Army Vet­eran Worked His Whole Life

McDonald County Press - - VETERANS DAY - Rachel Dick­er­son McDon­ald County Press rdick­er­son@nwadg.com

John Washam’s first job was a pa­per route when he was 9 years old.

The Noel res­i­dent worked his whole life un­til re­tir­ing four years ago at the age of 73. He grew up in Mount Ver­non, Mo., one of seven chil­dren. In high school, he was a dish­washer and a short-or­der cook at a restau­rant. He grad­u­ated from high school in 1959 and joined the Army.

“Back then, they didn’t have train­ing schools you could go to. My brother and brother-in-law were in the Army,” he said.

Washam said he could not find a job. He hauled hay and worked in a sawmill, but he wanted a ca­reer. He said he fig­ured if he didn’t sign up with the Army, he would get drafted, and draftees got sent to Viet­nam. Some reg­u­lar Army mem­bers avoided Viet­nam, he said.

“I didn’t want to be drafted. I talked to my brother-in-law, and he said, ‘What­ever you do, don’t be drafted be­cause you’re go­ing to get the worst jobs in the ser­vice.’”

Washam joined the Army in Au­gust 1959. He went to Fort Leonard Wood for ba­sic train­ing and then was sent to Ger­many in June 1960, where he was a heavy equip­ment me­chanic. While he was there, he said, the wall be­tween East and West Ber­lin started go­ing up. He said the Army was on alert to go to West Ber­lin and stop the con­struc­tion, but the U.S. de­cided to let it pro­ceed, so they called off the alert. He left Ger­many in Au­gust 1962.

When he got home, he worked for the state of Mis­souri build­ing Interstate 44. He tested con­crete on bridges and cul­verts, he said.

In 1966 he went to Baker Vo-Tech to be­come a ma­chin­ist. He then went to work for Vick­ers Inc. as a ma­chin­ist un­til 1975. He worked for Si­b­ley Engi­neer­ing, but he didn’t make as much money, so he joined the Mis­souri Na­tional Guard. He was in Com­pany D 203rd Engineers and ran heavy equip­ment. He worked on an airstrip in Min­nesota and Louisiana, went to Panama and Hon­duras and built roads, worked on an airstrip at Camp Crow­der, went to Ma­con and re­built a dam and built ball fields all around Jo­plin. He re­tired in 1992.

He went back to work for Si­b­ley Engi­neer­ing un­til 1998, then worked for the McDon­ald County School District as a cus­to­dian at Noel Pri­mary School un­til 2013.

“By then I was 73, so I just com­pletely re­tired,” he said.

Now he en­joys fish­ing and help­ing his neigh­bors. He re­cently put brakes on a neigh­bor’s pickup truck and has been known to work on his neigh­bors’ lawn mow­ers.

He has four chil­dren: Deann Tomp­kins of An­der­son, John Eric Washam of An­der­son, Mark Washam of An­der­son and Ali­cia Jor­dan of Lana­gan, as well as a nephew he raised, Tony Roberts of Buf­falo. He also has sev­eral grand­chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren.

RACHEL DICK­ER­SON/MCDON­ALD COUNTY PRESS

John Washam of Noel served in the Army from 1959 to 1962. He worked from the time he was 9 years old un­til his re­tire­ment at age 73.

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