'Meet a Vet' from American Legion Post 14 Vallarta

J. R. Wilson - American Legion Post 14
July 31, 2016


Name: James Robert Wilson; Birth date: 5/15/1947; Hometown: Waterloo, Iowa
 
Current location of your home in MX: Los Arboles, Bucerias, Nayarit; Are you a Full-Timer in Mexico? Yes; How many years in Mexico? 6 full time (2005-2008 and 2013-present); Why are you living in Mexico? Warm weather, the ocean view, palm trees, pleasant people, and a laid back lifestyle.
 
Where did you attend School? High School in Waterloo, IA; College - Iowa State, Wright State (Dayton, OH), Univ. of Nebraska at Omaha, Los Angeles City College,Long Beach City College (A.A.) Degree, and University of Northern Iowa (where I FINALLY graduated - after 15 years of college off and on).
 
Spouse name and years married. Kathy. Married for 12 years.
 
Branch of the Service: USAF; Dates of Service: 1967-1975 (active)…  Stationed at Amarillo AFB, Offutt AFB (Omaha, NE), Pleiku, Vietnam AB, Wright-Patterson AFB (Dayton, OH), and NakhonPhanom, Thailand AB;  Specialty in the Service: Air Intelligence. Tracking Russian ICBM missile sites at Offutt, Briefing & Debriefing A-1 Skyraider Pilots in Vietnam, Teaching Computerized retrieval at Wright-Pat, and overseeing Voice Intercept Intelligence during the Cambodian conflict while in Thailand.
 
Favorite war story: When I arrived in Pleiku, Vietnam (March 1969) everyone was wearing flak jackets and helmets - which seemed pretty normal… I asked about the current situation and I was told by several people that the base had been pounded by rockets for days and days. Well, nothing happened that day or night or the next or for the next month - and I was really wondering what was going on. I asked how to tell if a rocket was coming and the answer was "You'll know".  Right around the 31st day in-country a rocket came in and flew right over our hootch (barracks) in the middle of the night! It woke me AS it went over and I sure as hell knew what it was. I was the second guy out of the building with another 40 behind me. The bunker we went to was dark, wet, and stinky and I felt the presence of countless spiders, snakes and whatever else - it was the LAST time I ever went into that thing - from then on I just pulled the covers over my head and hoped and prayed we didn't get a direct hit. I figured staying in bed was safer than sitting in the dark with the spiders and snakes.
 
American Legion: Have you been a member of any other Post? If so, where? Yes, Waterloo, IA - but never attended a meeting. I was always gone. What positions have you held in the Legion? Historian and Adjutant
 
Career:  I'm retired from John Deere Company - where I held many positions, from Security Guard to Supervisor in the Tractor Factory in Waterloo, IA, to Area Parts Manager in Nebraska and Iowa, to Territory Manager in Missouri and Kansas, to Trainer in Wichita, to Senior Trainer in Washington State - where I travelled all over the U. S. and Canada training John Deere Dealership personnel - mostly on Customer Service related subjects. Retired in 2005 after 30 years. I continued to work for Deere on and off - on a contingency basis for another 7 years or so.

Any words of wisdom for fellow Legionnaires. Make a Difference; Be Kind to your Fellow Man: and Be Optimistic.

Hobbies or interests: I hold a Commercial Pilot's license for Lighter-Than-Air aircraft. That means I'm a hot air balloon pilot. I've owned two of my own balloons, plus flew multiple balloons for RE/MAX Realty in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. (I once landed in Tom Watson's front yard outside of Kansas City). I've got over 800 hours as PIC (Pilot-in-Command) in hot air balloons during my 20+ years of flying and have flown in a dozen states and traveled to and flown in the "Big One" - the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for 10 straight years - even becoming an official pilot for the event - flying VIPs. I've got a lot of ballooning stories… Since ballooning is nearly impossible here (although I have flown over PV with someone else in a balloon) I sold my balloon a few years ago to my crew chief in Albuquerque. These days I help my wife with her jewelry making and also make a little jewelry on my own.

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