will take back everything that they made their entire life.
That’s not right.
HS: People contribute so much in taxes already.
GM: Your taxes paid for that system. North Carolina does have a great thing in allowing Ladybird Deeds to protect your house immediately, which we can draft. It costs a fraction of the worth of the house to put a Ladybird Deed on a house. It protects the property now, and allows you to access a Medicaid benefit for a loved one to pay for assisted living or nursing home care. It’s an amazing thing, it passes it directly outside of probate to a child. It’s like turning your home into a beneficiary asset, it protects it from a Medicaid recovery.
HS: We have done one today for a fellow who lives in Washington State and his mother lives in North Carolina.
GM: That’s right, I worked with his accountant, and attorney, and him on the phone in a 4-way call. This kind of thing is routine for us. We work with other professionals all the time, and make sure everything is right with taxes, and that you step up in bases to make sure there are no capital gains for the kids.
So, in a situation where I have a crying spouse in my office, which happens regularly, the spouse can be healthy, it’s called the ‘Community Spouse’, and can live for many more years, but the unwell spouse is taking down all their retirement savings. I talk to financial planners all the time, you do not want to ride that pile of money or investment into the ground, that’s the wrong thing to do. Make an appointment to talk to your financial planner.
So, let’s say, in the next few years, my wife and my savings are all going to be gone. My money is all falling out the back of a plane right now. It’s going to care for her because she needs some assisted living care, and it’s not going to be a straight down dive into the ground, but it is going to go down quickly over the next few years.
Is that responsible piloting of your money? No, it’s not.
How can it be a smoother flight?
When you talk to your financial planner, they should not be advising you to ride your money into the ground.
At some point, if there is a sickness in the family, if something really goes awry, and the person cannot afford long term care insurance, or couldn’t qualify for it, you have got to call someone like me, an elder law attorney. You should ask, what can I do to save my savings and my house.
How much money can I save if there is a healthier community spouse, and qualify the sick spouse for Medicaid to pay for that care in a nursing home?
SB: It depends on the size of the estate.
GM: Yes, it does. With a married couple, 100% of the estate. If there is a healthy community spouse where we can have the reserve of $119,220 for the healthy spouse, and then pay the rest using a tool like a Medicaid Compliant Annuity, or a Promissary Note, or something like that. And then place a Ladybird deed on the house.
That’s nursing home emergency planning. Let us help you. Don’t just fly the plane into the ground.
HS: There are people now who are involved in the Medicaid spend down.
GM: That’s a hang your head spend down. That’s when you have waited too long, you’re spending all the money.
HS: You just hang your head and give up.
GM: But that’s not how it needs to be. It is our mission to find legal ways, within the rules, to simply help you save your hard earned money and property.
If you are interested in learning more, read my book ‘Saving the Farm’. You can get it on Amazon, or you can come by the office and get a copy. Some of the retail stores in the Shelby, North Carolina area have it also, and there is the audio version on audible.com.
Let me protect your hard earned money and property. I’m Greg McIntyre of McIntyre Elder Law. Call us on 704–259–7040 if you have a long term care crisis, or you want to just plan ahead, or learn about your options.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
Greg: Merry Christmas and a very happy new year to everyone. We’re going to focus on new year planning and several key updates today.
First, I write newspaper articles all the time, and we had a full page article in the Star on Christmas Eve that you might want to read. It was our Christmas card. Our mantra here at McIntyre Elder Law is, ‘help seniors protect their assets and legacies’. On the card, we wrote, protect their lifestyle and preserve their legacies. So, what does that mean, protect their lifestyle and preserve their legacies?
Hayden: Well, you work all your life to have a nice lifestyle and you don’t want something to derail that, so, we work to help preserve that. If one person of a couple need to go into a nursing home, or God forbid, both need to go, we want to help them preserve their lifestyle.
Greg: I agree, especially with pre-planning. I want seniors to keep everything they have worked so hard for, and keep in control of it.
Now, I hear this question all the time, ‘at what age should I start to give away my land, my home, my property to my kids?’, and what I always say is, NEVER. That’s the wrong question to ask. If you are asking questions like that, you are asking the wrong question.
People concentrate on the wrong problem, and if you’re looking at a problem that, to you, is solved by getting your property out of your name, you’re focusing on the wrong problem. So, what is the right problem?
Hayden: As far as a home goes, a Ladybird Deed is the first thing that comes to mind.
Greg: That would be the answer. So, the right problem is, how do we keep everything we worked hard for, in our name and in our control. Also, how can we do that, and not hurt ourselves by trying to keep it and preserve it, and eventually gift it away to our loved ones, once we have passed away.
That is the right problem, how do we keep the same lifestyle, and preserve our legacy. This is essentially passing down those things which mean something to us, including land, houses, or things with monetary value, so we can send the kids to college. We also want to keep our health care options open, not cut off our healthcare that we might need in the future, which includes long term care.
We are going to do a whole show on, ‘get the right problems’, because many people will listen to a street lawyer out there who tells them to spend down mom and dad’s assets by themselves, or social services told me to, or a friend, or family member who doesn’t have a clue told me so.
Social services are great but they are not attorney’s, they cannot advise you, and they will tell you that. Unfortunately, people will listen to social workers, or street lawyers, or their neighbor. So, they need to figure out the right problem. It costs so much less to preserve things ahead of time, then go to the source, people like me, an elder law attorney, this is what I do, this is what I know.
Hayden: One way to know what the right problems are, is to get the book, ‘Saving the Farm’. This is not a formidable book. It is not like reading a legal publication, is has been written for easy reading and can help you to know what you don’t know.
Greg: You can get ‘Saving the Farm, a guide to the legal maze of aging in America’, for the new year from Victoria Stevens in Shelby, or other retail stores. You can message me @twitter lawyergreg, or email at email@example.com. If you want to get it right away, you can go to itunes for the enhanced edition. You can also go to Amazon and just buy the book right there, or get it on kindle.
If you want the audio book, you can go to audible.com. This book really can help you to know the problems and the potential solutions to those problems.
Back to the Christmas message we put out in the paper, we had a point to make, so if you haven’t heard it, here it is.
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the land
Not a creature was stirring but ole’ Uncle Sam.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that our home and retirement will always be there.
The children and grandchildren all snug in their beds,
I wonder if college debt will hang over their heads?
And mamma in her snuggy and I in my socks,
Trying to settle our brains from worrying about our stocks.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
And to my eyes, what should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
With legal tools at the ready and a twinkle in his eye,
I knew in a moment it was The Elder Law Guy.
“Now Willy! now Trusty! now Lady Birdy! now Deedy!
On, POA! On Doc! on, on Probate and Administrate!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the courses they flew,
With the sleigh full of Legal Docs, and Legal Claus, too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
All noises ceased, it was quiet as a mouse,
And I knew The Elder Law Guy was here to save my retirement and house.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, he filled my estate planning docs with legal prose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his legal team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Give the Peace of Mind this Christmas, and to all a good-night!”
So, back to business, here are a few of the changes that have happened lately.
New Aid and Attendance for Veterans award amounts.
There are new award amounts for veterans ‘Aid and Attendance’.
Veterans aid and attendance awards are a pension benefit for veterans who are having health problems. So, you don’t have to be a senior, but many times you are. The spouse of a veteran can get aid and attendance, the spouse of a deceased veteran can get aid and attendance.
Hayden: And this doesn’t have to be related to war injuries?
Greg: It has nothing to do with service connected injuries.
They have just changed the monthly and annual amounts, so, I wanted to get you the updated monthly and annual amounts, and these are lifetime benefits.
Hayden: The veteran with no dependents can receive up to $1794 a month, or $21531 annual.
Married veterans can receive up to $2127 a month, or $25525 annual.
A surviving spouse with no dependents can receive $1153?? (19:33) a month, or $13836 annually.
Married veterans can receive $2846 a month, or $34153 annually.
Greg: So, if you’re a veteran married to a veteran, you can add $34153 annually. Those are great income boosters and the glass is half full approach to planning.
Hayden: And you don’t have to be disabled to get this.
Greg: That’s right. To qualify, you have to have served within a war window, so, if you served during world war two, Korea, Vietnam, or the Gulf War, and that war window is still open, it’s been open since 1992 or 1993. You do not have to have served in combat. If you are in a nursing home, you automatically qualify.
Special Needs Trusts
We have new rules for special needs trusts which is huge. Congress has just passed a special needs trust act. Before this act was signed, you had to be the parent or grandparent, or legal guardian appointed by the court, or have a court order, so, you needed to go to court and ask a judge to issue an order to set up a special needs trust. Lots of hoops to jump through and lots of time if you don’t have a parent or legal guardian to set it up.
Now, a competent person with special needs, can create a special needs trust for themselves. That’s huge, that allows you to take in personal injury settlements, be gifted or bequeath money and set up a special needs trust to receive it. That can be used for your care, or to buy a house, or a vehicle like a handicap accessible van, and not affect other benefits you might receive, like SSI which pays a monthly income component to you.
So, in one hand, a gift or settlement will be a blessing, and in the other hand it would be a curse. It sometimes takes a year or two to get approved for SSI. If you lose it, you have to start over. You could be destitute during the application process. And then what about your healthcare benefits that you need, especially if you’re special needs.
If you want to ask me anything about elder law issues please call me on my cell phone, 704–751–8031, call me anytime, my clients always can.
Other than that, remember to start to plan forward and have a very happy prosperous new year.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
Welcome to Lunch with a Veteran, I have with me Jim Hardin, whom I have known for my entire life I think. Jim is a world war 2 fighter pilot and was a fighter pilot in the Korean war. We are going to have some soup and sandwich from the Shelby Café, and talk a little bit about military service and some other things. Thank you for joining me today Jim.
Were you originally from Shelby?
I was born and raised in Grover. As a kid, I plowed and tended to hogs and cows and everything like that. My dad was a rural mail carrier. He had all kinds of fowl, ducks, geese, I took care of all those. That’s what you did out there in the country, I didn’t enjoy it then, plowing.
What do you think it did for you? Responsibility?
