Today’s veteran: Tom Crankshaw, 83
Service: Army National Guard 2 years; U.S. Army 2 years, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve 37 1/2 years
Duties: Payroll/radio signal supply; storekeeper
Rank: Chief petty officer
Recognitions: Coast Guard Reserve Good Conduct Medal: Meritorious Service Medal; Army Unit Commendation Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Coast Guard Reserve Unit Commendation Medal; Expert Pistol Badge; Expert M1 Rifle Badge
Duty stations: Japan; Mayport, Fla.; Savannah Port Authority; Miami; Charleston, S.C.; Yorktown, Va.; St. Simons Island
His story: Tom Crankshaw enlisted in the Army National Guard as a junior in high school at the urging of his older brother. He didn’t need much encouragement.
“Back then, it was the only way I could make any money,” he said.
He took a two-week basic training course for reservists during summer vacation between his junior and senior years. After graduation, he volunteered for the draft and joined the Army.
Crankshaw had a deceased grandfather who retired as a brigadier general, but his motivation to enlist in the Army had more to do with his plans after military service.
“I wanted the G.I. Bill,” he said. “I was from a single-parent family that couldn’t afford to send me to college.”
He had taken typing classes in high school and served in pay and supply in the Army National Guard. The Army decided Crankshaw would receive more training and serve in a similar capacity. He said the training was not redundant to what he had already learned.
After graduation from advanced training at Fort Gordon, he was in Seattle, Wash. by 9 p.m. that same day. A week later, he was among 3,500 soldiers to take a 16-day voyage to his new duty station in Japan.
The voyage was a miserable experience, with Crankshaw confined to his bed for 14 days because of seasickness. He lost 15 pounds during the voyage.
Two weeks after he arrived in Japan, the Korean War ended, meaning he was no longer responsible for sending supplies to the Korean army.
During the 21 months he spent in Japan, Crankshaw said he had an opportunity to tour much of the nation and learned the Japanese language well enough to hold rudimentary conversations with the local residents.
“It was a terrific opportunity to see the Oriental world,” he said.
He returned to the United States after his tour of duty and had a commitment to serve another two years in the Army Reserve before he was released from service.
He got married and went to college while he was in the Army Reserve, but he decided to join the Coast Guard Reserve before his two-year commitment to the Army Reserve ended.
He never planned to spend more than 37 years with the Coast Guard Reserve, but the duties and promotions in rank convinced him to sign up for another four years each time he was ready to leave.
“Every time I thought about getting out, my wife would tell me we needed the money,” he said.
The only time he was called to active duty was in response to a port accident in Charleston, S.C.
Another reason he kept re-enlisting was he liked the duty stations where he trained for two weeks each year.
“I took my wife and kids with me,” he said.
When it became time to leave the service, it wasn’t Crankshaw’s decision. At the time of his release, Crankshaw said he had served more time in the Coast Guard Reserve than anyone at the time.
“They said you’re 60 years old now and that’s it,” he said.
Crankshaw said his time in the military enabled him to earn three college degrees and be active in a prison ministry the past three decades.
“I felt it was my obligation to serve my country,” he said. “I don’t think th general public knows how much the Reserves do to protect the United States.”
Our Veterans runs Wednesdays. Contact Gordon Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or at 912-464-7655 to suggest a veteran for a column.