Bob Lewis served as a medic and clerk typist during his 17 months and 20 days with the military. After that time, he went to night school and became a court reporter in Columbus, Mo. (Leslie Bowdich/Special to The Collegian)

By Spencer Pullen
Staff reporter

Some people join the military because they want to serve their country. Others join as a way out of their environment. Some may join because there is no other route for them to choose. For veteran Bob Lewis it was to get away from his mother.

Lewis was the youngest of four boys. His oldest brother was 12 when he was born. Lewis’ was a bit possessive, wanting to keep her youngest child at home. Lewis graduated from high school in 1949 then went to work in a shoe factory in his hometown Mexico, Mo.

“The service helped free me from my mother.  She would have never let me leave if it was not for the service,” said Lewis.

While working at the shoe factory, Lewis determined that he was going to join the Military International Guard, technically the Air Force. Since the onset of the Korean War, troops were already on active duty status. Lewis initially was going to enlist for four years of service. He showed up late the morning he enlisted.  Eventually Lewis enlisted and ended up serving for 17 months and 20 days, which he calls lucky.

The transition from high school to military life was a big adjustment for Lewis. He was away from home and was under strict supervision. First Lewis was stationed in Austin, Texas, and then was transferred to the old World War II barracks in Victorville, Calif. by the Mojave Desert. “It wasn’t unusual to wake up with sand in your blanket,” said Lewis.

On weekends Lewis went with a couple of his buddies from the Nevada National Guard back to Reno, Nev. to gamble and enjoy that scenery since it was new to him.

When Lewis joined the service, he did not have any intentions to shoot at people or get shot at. He was stationed in the medical unit on his post. When he was not doing that, he was a clerk typist and maintained the personnel records of the enlisted people in a noncombat zone. Lewis finished as a Buck Sergeant in the Air Force. He went in, did his job, followed the rules and regulations the military established and came home. Lewis worked on wounded patients and worked to the best of his ability.
After Lewis was discharged in 1951, he went to night school to become a court reporter. In the meantime he went back to work in the shoe factory and became head office manager of a shoe factory plant in Topeka.

On July 18, 1954 he and his wife Joy got married and have been together for almost 60 years. Eventually he quit and became a court reporter in Columbus. Subsequently the shoe factory went out of business. In 1968 Lewis and his wife moved to Winfield. Three years ago Lewis suffered a stroke and he was placed in the Veterans home and his wife still visits him.

Due to the limited service Lewis had, he does not consider himself a veteran. “I think Veterans Day should be celebrated, but I think you should be qualified to celebrate it and I don’t think I’m qualified,” said Lewis. He could not even fathom the thought of being shot at.

He has known people personally who were and are veterans who have been in combat. Lewis looked at the military more as an easy way out of his life back home. He said he has a guilty conscience even being in the Veterans Home in which he never envisioned himself.

Lewis will be turning 80 shortly. He and his wife had two sons, five grandchildren and a great granddaughter.

Spencer Pullen is a freshman majoring in new media. You may e-mail him at spencer.pullen@sckans.edu.