Maybe I guess. My dad started carrying mail with a horse and buggy, and the first thing I recall was I was sitting in the open car he carried mail in when he could, and I remember seeing an autogyro coming overhead when I was just a little thing sitting in that seat.
What’s an autogyro, is it a helicopter?
Kind of like one but it’s pulled by a prop in front and has a rotor on top to give it lift. You don’t see them around anymore, but that was when I realized I wanted to fly. When the war came along, I was at Mars Hill College. I remember where I was on D-day, I was sitting in the brown dormitory and at lunch time they came on the radio with the news that Hawaii had been attacked.
It feels like it happened 75 years ago yesterday.
Yeah. The school at Mars Hill started a program for civilian pilot training, I was in my second year. They were conducting that program over at Asheville Hendersonville airport. It’s no longer an airport now.
What were you flying?
We were flying Cubs, you don’t go real far or real fast. I enjoyed that program and one of the requirements when you completed that program, you had to sign up for the Army, Navy or Marine Corp. When I finished, I had a friend who wanted me to go into the Navy with him, and I said, listen, I have enough trouble finding an airfield if it’s where I left it when I took off. So, he said, okay let’s go to the Marine Corp. No, I’m going into the Army Air Corp.
I signed up and went and took my physical in Asheville, and when I finished and left Mars Hill, I went home and waited for them to call me to go into the Aviation Cadet Program in San Antonio. I got a telegraph in May from the Army Air Corp, telling me to travel to San Antonio, and go to Kelly Field into the cadet program. I took a flight physical there, which was more strenuous than the first one. So, I finished my military training at Kelly Field.
You had to be an officer, right?
No, I was a private when I was at Kelly Field but when we were appointed as aviation cadets, it was the same rank and pay as a Staff Sergeant. When I finished, they sent a group of us over to Randolph Field which is on the north side of San Antonio to go through a special program that Hap Arnold, who was the head of the Army Air Corp had started. Normally you went through preflight, which was the ground part of it, then you went to primary flight training, then to basic flying training, and then to advanced flying training. That was the program you had to complete for flying training. The program Hap Arnold started was, you skipped primary and went directly to basic pilot training.
I don’t know if that was good or bad.
Well, we only had one cadet killed during training, and that was a night flight when he collided with another cadet. I graduated from pilot training from there. We did get a few hours in primary planes which were PT19’s. I didn’t get more than 3 or 4 rides in that. The rest of it was in PT 13’s. I flew PT13’s a little and PT 14’s, and as I got close to the end of my training, they brought in some AT6’s, and I got about 10 to 15 hours in AT6’s. I graduated Dec 13 1942 and was commissioned on that day as 2nd Lieutenant. I was 19 years old.
They shipped all of us new Lieutenant pilots out to various assignments, and I was assigned to Lake Charles, Louisiana, as a flying instructor. The Army Air Corp needed a lot of pilots at that time, that’s why they had these rushed programs. There was 10 of us that went to Lake Charles, Louisiana, and I was there until December or January 1943. They opened a new base in Victoria, Texas, which they had just built. The whole training unit was transferred there. This was an advanced flying school, we flew AT6’s. There was also another advanced flying school the other side of Victoria, called Foster Field, they also flew AT6’s. We were assigned as I remember, 5 trainees, each instructor would carry them all the way through their training.
When I first got there, you were taken through all phases of that training, which included formation flying, gunnery training, the T6 had one gun in the nose which fired through the propeller.
When you say, it fired through the propeller, what do you mean?
The gun was behind the propeller up near the cockpit, so it fired through the prop. That’s the way they did it in world war 2. They had to be timed just right so it didn’t hit the prop.
They had to have some kind of mechanism that knew when the prop was in front of the gun and couldn’t fire.
Yeah. Later, they got around that by putting the guns in the wings.
So, that’s what you taught them, how not to shoot their own propellers off.
We hoped the armament people had that all fixed. We didn’t worry about that. We would go down to Matagorda Island, which was just off the Texas coast in the Gulf of Mexico for our training. So, we would take our students down there for gunnery training.
I stayed there as an instructor and then they started a special training unit there at Aloe Army Airfield, I was assigned there. They started a section that just instructed instrument flying training. I went to an instrument instructors school in Bryan, Texas, and I was assigned to that unit. I was there until May 1944. They took some instructors from there and sent them out to go to combat. So, I went to Tallahassee, Florida, and was farmed out to some base in the lower part of Georgia. While I was there, we got some P40’s in, and I managed to get a few flights in P40’s because I wanted to fly fighters. Then they shipped me down to some place in Georgia and they had some P47’s.
Is that the Mustang?
No, the Mustang was the P51. When I first learned I was going to fly a P47 I walked up to that thing, it was the biggest thing I had ever seen for a fighter. It was a lot bigger than the P51. It had a radial engine which meant the engine had the cylinders around it.
Why would you want a big fighter? What’s better or worse?
Well, if you fly bombers you fly straight and level and all that, I liked to do air acrobatics and fly upside down, and you could do it in a fighter. With an AT6 you could do anything, it spins and rolls.
Could you do that in a P47?
Oh yeah, and it had a 2000 horse power engine. So, after I finished that school, I was shipped out to New Jersey to go overseas, and we left on a ship from some harbor up there across from New York City. I rode a ship over with a whole lot of pilots and others. It took us about 10 days to get over there because they went various routes on account of submarines. We were in a convoy.
We landed in Blackpool, England, and I went from there to an overseas combat training unit before we went into combat, and that was at Atcham, England. I was there flying P47’s, and I was there on D-Day, training. In the briefing room that morning, the briefer said, whatever you do, do not go near the English coast today. I had an instructor who had been in combat, and he had a flight of 4, himself and 3 students. We took off and the minute we got the wheels up in the wheel well, he headed straight for the English Channel. We were up probably 3 to 5000 feet and I never saw as many aircraft in my life. The sky was covered with airplanes. We were above most of them. When we got near the coast, we didn’t go over the English Channel but we could see the ships, it looked like you could step from one ship to another there were so many of them.
As we completed our training, they asked us if we had a special unit we wanted to go to. I always wanted to fly a P51, so I told them I wanted to go to a P51 unit. At that time, they had the 8th and 9th Air Force flying out of England. The 9th Air Force had two P51 units, and they shipped me to the 363rd fighter group, the 380th fighter squadron.
Where was that in England?
I don’t remember, it was somewhere between London and France. They had the buzz bomb then, which they called the V1.
It wasn’t a rocket, it had a pulse jet engine in it. They had 3 routes those buzz bombs were taking toward London. We were under the middle route, so we would hold our breathe when the buzz bombs came over until they got past us, and we would cheer on the anti aircraft gunners cause we didn’t want one of those landing on us. A month after I joined that unit, we moved to Cherbourg, France. That was the first base I was at and I flew my first combat from Cherbourg in a P51. We moved one time after that. We were supporting the 9th Air Force, who were supporting the ground forces. We didn’t do many escort missions. The only escort missions I flew, was escorting the twin engine bombers like the B25 and B26. They later had other twin engine bombers called A-Twin 6’s, which after the B26 was retired, the A-Twin became B26’s. Those were the only bombers I escorted. I flew 29 combat missions with the 363rd fighter group, the 380th fighter squadron.
At that time, they changed the fighter group to a reconnaissance group. They mounted cameras to take pictures of the German’s. So, I was shipped out again and I went to the 36th fighter group which was flying P47’s. I have a picture from the end of the war of a P47 that the Germans recovered and were flying. They would go up next to our bombers and direct their fighters next to the bombers. The bombers didn’t realize, they knew it was a P47 but they didn’t know it was German.Anyway,for what we were doing the P47 was better suited because they could take more punishment than the P51. The P51 had a liquid cooled engine, and the P47 had an air cooled engine. Anyway, I joined the 36th fighter group and was assigned to the 58th fighter squadron, and most of our missions were supporting the army. Part of that time we were supporting General Patton’s unit. We were dive bombing and strafing and some of our bombs were fire bombs. I flew 61 missions with the 36th fighter group, and I was at Castle Germany Air Base when the war ended. I stayed there until I could get transportation home which was about a month later.
When the British came in and took over these airfields, they threw a phosphorous grenade into the cockpit of each German plane so they couldn’t be flown.
I was flown back to Paris where I caught a C47 to fly me home. We landed in Iceland, and we landed in Greenland, and we ended up somewhere in New England. I was separated there, put on inactive duty. I went in to the reserves.
You came back for the Korean War didn’t you?
Yeah, I was inactive for 2 years but I came back in before the Korean War, on active duty and I went to the 363rd fighter group in Roslyn, New Mexico. That was the home of the B29 wing and we were assigned to the bomber unit. I was there about 2 years when the whole fighter group was transferred to Otis Field in Falmouth, Massachusetts.
You know of the UFO that landed at Roswell New Mexico in 1947, I was there at the base where this thing supposedly landed. Something landed and to this day I don’t know what it was. Whatever it was, they sent a bunch of people out and picked whatever it was up, brought it back and put it in an aircraft hangar where I was stationed. It was top secret. Nobody could go in there.
From there I went to school in Panama City, Florida to aircraft control and warning school and became an aircraft controller. That was a 10 week school. After I completed that, I was assigned to Orlando, Florida, Orlando Air base at that time. We didn’t even have a radar there, so not long after that I was transferred to Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. I was assigned to the National Airport as a GCI controller, and we would pick up aircraft coming in from overseas. If we couldn’t identify them, we would scramble interceptors to identify them. They would get the tail number and type of aircraft. We would intercept them if they were not on the right time, or the right course that they were supposed to be, otherwise we didn’t intercept.
I was up on a hill overlooking the ocean there, near Highlands, New Jersey, and was there until the Korean War started. They came out with an order that anyone who had been flying fighters before becoming a GCI controller could request to be returned to fighters, which I did.
You weren’t married yet?
I was married a year after I graduated from flying school in 1943 in Victoria, Texas. I have two sons called Jim and Bill. Jim was born in 1944, while I was on a train going to the port from Florida, and he was born in the Gastonia Hospital. Bill was born in New Jersey, and there’s a funny story about that. When we were stationed in Germany, I had my family with me, he was playing with some of the other little boys in the area, and they were telling about where they were born, and Bill told them he was born in New Jersey, and they beat him up. Betty went out to get him and he was crawling up the stairs, and he said, mama, don’t tell anyone I’m a Yankee. We always had a big joke about that.
