Chester Neel of Anderson recently shared memories from his service in the Army.
He grew up in a small town called Memphis, Texas. He was drafted twice before voluntarily joining the Army. The first time he was drafted, he was in college at Gateway College in St. Louis and he got a deferment. The second time, the night before he was supposed to report for duty, he was riding a horse and it threw him, breaking his back. He was excused from duty. A year later, he joined voluntarily.
"I wanted to go into the Army," he said. "Vietnam was just winding down when I joined, so I'm considered a Vietnam era vet."
He reported to Fort Polk, La., for basic training and then to administrative school at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. He became a personnel administrator in finance. Then he was sent to Fort Sill, Okla., where he cross-trained as an MP. He was stationed with his brother at Fort Sill, and his brother was his supervisor, he said. He worked there for almost a year.
Next, he was sent to Germany, where he went back to being a personnel administrator in finance for 18 months. When he finished his tour of duty there, he came back to Texas and joined the reserves. He was with the 829th field hospital.
"Before I joined the Army I was a med tech and an X-ray tech, so they immediately promoted me and I worked in that field," he said.
He worked with the field hospital for a short time.
Then he moved to Arkansas and had the opportunity to be a drill instructor out of Fort Smith. It was his last duty assignment, and he was a drill instructor for 17 years.
"I loved it," he said. "I was promoted again to be the first sergeant of that company with the 95th training command."
Finally, he retired as an E7 acting first sergeant with 20 years.
He had another job while in the reserves, as a med tech and an X-ray tech. He worked 10 years at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science and then at Springdale Hospital, which is now Northwest. Then he retired for health reasons.
He moved to Anderson in 1999. He has his own natural health practice, which focuses on herbs and vitamins and healthcare the natural way. He serves on the Anderson City Council and the Southwest Missouri Board of Economic Security.
"I stay busy in the community," he said. "Anderson is the best place in the world to live. I love the people in southwest Missouri. There's no place I'd rather be than right here."
He is a member of the American Legion Post 392 and loves working with the honors team for funerals, he said.
"It gives some closure to the family," he said. "I play the bugle, fire the rifle and whatever else they need me to do."
He has a pin on his Army cap that says "Soldier for life."
"That's what I'm most proud of," he said. "Doing these funerals -- even though you're retired, you're still serving."
General News on 01/10/2019
Print Headline: Veteran Shares Memories From Military Service