Veterans take many paths in their civilian lives, but most agree their military experience had a significant influence on their lives.
James Long completed a single two-year enlistment in the service more than 40 years ago but says he still benefits from the experience.
Raised in the Collinsville area, Long enlisted in the Air Force on his 17th birthday.
“My brother was nine years older than me and had served in Vietnam,” he says. “He was a role model for me.”
Long trained at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and spent his time in the service at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The base was a missile site and at that time had the most missile power of any U.S. base.
During his time in the service, he embarked on a road trip with a fellow serviceman while they were on a 30-day leave from the base.
“We traveled all over the country,” he says.
Long says as a result of that trip, he can say he has been in every state except Alaska and Hawaii.
Honorably discharged in 1973 at the rank of airman first class, Long went to school at Belleville Area College and completed his associate of science degree in business. His adult career has been spent in management positions with numerous companies.
He worked for Kmart for nine years immediately after college. Following that, he worked at a number of other companies, always eventually arriving at management positions.
“I always put in a lot of hours and worked my way from the bottom up wherever I was,” he says. “When I had learned everything I could at one company, I would move on to the next.”
Long says his military experience taught him the value of respecting other individuals. He says it also taught him it does not matter what color a person’s skin is.
“Everyone is on the same team,” he says. “Everyone is wearing the same uniform. The color of their skin does not matter.”
It is a lesson he says holds true for life in general.
He starts a new job in February and credits the Veterans Assistance Commission in Edwardsville with helping him find the job. “The company I was working for closed down in August,” he says. “The Veterans Assistance Commission was able to help me find employment opportunities.”
He points out this assistance is another example of his military service benefiting him even to this day.
Long and his wife, Darlene, have been married 43 years. They have three children and seven grandchildren. His free-time activities include a great interest in baseball and he is teaching his grandson to play the sport. He smiles as he jests that he and his wife are expecting a new grandchild and that he hopes it’s a boy so he can play baseball with him.
Military service consistently shapes the character and attitudes of those who experience it. James Long’s lessons from his time in the service have helped him throughout his life and his status as a veteran continues to benefit his life today.
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