Anyway, when the Korean War started, I asked to be returned to flying status and they assigned me back to the 36th fighter group, which was at Otis Field, Massachusetts. They had 3 squadrons and one of them was stationed in Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts. I was transferred there, and I left from Westover Field to go to Korea. I was up there maybe a year flying F86’s.
What’s an F86?
It’s made by North American, it’s a swept wing jet fighter with the intake and radar in the nose.
That’s a cool looking aircraft, I remember you having a model of that aircraft.
It was quite a step above from an F80. Back when we were in the Army Air Corp they were P80’s. So, I was at Westover maybe a year flying the F86, and they had one F86 unit over in Korea, the 4th fighter unit, but they were sending another fighter unit, the 51st fighter group, so I went with a group of F86 pilots, and they flew our F86’s out to California, and loaded them on an aircraft carrier. They flew us out at the same time by commercial. When I was notified, they called us into a meeting, a pilot’s briefing room, and they said, all pilots who have not been to Korea, go home and pack your bag, you are leaving today. So, I went home and packed my bags and we took our parachutes and escape kits and all that kind of thing with us.
I was stationed down in San Diego, new wife, great apartment and I got to my shop and they told me I was leaving Wednesday, and it was Monday, so over the next several months I was pretty much gone, and then to a six month cruise. They don’t give you a lot of warning, your theirs.
Normally they give you more than a day at least. So, I went home and told Betty to get ready, pack your bags, get the kids ready. They stayed with her parents in Kings Mountain while I was gone. We drove all night long, got back to Kings Mountain. The next morning, she got up and drove me to Charlotte where I caught a commercial airliner to Oakland, California, across from San Francisco.
They had a Navy base and there was an escort carrier sitting there. It was loaded with F86’s. We got on the carrier and departed a day later. They took us to Japan, which was about a week to get there. We met a group of pilots at Johnson Field, and they were forming the 51st fighter group, and Colonel Harrison Thyng from Maine was in the officer’s club. A group of us officers were there and some of us knew him because he had been the commander of the 36th fighter group at Otis Air Force Base. So, we went up to talk to him, and asked if he would request us. So, we went to the 4th fighter group. Colonel Thyng was our commander while I was there at Kimpo Air base. I was at Kimpo the whole time I was in Korea. I was there for a year and I flew a hundred combat missions in F86’s.
That’s a lot of combat missions.
Well I didn’t get into a fight except one. Our opposites were MiG15’s built in Russia, and they had a couple of airfields right there on the border with China on the Yellow river. The North Koreans had a base on the south side of the river, but they kept their planes on the north side. We weren’t attacking anything on the north side because we weren’t supposed to go into China.
Most of our missions were flying top cover for F84’s, F80’s, and naval aircraft that were bombing and strafing. My crew chief was awarded the bronze star because he kept my airplane in such good shape it flew 100 missions without an abort because of mechanical failure.I did start flying F84’s at Roswell.
They have fuel tanks on the tips of the wings, is that smart?
Well, I had one come loose on the end of the wing when I was over Washington D.C. I was flying with one of the guys in our outfit. We had been down to Florida for the weekend for flying time, and we were going back and his folks lived in Washington D.C. He was doing acrobatics, and I was in the trail, I was following him, and one of the braces that held that tank level on the wing fell off, and the tank fell over. I almost lost control of the airplane when it happened.
But the MiG, I don’t care what anybody tells you, I was flying F86 80’s and F86E models, they later got F86F’s which was a greatly improved F86 but the ones I was flying could not climb as fast as the MiG15. It was about the same speed, we could go faster going down in a dive but we couldn’t climb as fast or as high as they went. Usually when we went up there, there would be flights of MiGs up above us, but they wouldn’t come down to fight. If they didn’t come down to fight we couldn’t tangle with them. Those that did come down, quite a few of our pilots shot down a lot of MiGs, but we couldn’t reach them if they stayed above us.
I got into one fight. My boss, he was the wing operations officer, we were flying with the 335th fighter squadron, and he was flying my wing, I was leading the flight. We were paralleling the Yellow river on the south side, and he called out, bogies at ten o’clock low, so I looked down and I didn’t see any enemy airplanes, I kept looking and I still didn’t see anything, and in a little bit he called them out again but I still didn’t see them, so I said, you got it, which meant the flight was turned over to him. We went down in a dive and we dove all the way down. Well, he crossed the Yellow river. That’s why I didn’t see them, I wasn’t looking there.
We went down and MiGs were taking off in pairs, and we got down into the middle of that. We couldn’t catch the MiGs, they were out of range, and our leader was shooting at one but he was out of range. I was flying his wing clearing my tail. I had 2 MiGs on me and he had 2 on him. They kept getting closer and closer, we were at full throttle because we were trying to catch the MiGs in front of us. I called them out to him and he said, roger, and just kept shooting. Finally, when they got closer enough to open fire on me and him, I called him and said, I’m breaking to the right, which meant I was going to make a sharp turn. I broke and headed out to the ocean. I didn’t see my leader anymore. I went full bore, and when those MiGs got close enough that I thought they were going to fire, I’d make a break and do a three hundred and sixty degree turn. I had a g-suit on, and I knew those MiG pilots didn’t have g-suits, so I would turn tight enough to that point where I would just start to grey out and then hold that turn, and I would make a three hundred and sixty degree turn and roll out to the ocean again. When I looked back, there was only one MiG behind me. So, I would keep going at full throttle towards the water. When he got close enough that I knew he was fixing to fire and hit me because he kept that close, he wasn’t shooting out of range, I broke with him again, and did the same trick on him. I couldn’t out climb him because he would catch me anyway, so I make a three sixty and looked behind me, and he was gone. My fuel was low because I was down at low altitude all this time. A jet burns more fuel at low altitude. As you go higher it burns less fuel. So, I was low on fuel and started to climb it back up to altitude. I was worried about my fuel all the way home, but I made it.
How did your leader do?
He got home.
Sounds like he was just interested in getting a kill?
Yeah, he was interested in getting a kill, I was interested in not getting killed.
I’m sure that was scary?
It was, that’s why I was headed for the water. I was sure he was going to get me. That was the only way I could figure I could get rid of those guys. In the turn, I knew when I started to black out, he would black out. He could have spun in or whatever. I don’t know what happened to him. At the time I didn’t care what happened to him.
It wasn’t cool they gave you an under powered aircraft but they did give you a g-suit.
We‘d been flying in g-suits for years but they didn’t have them.
Could you explain for anyone who doesn’t know, what is a g-suit?
It has a band around your stomach and your legs, so when you start to pull G’s, it inflates and keeps the blood from going down, and keeps the blood around your head, so you don’t black out.
These are the medals you were awarded for your service.
Lieutenant Colonel James M Hardin United States Airforce Awards and Decorations.
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal with Thirteen Oak Leaf Clusters
Presidential Unit Citation with One Oak Leaf Cluster
Airforce Outstanding Unit Award
American Campaign Medal
European, African, Middle Eastern Campaign medal
World War Two Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
What’s your favorite medal?
The Distinguished Flying Cross.General Stirling awarded me the DFC at the Castle.
Why did you get the distinguished flying cross?
I got that in world war 2 for dive bombing a bridge and railroad yards in Germany and I got hit by eighty eight millimeter flak. It hit my aircraft between the fuselage and the guns on the right wing and knocked part of the wing off. I was in a dive at the time so I was pulling g-forces, and the aircraft started shuddering and stalling going down. I had to release some of the back pressure and pull out more gently so it would stop stalling. I finally got it to climb and went back up and went home. When I got home, I flew over the tower to get them to see if there was any damage and they couldn’t see any so, I came around to land. I landed a little fast because I had lost part of my wing. What I didn’t realize was, when the flak hit me, it flattened the right main landing gear tire, and with the brakes and rudder I couldn’t hold it on the runway. It went off the right side of the runway and nosed up. I was looking straight down at the ground. I said to myself, oh no, this thing is going to flip over onto its back, but it twisted a little bit on the nose, then fell back down on the tail and broke it in two behind the cockpit.
You were okay?
I was fine. The crew chief brought the aircraft forms up for me to fill it out, you know, if there was anything wrong with the plane and my flying time and so forth. He brought the form to me and I put it on the wing. I was fine until he handed me a pencil and I started to fill it out. I got to shaking so bad I couldn’t fill it out. I handed it to him and said, I’ll get this later.
What other medals do you have?
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal
Airforce Longevity Award Ribbon
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
ROK (Republic of Korea) Presidential Unit Citation
United Nations Service Medal
The Republic of Korea War Service Medal
When I retired in 1964, I was stationed at Syracuse, New York, I was Air Force Advisor to the Air National Guard. I made Lieutenant Colonel.
Jim, I appreciate you coming by and everything you and your family has done for this community and for our nation, thank you.
Contact me if you have any questions about Veterans Benefits. Its what we do!
We have two special friends and veterans here today, Bill Hardin and Larry Gamble. They were in high school together and I understand there were some twists and turns with the story.
BH: We went to Shelby high school, I was one year after Larry..
So, you knew each other in high school.
LG: Not at first. In August of 1967 I joined the Navy and went to boot camp in January 68. Well, I had a girlfriend.
This girl went to school in Burns and she was Bills age. When I came back from boot camp, she picked me up and we were riding down the road. This was probably February of 68. We came up on the police station and I saw this little blue Volkswagen sitting across the intersection looking at me like I’m an idiot, and I said, who’s that, and of course he, Bill, was also saying, who’s that, because he wanted to know who was in her car.
That was our first meeting of one another. I didn’t know him in school and he didn’t know me. We fought back and forth for several months, and she just played us both right in the middle.
So, you were both dating the same girl.
LG: Oh yeah. Well, the night of my birthday, me and her went out and Bill came to pick her up and her mother said, she’s gone out with Larry.
BH: I had taken her out the night before on her birthday.
LG: Yeah, her birthday was a day before mine. I guess Bill found out then that I was in the Navy, and he was in the process of going in to the Marines, so he went off to boot camp. Truly, I joined the Navy because I didn’t want to go to Vietnam, so I go down to get my orders at Charleston at the end of May of 69, and lo and behold, they said, you’re going to Vietnam. I believe I left June the 7th of 69, and ironically Bill didn’t know I was going to Vietnam, and he was going to Vietnam on June 10th.
I had been there almost a week and it’s a Sunday, and I’m in a bulk fuel depot. I work in an office, and I’m going to mail a letter to my girlfriend at the Marine Post Office,
BH: Our girlfriend.
LG: Right, so, I go to drop my letter in and I can see it like it was yesterday, I look over to my left and there’s Bill in the back of the post office. I thought, you’ve got to be kidding me. So, I go back to my barracks and we were stationed from about here to the old courthouse apart, and I said, you’re not going to believe this guys, my biggest enemy in the whole wide world is at the Marine post office. At the end of that day I thought about it, well, I thought, let me go see what I can find out about this guy. So, I go back over there and I ask for him, and they said, he’s off work, and I’ll let Bill pick it up from here.
BH: All of a sudden someone comes into my Hooch which is a place where you stay, and says, hey Hardin, there’s some Navy guy wants to see you, and I’m thinking, I don’t know anyone in the Navy, not half way around the world I don’t, and all a sudden Larry walks in. My worst enemy in the world is standing right in front of me. I didn’t know whether to get up and hug him or slap him. I mean, there’s the guy who had been with my girlfriend. I didn’t know he was dating her at the time. Anyway, we got to talking and of course the subject comes up, have you heard from this girl, Larry said, yes, I hear from her all the time, he said, have you, and I said, yes. We got our letters out and they looked almost identical, except for the name. So, we decided right there it was time to break the ties with her and not have anything else to do with her, and we became really good friends. We were half way around the world and had things in common, Shelby, high school, and this girl, and so we became very good friends.
At Christmas time, Larry got a letter from one of his friends that said, one of you two is going to get a package from Shelby, because this girl is mailing a package to Vietnam. Well, we waited for the package and neither one of us got it. We don’t know where that one went to.
LG: We found out later it went to a guy in the army.
BH: Yeah, the army guy got the package. We saw each other most of the year but Larry got transferred down south somewhere.
LG: After 10 months, I got transferred to Saigon. I was on a YRBM which is a ship without a motor. The only motor it’s got is to turn the back so it can land helicopters. We had two helicopter pads on top of it, and 20 or 30 PBR’s hooked up to it at one time.
PBR’s are patrol boats?
LG: Yeah. There were 3 YRBM’s in the Mekong Delta, I was on number 2 right in the middle. When Nixon ordered us into Cambodia, I was on the second one. I had 2 months left, and here I am 19 years old, scared to death, standing watch on that thing at night, with red tracers going over my head. It wasn’t a funny thing but we survived.
A hooch is a barracks, right?
LG: Well, I had a barracks. My facilities were much nicer than Bills.
BH: Right, he had flushable commodes. Now, when I got over there, Marine, Army or whatever, every branch, and I’m not sure how to say this, but we had a one holer, now your job when first getting in country, is when the Sergeant tells you to go burn the sh*##ers. You pull the can out from the latrine and you dump it into another place and pour diesel fuel on it and burn it. It was a terrible smell but that’s all we had. Everybody used it. We had a guy who had just gotten in country, the Sergeant called his name and said, go burn the sh*##ers. We were out there doing what we were doing, and the next thing we know, we look around and the whole thing is on fire.
The whole toilet?
BH: He poured diesel fuel on the building and burned it down. He didn’t know what the Sergeant meant. It looked like it needed to be burned down. So, we had a whole new latrine built, and we got a five or six holer, a nice one. People would hang out and read mail. But we didn’t have flushable commodes.
LG: We worked basically every day of the ten months before I left, and every night we would go to the movie house to see ‘The Graduate’. I bet we saw ‘The Graduate’ at least fifty times.We saw that movie in a nice tin building.
BH: Over and over. When you went out in the field, this is how the facilities are. The CO’s had a hooch tent, and we had a little lean-to.
BH: I would go out in the bush quite a lot, either by helicopter or track vehicle, and they captured some VC while we were out. They would put mailbags around their heads, so they couldn’t see where they were going. A lot of times they would take them up in a helicopter and they would have urban soldiers, the south Vietnamese soldiers interrogate them. What they would do was try to talk to them and get them to talk. Nobody would say anything. The urban soldiers, they were the ones we were fighting with, they would take the mailbags off a few of them, and they were sitting on the back of a CH46 helicopter, and they would leave two with mailbags still on their heads, and interrogate them. Nobody would say anything but they didn’t know the bags were off anyone else, and when the ones with the bag on their heads didn’t answer, they would pitch them out the back of the helicopter. When they did that, they would turn to the other people without the bags on their head and start asking questions, and they would start talking quite a lot. That was the south Vietnamese doing the interrogating.
Well, I’m sure you guys experienced a ton over there.
BH: We saw quite a bit. Larry was with the bulk fuel which they had these huge tanks of airplane fuel, and it was in the field quite close to where I was. And the Vietnamese would rocket them.
LG: They would put a rocket right in the middle of those things and blow them up.
BH: It would just shake everything around, it was terrible. We got rocketed all the time.
LG: Each barracks had a bunker outside and we had to get in those things at least every other night. They were trying to disrupt the airbase, and nothing much happened to disrupt the base but we did have a lot of fires in those tanks.
You look like a bunch of kids running about out there.
BH: We were. I was eighteen years old.
From the pictures, it looks like a beautiful place.
LG: It is, it’s a beautiful country.
BH: They had really beautiful beaches when you got to see them. They would have concertina wire set up all around the beach.
LG: There was concertina wire everywhere to keep people from coming in on us. We had no liberty in DaNang. We had to stay on base. When I went down south, there was liberty down there. You felt like a king, you could go out on the town and all that.
BH: Yeah, they had concertina wire everywhere.
Was that like barbed wire?
BH: It is barbed razor wire. What we did in the field, each compound had barbed wire, layers of barbed wire wrapped around with razors. They would take beer cans and hook them with little rocks in them, and hang them up all the way around the immediate perimeter where we stayed. Then you would have people on guard that night. It was a free fire zone, and what I mean by that is, if you see anything moving you can shoot, it doesn’t matter, you don’t ask questions you just shoot. If you hear anything in the cans rattling, you just shoot, and the next morning you could go out and find out what it was.
A lot of the time you had the Vietnamese people who were there, they were called sappers, they were basically going on a suicide mission. They would strap explosives on their body, and usually they wouldn’t have any clothes on, and they would put grease all over their body so they could get through the wires as fast as they could to get into our compound and set themselves off. So, when you heard the cans shaking on the barbed wire, you just shoot and don’t worry about what it was until the next morning. Many times, in the bush, they had these little things called Rock Apes, like little monkeys. They would get in there and be shaking the barbed wire and the next morning you would go out and find these little monkeys hanging on the barbed wire.
That had to be nerve wracking the whole time.
BH: The whole thing was because you never knew, also you never knew who was VC. You couldn’t tell them apart, the north and south Vietnamese. The north Vietnamese, the NVA soldiers had uniforms on but the Vietcong they worked among you. We had a general that was on the first Marine Compound and his barber was caught one night carrying rockets, and he was VC. So, you never knew who was who.
LG: We were ninety miles from the DMZ, ninety miles from north Vietnam.
Well, with the times, in the Middle East, we have wars with blurry lines now. It seems after world war two things got a little different.
BH: Yeah, it was a completely different war, a different kind of war. You knew in world war two who you were fighting. In Vietnam, you didn’t have a clue, and you didn’t have a lot of backing from Washington either. The whole thing was political. We didn’t hear a lot of news over there, or a lot of what was going on back home. I remember in July 69, somebody told me there was a man on the moon, I said, really, what have you been smoking. I remember standing there looking up at the moon, and I said, surely there’s nobody up there because I didn’t believe the guy. Who was it, Pat Sajak on that show wheel of fortune, now he was a disc jockey for AFVN radio Vietnam when we were there. So, if we ever got to hear the radio, we would have heard him on there.
Korea may have been in the same category too.
The cold war, communist expansion. You know, keep it at bay, not really committing to the war like you said, identifying the enemy and going at it.
BH: When we came home, the Vietnam veteran was not treated like the world war two veterans at all. As a matter of fact, I landed in San Francisco coming home, had my uniform on. When we landed, there were these people who had flowers and stuff and I thought, this is pretty neat, they’re going to have a ceremony for us. We didn’t know. They had a ceremony all right, they called us every name in the book, they spit on us, it was not a welcome home I can tell you that. I left San Francisco and went to Los Angeles, from LA to Chicago, by the time I got to Chicago, I wanted to take my uniform off. I felt like people were really down on us but I had to go all the way back to Atlanta toget in, and then go to Charlotte. We were not given any sort of welcome home. So, when you here Vietnam veterans saying, ‘welcome home’ to another Vietnam veteran, we say that because we didn’t get that. I’m glad things have changed and the people who are serving are getting that. People have changed, if you have anything on that says ‘Veteran’, people go out of their way to come up to you and say, thank you for your service. I am so thankful that they do that.
Vietnam was a tough war and a tough time. It’s not fair to be under that much pressure and stress and go through everything Vietnam vets went through, and come home and be treated like crap by a lot of the people in this country. Regardless of your opinion on the war, it’s not an eighteen or nineteen year old kids fault, they just got drafted and went over there under orders. You served.
BH: Exactly, you served.
It does take a certain person to serve and sacrifice. You hope we have the leaders who will use the military right because the military is a tool at the disposal of politicians in Washington. If they don’t use the military correctly, it is not the fault of the people serving. I feel Vietnam veterans today are still fighting for the legitimacy of their service. That’s not right. They get more recognition now than when they came home.
LG: Yes, absolutely.
BH: I think you’re right. As I said, anywhere you go, if you have something on that says ‘Veteran’ on it, people acknowledge it, young people who weren’t even here at that time.
Vietnam does have some of the best movies, ‘Platoon’ for example.
BH: I remember going to the Cleveland mall when that movie started, I don’t know if I could watch the whole thing. Did you go with me Larry?
LG: Yeah, I think I did.
BH: I had to get up and walk out of there. It was real, that movie was real.
Well, I appreciate your service. I served in the Navy, I served with a lot of Marines. I don’t think people realize how close the Navy and Marines serve together. Now, I did not serve in an environment like Vietnam. The Middle East was an intense environment, like when I was showering in a gas mask, that’s an intense situation. That has to be multiplied a hundred times for what you’re talking about, things rattling and you know something is coming in, or blowing up fuel tanks next to you all the time, that must have been nerve wracking.
Bill, Larry, I appreciate your service and thank you for coming in here and talking with me.
Contact me if you have any questions about Veterans Benefits. Its what we do!
Welcome to the conference table with Hayden and Greg, we’re talking about rain and fire, and specifically we’re looking at the situation in Gatlinburg, NC.
Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, and we don’t know when the rain is going to come, and that’s the topic of our show today. So, when are the disasters going to come in our lives, and how could we have prevented that wild fire? How could someone with a house in that area have prevented a wild fire?
HS: I’m not an authority but doesn’t it depend on which direction the winds blowing and other factors.
GM: Well, it just happens, it’s nature, and the ground was so dry that a lightning strike or a camper’s cigarette could have started it. The point is, wild fires like this have happened before and will happen again. Many times it clears out the forest.
HS: It does revitalize the forest.
GM: Sometimes you can’t escape the inevitable, which is, you’re in the path of that big raging fire, and it’s going to happen, your house is gone. You could get insurance on your house that covers that.
HS: I have a statistic before we talk further. Last year there were 1,345,000 fires in the United States, 3280 human deaths occurred from that, and the total amount of damage incurred was 14.3 billion dollars.
GM: So, the fires are going to be there, it’s really not uncommon. When I was in the Navy, I lived out west in San Diego, there were wild fires all the time, it was just a common occurrence. These things happen, but what you can do is insure yourself to make sure that if life happens to you, you can protect your property. You can at least get your money back out of it.
I’m an elder law attorney, and I’ve seen this happen all the time, tragedy is going to strike sometimes, health issues are going to happen.
HS: Would you say tragedy, if you consider death a tragedy, which I do. In every family, it’s inevitable, which is why so many people have Wills.
GM: I was really thinking about death, that’s a progression. According to the United States Human Services report, over 70% of seniors, people over 65 years old will need some type of long term care, assisted living, in home, or nursing home care. Those are tragic statistics.
What if I said there was a 70% chance your house was going to burn down. What would you do?
HS: I would try to prepare.
GM: Those are pretty bad odds aren’t they? That’s the statistical reality. Maybe it’s because we have healthcare that helps people stay alive longer with severe illnesses. So, you should try to plan ahead, and get insurance on your house if you know there is a 70% chance it’s going to burn down. There’s long term care insurance. We work with insurance providers who work with seniors who do a great job of providing insurance services.
We talk a lot about this in ‘Saving the Farm’. We talk about long term care insurance in the book and other strategic legal ways to plan. You’re planning, building that concrete wall around your house to protect it. A Ladybird Deed is a perfect example, because it protects the home immediately and passes it to your loved ones and takes it off the table for long term care or tragic health care planning. General Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Wills, and Wills, those foundational documents. What that says is, when the fire comes, you will have someone to take over and run the show doing personal business or healthcare decisions that need to be made quickly.
You think you need to make decisions quickly when trying to protect the house from wild fire?
HS: Oh yes.
GM: You need to appoint a fireman right? Because when you’re getting out of there, you want the fireman to come in and put out the fires and keep the house safe. So that’s the same thing with your General Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Wills, and Wills, you appoint the appropriate fireman in your life. That person comes in and fights those fires when you are not in a position to do so.
If I get ill, and I do try my best not to get ill, but sometimes there comes a point when I just want to lay in bed for 24 hours. I don’t feel like paying the bills, I don’t feel like making decisions at all, I’m just want to sleep. So, there are things you can do to help avoid the fires in your life, or help deal with the fires when they come.
HS: I don’t think you can assume there is not going to be a fire.
GM: Hope for the best, plan for the worst. There are things you can put in place to help with that.
Do you want your money and property to stay in your family? What do you want to do with it? What are your goals? Do you want to use trusts to help care for grandchildren and send them to college? You want to sit down with a professional and plan. We do that every day. If you want to talk with us, gives us a call and get an evaluation. Let’s see where the fires are and how we can put them out.
HS: Our main office is in Shelby, and you can contact us on 704–259–7040. Our area is from Charlotte to Asheville in North Carolina, and if you need an attorney in South Carolina, we have an associate there that we work with.
GM: We work with attorneys all over the country. We work with a network of attorneys called Elder Council, and we do Veterans benefits nationwide.
I do want to mention, we had a fall charity drive in October and November. We went along to contribute sponsoring the Meals on Wheels Program in Cleveland County. Meals on Wheels offers food to shut-ins, who are seniors who can’t get out and have meals and things like that. Do you know how much money we raised for the meals on Wheels program? It was $2400 dollars and thank you to our clients who helped us raise that, and I cannot wait to give them the check. We are going to add $600 dollars to that so it will be an even $3000 dollars for the Meals on Wheels Program in Cleveland County. Thank you so much for contributing to that effort.
GM: I’m Greg McIntyre, welcome to lunch with a veteran, I wanted to bring to you a weekly series that showcases our veterans in the Shelby area. Their stories are amazing and I don’t want them to be forgotten.
Today I’m talking with Evan Thompson, he is a veteran of the US Army, but not only that, he is the Post Commander of Post 82 of the American Legion in Shelby, North Carolina, and District Commander of the Western District of North Carolina.
The western district really covers 2 counties. I’m also a veteran of the Marine Corp, spent active time in the Marine Corp, spent time in the National Guard, the Marine Corp Reserves, the Army Reserves, and active Army, that about covers it.
GM: So, I missed a couple of things there. Active duty Marine, Army, Air National Guard, and the Army Reserves and Marine Reserves. That’s impressive, that’s a lot of military activity.
GM: That’s a career in the military. And you’re retired?
I’m retired active from the army as Command Sergeant Major.
GM: And you have a beautiful daughter by the way, Evan is my father-in-law.
Yes I do.
GM: So, what made you want to join the military?
Well, I didn’t actually join. I was in college from 65 to 69, and they were still drafting individuals at that time, and they came up with a lottery system, where they drew out dates of the year, and depending when your particular birthday was drawn out, that was where you were in line to be drafted into the military. Well I was the 4th recipient of having my number drawn, number twelve. I won the lottery big time.
I was so close to being drafted, I volunteered for the draft. I was still in college at the time but I went down and had a preliminary physical, and went back to college. Well, I had 3 months of college left and I got this letterthat said,greetings, we want you now. So, I sent a letter back to my local draft board and said, I’m not doing this, I’ve got 3 months left, I’m going to graduate from college, then I’ll be glad to come. So, I graduated on May 9th 1969 and I was drafted on June 9th 1969.
GM: So they let you finish college?
They let me finish college.
GM: I’ve made hard stands with the military and not come out so great, and I’ll tell you a story about that later.
Well, at least I wasn’t in the military yet. I got down to Charlotte to the entrance of examinations stage, and sometime during the day they said they were going to take two marines today, or they wanted volunteers for the Marine Corp, and nobody volunteered. So the day went on and on, and about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, all of a sudden my name is called, along with this other young man, his name was Goins. He was from up around Blowing Rock or Boone. And we went up front and there was this lieutenant, I still remember his name too, Lieutenant Strange, and he said to us, well guys, you’ve been chosen to go in the Marine Corp, I’m sure you’ll make good soldiers, go over there and get processed in. I looked at him and thought, you’re crazy, you’re absolutely crazy, so I went back and sat down for a minute.
GM: You had to think about it.
I had to think about it, and I thought, no, this can’t be happening to me. So anyhow, I finally walked over to this lady, and she said, oh, you’re going to be in the best branch of service anyway. I was being drafted into the Marine’s, and I wanted to say to her, how do you know, you’ve never been there, but I didn’t because I was shocked, I was absolutely shocked.
Anyhow, they swore us all in that day, and they took all the army guys, and put them on a bus and sent them to Fort Jackson South Carolina, but they didn’t have enough marines yet to send us out to Parris Island. So, we got to spend the night in Charlotte at an old hotel called ‘The White House Inn’. I still remember that night, I called my mother, and she said, where are you, and I said, I’m in Charlotte, and she said, why are you there, and I said, well, I’ve been drafted into the Marine Corp. I remember her words, and I laugh about them today, she said, oh they’ll kill you. I thought that was really funny at the time, I thought, no, they’re not going to kill me. Later the next day they put us on a bus and we got into Parris Island during the night.
It was pretty rough. They came on the bus and they were hollering at you, calling you all kinds of names, and telling you, you better get off that bus and get on those yellow footprints, and then it all started. They shaved our heads, and that’s why I swore if I ever lost my hair I would get a toupee, because I never want to look like that again. But half way through basic when we had about a quarter inch of hair, they shaved it again.
But I had an interesting experience during basic training. I was given a set of orders about midway through basic training, that said I was going to Fort Sill, Oklahoma to become an FO. Well, I didn’t know what an FO was at the time, but I learned that was a Forward Observer.
GM: They go ahead of everybody.
Exactly, they had a short life span. So, I thought, oh my gosh, but when I had gotten to Parris Island, that very first or second day, they asked some of us if we wanted to take a typing test. I volunteered to take the typing test because I’d just gotten out of college and I had had typing in college. I typed all my term papers and all those kinds of things. Anyway, the day I was graduating from Parris Island basic training, my drill sergeant called me up to the front of the room and he said, Private Thompson, where are you going when you leave Camp Geiger, and I said, I’m going to Fort Sill, Oklahoma sir and then on to Westpac, because that’s what it was called, western pacific.
GM: Same thing now, I wasn’t going to Vietnam but anytime you go on a west coast cruise, you’re going to Westpac, east coast cruise, you’re going to Eastpac.
Anyhow, he said, no, you’re not going there, and I said, yes I am, he said, no you’re not private, you’re coming back to Parris Island. Well that really deflated me because I thought, I have spent enough time at this place. I did not want to go back to Parris Island. But what happened was, after I had finished infantry training, they got a set of orders back to Parris Island where I went to admin school. So, I spent my whole time in the Marine Corp sitting in an office every day, down at Buford, South Carolina, which was a Marine Corp Air Station. So, that was my first 2 years in the military. I was very fortunate I didn’t go to Vietnam. I had the opportunity, right near the end of my 2 years. I did get a set of orders to Vietnam, but I didn’t have enough time left to execute the orders without extending. I didn’t want to extend, everybody talked about lifers like they were really bad people. If you decided to stay in, you were given the term lifer, and I didn’t want to be a lifer, which was a big mistake at the time, I wish I had.
GM: If I had been a lifer I could have already retired. I could be drawing a pension. I could still have done my law degree and practiced while I was in. There were a lot of options I had, but I couldn’t see it at that time. I had to get out after 4 years and go and do my law degree.
Well, I got out and the very day I got out, I went back to graduate school and got my masters. My brother talked me into joining the Air National Guard. Big mistake, I had been a Marine, I had not been what I called sissy fly boys. Me and the Air National Guard didn’t get along because they weren’t disciplined enough, your uniform wasn’t striking, in the Marine Corp you always had good looking uniforms, keep it nice, clean, pressed. The Air National Guard wasn’t that way, so after a year I told them goodbye, and I went to the Marine Corp Reserve. All the while I was still in graduate school too.
GM: I’m going to have to bring someone on from the Airforce, to represent.
So, I spent about a year in the Marine Corp Reserves, and pulled at least one annual training with them. I still recall that annual training, I went down to Camp Lejeune, and if you think about it I was a civilian at the time because I was in graduate school. I went to check into my barracks down there for the 2 weeks I was going to be there, and this First Sergeant saw me, and he said, if you’re going to live in my barracks boy you’re going to get a hair cut, and I said, well, I’m just not going to live in your barracks. So, I went out and got me a place to live in town, and just came in to work for the 2 weeks at the office at Camp Lejeune, and then went back home. After about a year, I had a friend here in Shelby who said, why don’t you join the Army Reserves? So, I joined the Army Reserves. The nice thing about joining the Army Reserves is they got rank so much faster. When I joined the Marine Corp Reserves I became Sergeant E5, and I got to the Army Reserves and about 6 months later I became a Staff Sergeant. After about a year I became Sergeant First Class, and then after another year or two I was put into a First Sergeants position. I couldn’t be promoted from First Sergeant because I didn’t have enough time in service yet. So, I followed that through and finally I was promoted to First Sergeant, and then I thought, I’d like to become a Sergeant Major. The Army had just started a program out in Fort Bliss Texas, it’s called the Sergeant’s Major Academy, and they were putting a requirement that if you wanted to make Sergeant Major you had to go to that academy, so, I went to Fort Bliss, Texas to Sergeant’s Major Academy.
I became a Sergeant Major, and during the time I was in the Army Reserves, I went on active duty on two different occasions. I went on active duty at Fort Jackson, and I was First Sergeant of a basic training company in the 2nd battalion down there. That was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. We worked on average, one hundred to one hundred and five hours a week, every week. That was something I didn’t enjoy that much. It was great to see those young kids become soldiers but it was tough duty, because you didn’t get any sleep. You were always watching over those guys and gals, because I had a platoon of females also. That was a tough job.
Later on I went on active duty with the Army, and I went to Anniston, Alabama. I was either First Sergeant or Sergeant Major of the NBC school. That was a very interesting experience because that was the home of the Nuclear, Bacterial and Chemical Warfare school. That was really interesting. Finally I became a Brigade Sergeant Major down at Fort Jackson, and that’s where I retired from.
I had a very diverse career, a lot of interesting events in my life, and I still have friends that I keep in contact with.
GM: In the mean-time though, you got your education.
Right, I have an Associate’s, a Bachelor’s, a Master’s, an EDS and about half way through a Doctorate. I’ve been a professor, I’ve been a college dean, I’ve done all kinds of things.
GM: And the military helped pay for that education?
That’s right. And while we are talking about that, the military did pay for the education, and the reason that came about is the American Legion is the organization responsible for bringing about, the Soldiers of Jusmenak?? which ultimately became the GI bill. The American Legion were responsible for presenting that before congress, and ultimately getting it passed. Many military people have had the advantage of having the GI bill, and getting their education.
GM: Not just the GI bill, but when you’re active duty, at the time, the Navy will pay for two thirds of the classes I took while enlisted, and the CLEP Test, which was a test for almost any college class out there.
CLEP means, College Level Examination Program’s.
GM: And if you test well on that, you can receive credit for the class. Now, you can challenge, this comes from somewhere back in ancient Greece where you could challenge your professor. And you can still do that at any college, or true university. You should be able to walk into class and challenge your professor, and test out of that class and demonstrate core competence out of that class. A CLEP test is in that vein. If you take that test and demonstrate core competency in that class, you get a grade for that class.
I think I got 23 or 26 credits undergrad with the CLEP test. Anybody looking at how to put together your college career together or undergrad together, I would buy the text book, read them, take the tests at the end of the book and commit to memory, and then take the test and that would be my college credit. I would do a lot of this while I was on an aircraft carrier. I probably studied more for those tests than most undergrads do the first few years at college. That’s what I would do in my spare time. In the Navy, there was an education department on the base and on the ship. They were happy to help, and I had an idea how I wanted to put it all together at the end in a degree package. Any college that is affiliated with the military accepts transfer credits, and there’s a ton of colleges out there affiliated with the military.
Before I ever went to the military, I graduated from high school in 1965 and didn’t know what I was going to do. About 3 months before I graduated, a neighbor of mine said, what are you going to do, and I said, I think I’m going to join the Airforce and do whatever I can do in the Airforce, and he said, why don’t you go to college. Well, I came from a very poor family, I had no money to go to college. He said, why don’t you apply to these two college’s, Warren Wilson College and Berea College, they’re two college’s that will allow you to work and pay your way as you go. I applied to both and I got accepted to both. Fortunately, I was able to get my bachelor’s degree and when Igraduated, I owed $400 dollars. Most students would be very happy if they graduated and owed $400 dollars. I was fortunate as when I got out of the Marine Corp, I went right back to get my graduate degree, and used the GI bill. That’s why I praise the American Legion so much because they are such a great organization, and have helped veterans to a large degree. Our veteran’s healthcare system that we have, and I know there is a lot of complaints about it, but at least we have it. A lot of elements about it are very good. I’ve never had any tremendous problems with it.
GM: I have complained about it but I’m lucky to have it. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work to improve it, I want to improve it.
The American Legion was responsible for the getting the VA healthcare system started.
GM: The American Legion needs younger veterans to come in to.
That’s right, so many of the American Legion members are older veterans. Most of them right now are Vietnam era but we need Persian Gulf and Iraq veterans.
GM: And they need the American Legion too. You know, coming back and assimilating back into society, going to college with a bunch of kids who have not been in the Middle East getting shot at, or camping out in the dessert, that’s a big difference coming back. The American Legion can help with that, the camaraderie, feeling like you belong.
The American Legion knows that things are different between the culture of a Vietnam veteran and a Persian Gulf veteran. I know Persian Gulf vets don’t want to come into the American Legion and hear a bunch of war stories from a bunch of old fellows back from Vietnam.
GM: But I tell you what, just talking about it, to relate, to be with people who understand what you went through, that can literally be the difference between life and death for some veterans.
The suicide rate today for veterans is about 20 per day. That is absolutely horrendous but it’s happening. In 2014 there were 50,000 homeless veterans, so something has to be done, and the American Legion is working very hard to do what they can. Our commander goes before congress once a year to lobby for veterans and get the laws and policies changed to help veterans. That is another reason why all veterans should become a part of a veteran’s service organization, because they are out there to help veterans, that’s what they are all about. So, I preach it all the time. I love the American Legion, I love what it stands for and the things it’s trying to do, and I encourage any veteran to become a member of the American Legion.
GM: It’s that and you want to come back and get plugged in to the community too. How to prosper in your career in your community, you will automatically get a ton of people in your network. How many members are in the American Legion in Shelby?
Our local post has around 250 members.
GM: Not all of them come to every meeting but we do have 50 plus people there.
We have 50 or 60 every meeting. So, you have a lot of people to network with, and that is another thing about the Legion is the networking. We also have programs every month to give veterans information, not only about the American Legion but about the community itself. In January, we’ve got Craig McLinden?? coming to tells us about the employment opportunities for veterans and what he can do for them to be employed.
GM: Do you think you may have a little bit of wisdom to impart on a young man coming out of the military from the Middle East? Off the top of your head, you need to get an education right? If you’re interested in doing that, I don’t care if it’s university or trade, you can do it, and do it with benefits from the military. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to be a welder or apply something you learned in the military.
Well, I wish I could go back and change some of the things I did, and I wish I was younger and had the knowledge I have today, so I could use it back then to help.
GM: That is the benefit of me talking to you or an organization like the American Legion is, other people can have the benefit of your knowledge. You can’t go back and tell yourself. I wish I could do that too. I made mistakes, and just for example, before I married Stefanie, she had come out to visit me, and you said the military let you wait to be drafted until you graduated, I was getting ready to take the GMAT, which is a test to go to MBA school, at San Diego university which is where I was taking it. I wanted to get out of the military and directly into law school, and I also wanted to get my MBA. I did that, it just took a couple of years longer. The Chief, he wanted me to go to this fire-fighting school. I had been to this fire-fighting school about 50 times, and I had lots of sea time in at that point. I should have gone to the fire-fighting school but it conflicted with the GMAT, and I had paid for the GMAT and I was supposed to take it. So, I talked to the Chief ahead of time, he wouldn’t let me off, but I went and took the GMAT. He was not happy with me at all. He confined me to base, and I didn’t live on base, I lived out in San Diego. He confined me to base for 30 days. I ended up getting married to your daughter while I was confined to base in San Diego.
Well, I was determined. I was not going until I had graduated from college. I thought, why waste three and three quarter years and not get that last semester in.
GM: It was me being bone headed, and his stupid decision to do that. In hindsight, I’d like to go back and tell myself, go to the fire-fighting school, then come back and take that test. When I got out, we moved up to Raleigh for a couple of years for work programming computers, and then I went on to law school and getting my MBA, which worked out just fine. But at the time, I thought I had to take the GMAT test that day, and I disobeyed my superior, which is not a good idea. I got yelled at a lot, and he was a big guy. He ended up being a friend of mine, because after Stef and I were married, I was leaving on a six month cruise to the Middle East, and he came to our wedding, and I think he understood too, that I wasn’t a lifer, but I was serious about my job. I was not a fire-fighter, I worked on E2C Hawkeye electronic equipment which was electronics for avionics. We live and learn.
This has been lunch with a veteran, with Evan Thompson.
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McIntyre Elder Law
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GM: Hi I’m Greg McIntyre and this is lunch with a veteran. I’m here with veteran Gene Ramsey. Gene is the head of the VFW (Veteran of Foreign Wars) and has some very interesting stories.
Gene really is an advocate for veterans. He’s out there pursuing veteran’s disability issues, and a few weeks ago, we were at the VFW and you had a representative there from Senator Thom Tillis’ office.’
We did, and it was a good meeting and I had good feedback from some of the veterans who are from the Vietnam era, and I’m going to formally tell you about my journey for the last 50 years in the service. This week, being a reflection of 50 years ago, I was in a fire fight. We were running a convoy down there on Khe Pass or Highway 19, and about 2 o’clock in the afternoon we took fire, and the wrecker I was riding shotgun on got hit. That day we had 14 casualties of the 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion, and we engaged the NVA in a fire fight. I ended up saving a guy’s life and trying to save a couple of other people’s lives that got into a fire fight ambush.
That day 50 years ago, it was a different time frame here in Shelby. My dad was a world war two vet and my two brothers served, and about thirty days after this incident, I got a letter from my mom who said she woke up in the late morning hours at the same time praying for my life, a sixth sense if you will. And I brought the commendation letter from my senior officer to recognize that god answers prayers. He took care of me that day, and the other 300 days plus that I served in Vietnam.
It’s about the third highest medal you can get in service, so I was blessed to have comrades and everybody else involved with that commendation letter that we got.
I’m telling this story because I didn’t realize at the time, with the 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion, we experienced a thing called Agent Orange. As we went into a hot LZ they would spray that, and we didn’t know what it was. I was pulling latrine duty and other things, and I didn’t realize some of that was burning the fuel from Agent Orange to get rid of things we needed to get rid of. I didn’t have a problem with it, so, I came back and within a week went into Gardner Webb for 4 year’s education right out of the jungles of Vietnam, and spent 4 years that the government paid for.
GM: The GI bill?
The GI bill, one of the best things that ever happened to me. Sometime around 1986 I got a letter from Senator Roy Hill telling me a little about Agent Orange. I went ahead and applied to the VA, and it took a time to get a response from them, but I started to realize I was having a bit of a problem with diabetes. So, I went on working my business as a district manager at Western Southern which I worked at for about 40 years. I had the top agency at Western Southern and got along extremely well other than I developed a diabetic condition related to Agent Orange. That’s when I became involved in thinking about myself and my comrades that had been exposed to this.
I did some research and during that time I contacted my congressman explaining that we were probably going to have problems down the road, and I wanted to make sure I was looked after, as well as my family. So anyway, I became commander of the VFW post and the Am Vets for a number of years, a life member there, and the DAB as well as the American Legion. I got out of that as I was trying to move my insurance business to get ready for retirement.
This past year I had an incident with one of my veterans I knew with the VFW post, and they raised about $1100 for this individual, and I said, man I need to be a part of that again because I’m retired now. So, I took over as commander of the VFW. Since that point in time, I’ve had letters from Tom Tillis, Patrick McHenry, Senator Burr all helping with these veterans. I became 100% compensated for my disability from Agent Orange, and some Post Traumatic Stress which most of us who had been in combat had.
So, then I started working with veterans at the VFW post going down the line to see how we can help these veterans. Since then, I’ve had a folder put together at the VFW, that helps us with our local veteran affairs officer Debra Conn. I’ve worked with you on a case, and I’m working right now on 7 cases where Debra and myself are hoping these vets will get paid for Post Traumatic Stress, because they were in the same situation, or similar situation as I was. Also, there’s a national Amvets out of Winston Salem, that’s another route we can go to help these veterans.
So, I’m trying to pay back for the things that I’ve been blessed to receive. That’s been the journey now. As I dig into this more, I’m finding there is a lot of veterans who don’t want to ask for benefits that are due compensation. I was interviewed by the Shelby Star about 15 years ago, in regards to, how does it feel, and how did it feel, and I realized my dad was probably exposed to Post Traumatic Stress due to his world war 2 experiences. He also received the Bronze Star. My goal is to work with you and the VFW for these individuals to help them get what they deserve.
GM: Absolutely, and there is compensation out there for disability, Agent Orange and other service connected disabilities. That’s a veteran benefit that you work on first hand all the time.
Yes, I’m pretty much involved. I’ve got some other people involved, I’ve even got a letter from Senator McCain and a Senator from Georgia who was over the VA services.
GM: There’s also veterans ‘Aid and Attendance’, which is something we do here at McIntyre Elder law on a regular basis. This can help seniors who are veterans, or the spouse of a veteran receive monthly pension benefits for the rest of their lives.
I think I worked with you on a case. I recommended they come to you, and that compensation has already started with that individual. Her husband was world war 2. I didn’t realize until you brought it up at a VFW benefit, and talked about the Ladybird Deed and Powers of Attorney and things like that how effective they are. Since that point in time, I’ve become involved with you and making these things happen. When I do something, I kind of get involved and I walk the walk, I just don’t talk about it.
GM: I see that. I was impressed coming over the VFW a couple of weeks ago. A good group of veterans there and Senator Thom Tillis’ representative was there from his office, and he was very professional, couldn’t have asked for a more professional young man.
Yeah, it was kind of fun to get involved with this, because I was getting a little bored playing golf 5 days a week. This has given me an outlet to pay back some of my benefits that I’ve received through the government.
GM: I appreciate all your service that you have given to our country in Vietnam and the Bronze Star, that’s huge.
Well, I just happened to be in the wrong place at the time I was needed, but blessed to be back and have lived a good life.
GM: We don’t know how lucky we are in the safety of our communities and homes, and we’re afforded that by good men like yourself who have gone out there and really helped our country.
There was a nice article in the Shelby Star about how many veterans the VA has taken care of, how many fell in World War 1 and 2, there was almost 60,000 in Vietnam killed, but we don’t know how many have been killed since then because we have a lot of Post Traumatic Stress. I think most people are aware that about 22 veterans every day commit suicide.
GM: And a lot of them are coming back from the Persian Gulf wars, almost every hour on the hour for those soldiers.
They’re probably exposed to more things than we’re aware of, and it doesn’t hit you until later in life. Some of these things just seem to slip back on you.
GM: I had Evan Thompson on last week talking about the American Legion, and the importance of getting involved with groups like the American Legion and the VFW. You are a huge proponent for the VFW, commander of the VFW and that is a great group that is ready made for our veterans coming back from overseas to just go plug in to. To be able to have people there from different war eras, and their own war era to understand what they through.
I’ll put a plug in for the Vietnam War Veterans that you were privileged to sit with in Kings Mountain. I think we’ve got 114 members now. It’s the second Monday of every month at 8:30 in Kings Mountain where Jim Medlin is doing a great job bringing us together. They started out with 5 members, 5 years ago, and now we’re at 114 members. That’s an awesome thing he’s started. Some of these veterans are not part of the VFW, Amvets and those places, but hopefully we can attract them in and help them realize they’ve got some things they may not be aware of.
GM: There are people in these places that understand what veterans are going through. People who can help them and make them feel part of the brotherhood they felt when in the military. That’s why we join, that’s why we do that. You think about coming out of a war zone where there is horrible stuff going on, maybe in the Middle East, and coming back and trying to sit in a college classroom. You did it Gene, I’m sure that was quite an adjustment?
It was a shock actually.
GM: Tell me about that shock. How does that work?
Well, the first thing I remember when I came back from Vietnam, I had about a week before I started in Gardner Webb. I was coming out from the jungles of Vietnam and then into Gardner Webb college which is a Baptist school, and I remember thinking, man how am I going to go about this. It was a goal of mine to finish college, and one of the reasons I volunteered for the draft was to get the GI bill. I remember going into the first class and Paul Stacy was my biology professor. Probably the hardest class I ever took, and I took it in summer school just so I could get that out the way. Thank goodness he understood what being a veteran was, what it meant. He took me aside and mentored me in how to go about studying, how to focus on study for that period of time, to make sure I made the grades to get a college degree. So, it was a shock but I adjusted fairly well.
GM: My thoughts are, you’re in the jungles of Vietnam, or you’re in the deserts of Iraq or Afghanistan, and your mind is racing a mile a minute I’m sure. When you’re in those pressure stress times of a fire fight or similar situation, and you’re with this band of brothers, weaponry is part of your life, fighting is your life for a long time, and then you go sit down beside some other kids who did not have those experiences. You said you came out the jungles of Vietnam and went almost immediately into college. One minute you’re in the jungles in a fire fight, and the next you’re in a college classroom and you are expected to behave much differently, with people who don’t have your experience and who are not used to those situations. I have found myself saying in my mind, this person is full of crap, or they’re babies, they don’t know.
It kind of felt that way when I first came back but I was able to put that a bit behind me. I had a couple of buddies who came back and went to Gardner Webb at the same time, so, we had a kind of a brotherhood as you say. Coming out of Vietnam, we also had the many changes that were going on in America where people weren’t too happy about the Vietnam war. It was hard for us to suck it up and ignore them to some degree but fortunately in a smaller town, we didn’t face as much adversity as we did at Fort Washington where we came back to debrief for a couple of days. There was a lot of protests and things going on, but we put that aside and made some friends.
GM: So, you’re not moving to Canada?
No, but I’ve got a good story to tell you. I had a younger brother who went to Germany, I recommended he go in the service for the discipline, and he ended up getting in the National Guard, and one day he came to my dad and said, I think I’m just going to Canada. My dad looked at him and said, why don’t you look in that mirror right there, my brother said, what do you mean, and my dad said, you want to see a coward looking in that mirror? You go to Canada, you don’t come home. So, he went on and joined the National Guard and finished his 6 years.
There was a lot of different opinions at that time, as there is today, but it is a big change today as it was 50 years ago. The military has changed tremendously. In fact, one of my goals this year is to go back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where I took my basic training for 10 weeks, and then go back to Fort Jackson because I haven’t been back since I got out. It’s on my bucket list. I want to check it out and see how much they have advanced since I was in there.
GM: Well come back and see me, I would love to hear about the contrast of the military today as of the military then. I imagine it was pretty rough?
Boot camp was 10 weeks at that time out of Fort Bragg. You always heard about volunteering, so I volunteered to be a fireman about the third week in. I thought I would be on the back of a fire truck, I didn’t realize I would be shoveling coal at night on duty for volunteers. So, I learned to not volunteer for a lot of things in basic training.
GM: What does Navy stand for? Never Again Volunteer Yourself.
GM: Thank you Gene for coming by for lunch with the veteran today and talking about veteran stories. You certainly have some brave stories and accomplished some great things in your life. I appreciate everything you’ve done.
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
GM: Happy thanksgiving. I bought a big picture of a turkey, I can’t wait to dig in. Today’s topic is ‘Turkey Talk.’ How to get down to business and talk turkey with your family over the holidays, and why you should do it.
So, what are you doing for thanksgiving?
HS: We’re going to New York, to Manhattan for a couple of shopping errands, and we are going to New Hampshire.
GM: Send me some pictures, I’m jealous, I love New York City.
HS: And we’re going to Amish country. We’re having thanksgiving with my husband’s sister and her family and extended friends that we know. It’ll be great.
GM: I’m going to Savannah, Georgia. Stef and my kids have convinced me to go and see my mom and dad. I will be working Friday from a Savannah satellite, but I am going to try and unplug a little bit.
So, why, during the holidays is talking about estate planning so important?
Well, I’ll tell you..
Families should get together and talk business anyway, you should set up a time. I meet with my family for an official meeting on a weekly basis. We do a family meeting at 8pm on Sunday night and plan out the week. We run it like a business meeting because my wife has her calendar going, the kids have their calendar going, and we all try and get on the same page. We look at finances, we look at everything, any grievances we have, and we hash it out. If you can’t be on the same page with your family, there’s going to be problems in life.
HS: I don’t want people to think you’re all business with the kids because you let them climb all over you.
GM: Oh, I love my kids, but you’ve got to be responsible, you’ve got to have your calendar, money and work under control. We talk about all those things. Nothing is perfect but certainly you can’t even get close to perfection if you’re not on the same page and meeting regularly and keep things going. This is just an extension of that.
You should meet at least on the holidays. If you’re a senior, your kids are spread out everywhere. You might have kids in a different state right? You might have parents in different states like I do. You need to meet on the holidays because that is when you come together. You don’t need to do it when you sit down at the dinner table and say, oh yeah, business, business, business, when you’re stuffing your mouth with delicious turkey and stuffing. Carve out some time after dinner, but make time. Talk about family business, about estate planning, and why that might be important? Remember, your parents are aging, your aging.
Family traditions change all the time. I admit, I don’t like change, at least when it comes to holiday traditions, but a good change would be to introduce a family meeting.
I’ll give you an example. I had a client one time whose mother got a call, and they said, hey, you’ve won the lottery. Now, she was suffering from early on-set dementia, and everybody knew it, they knew something was wrong, but nobody had talked about it much. It was kind of like, sshh, don’t talk about it. That’s what families do, they shove it under the carpet, they don’t take action, they don’t talk about it. So, this phone call, they said you’ve won the lottery, all nice and polite, all you have to do is send me $30,000 dollars on the taxes of the winnings and we can send you your millions. What’s your bank account number, what’s your credit card number, great. $30,000 gone. There are so many scams out there.
So, how do we prevent things like that?
HS: Have conversations.
GM: Have conversations, plan, talk and take action. One thing you can do in that situation is either pursue a Guardianship, or put in place General Durable Power of Attorney, and maybe have something on the accounts that makes it harder to clear that transaction. Just have some ‘control’ put in place, so it’s harder to give away land or money or property.
I meet with families all the time who are scared that mom or dad might deed away their house to somebody.
HS: I’ve heard of people who’ve had caregivers come in and befriend them and convinced grandma to leave them the house because their kids don’t need it.
GM: Let me ask you, if you could go back and prevent the forest fire from happening in Lake Lure in the mountains, would you do it?
HS: I’d be stomping that thing out.
GM: You’d do it right away wouldn’t you? One way to prevent things like that is to have your foundations in place with your parents and yourselves. Everyone 18 to 180, should have their ‘General Durable Power of Attorney’ in place, so I could help you or you could help me if I’m in a wreck on the way home, and help me look after my personal business so I don’t lose everything. The band played on right?
Also, ‘Healthcare Power of Attorney.’ I want to appoint a specific person I trust to make my life or death and even long term healthcare decisions. That way, my kids aren’t arguing over what should be done with me, because I’ve appointed that one quarterback.
How many quarterbacks do you have for one team on the field? And why?
HS: One, because you can’t have two people giving conflicting instructions.
GM: You can’t have more than one person calling the plan, or calling plays, everybody would be fighting with each other, you would never get anything accomplished.
HS: You know, the military is a good example. People who go into battle, or overseas, or anywhere, they make sure they have all their documents ready, such as a will, my grandson had to have this done before going to the Middle East as an Army Ranger. They do that for a reason.
GM: And whether you believe it or not, your family is a business. You have assets, you have bills to pay, you have expenses, it’s a personal business.
HS: The ‘Saving the Farm’ book would be a great ice breaker. Just say to mom, I read something in this book I think you should read. I think this is something we might need to talk about.
GM: I wrote this book for situations like this. I like what Hayden said about this, it’s a reference book that reads like a novel. It’s very informative, it raises questions. But unless you talk about those things, does mom and dad have long term care insurance in place? Do you as a young or aging senior have long term care insurance in place?
This book is a great ice breaker. Nothing would be better than setting up your meeting after lunch on Thanksgiving day, and have this book there as a reference to talk about long term care insurance, or types of wills, or the pitfalls of wills, who’s going to be the executor? Who’s going to be your Power of Attorney? What’s wrong with Guardianships? Guardianship nightmares, read about those. What about VA benefits, is someone a veteran in the family? How will those benefits affect you? There are little known veterans benefits such as ‘Aid and Attendance’ that could add several thousand to your account every month, that could pay for an in-home care, or help pay for long term care.
Another reason you want to get a meeting planned and going is Guardianships. You do not want to end up in a Guardianship situation with your family. It’s cumbersome, it’s overwhelming trying to work with the courts, and when you do, you have to petition the courts to spend any money. Even if it’s to protect assets.
Look at your foundations. General Durable Power of Attorney. You do not want to have three quarterbacks on the field when your life and finances are on the line. You want to designate one person who will make the decisions for you.
Living Wills is another one, (also known as ‘The Declaration for Desire of a Natural Death.’ Put those in place so you can say, if I’m terminal, incurable, brain death has occurred and I’m being maintained by a respirator, do I want to continue on that way?
And do I want to put that on my son or daughter or my wife to make that guilt ridden decision, or do I want to make it, and go ahead and put forth my statement of intent.
What about ‘Wills?’ You should have a Will to allow you to pass your property the way you want to pass it, not the way the state of North Carolina has chosen to pass it for you. I guarantee, politicians have already chosen a path for you, and your property. Elect me, and I will choose how everybody in the state chooses to pass their property, how about that? Does that sound good?
HS: No. But they have to do that because there are so many people who die intestate (without a will).
GM: That’s true, it is done for a reason, it’s a good thing.
HS: And nowadays there are second marriages, and step children, things aren’t cut and dried anymore. You’ve got a second husband who is living in the house and you’ve got a daughter whom you wanted to inherit the house. There’s all kinds of situations.
GM: So, avoid surprises.
HS: If you don’t know the questions to ask, we can help you understand the situation and what is going to work best for you.
GM: Those are your foundations. You need to have them in place. Just starting there can be great. Go to our website, mcelderlaw.com, I will post this Deed Planning guide. This is a whole estate planning guide. It will show you how you can use Trusts, and avoid Probate, and how you might want to use Ladybird Deeds or Life Estate Deeds to protect your property and avoid probate. I will post that, and you talk about it with your family.
Talk about eDocs Access which I will post also. It will show you a 5 step process how to use our system. This is a bank level security system. We put all your documents there, and your kids from out of state even, can access them only if you give them permission to do so. If there is an emergency, it allows you to view those documents, even if you are traveling.
I will also put up a Trust guide for you.
Print these off, it will make a good guide to your conversation. Just make your meeting a separate thing, don’t make it a dessert conversation piece. Set a real meeting time, and get on the same page as mom and dad, or your kids. Figure out how to protect all the hard earned money and property your family worked for. Don’t let another Thanksgiving or holiday season go by and gamble everything.
HS: And when we do Wills, there is a personal property memorandum that we give to everyone, where they can start to list things. That would be a good thing to have in your hand for Thanksgiving. People could then say, okay mom, I want you to put it in writing, you promised me that item, and I want you to put it on this list. That could start the conversation.
GM: And remember, you can avoid all the infighting by making some simple decisions. If you add a little money to the family mix, it’s like blood to sharks.
So, make sure to give us call at 704 259 7040, or go to our website and download those documents, and use them.
Make it a great day and Happy Thanksgiving.
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
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