By Cristelle Tejes
Chuck McGee served in the Navy for 27 years. He served on the Kitty Hawk from 1964 to 1968. He returned in 1970 and served in the reserve program until he retired in May of 1993.
McGee’s plan was to finished high school and enlist as soon as possible. He enlisted so he was not drafted. After he retired from the Navy he wanted to go to college, but he never got the chance.
McGee graduated from Wichita East High School in the summer of 1964. He spent his summer working as a caddy at the local golf course. Before he enlisted in the Navy he participated in many sports. He loved playing baseball, basketball, tennis, football, golf, and even bowling.
McGee said, “My most memorable moment serving in the Navy was a fire in the engine room aboard the Kitty Hawk. It was a complete disaster. I lost one of my good friends that day. He died six months before he was getting released from the Navy.”
McGee said that his best memory was meeting the Japanese and Filipino people. He was surprised how nice they were after WWII and the bombings. The Japanese treated him with respect.
McGee said he went into the Navy a boy and came out as a man. His philosophy was totally different from the time he entered the Navy to when he left. “I told my parents that I was going to Vietnam. My dad was proud of me, and my mother, as all mothers would be, was skeptical. My decision to leave had a bigger impact on me than my family,” said McGee.
After McGee retired from the Navy he worked as a bus driver in Wichita, Dallas, and Oklahoma City. He retired from driving buses because he had a heart attack.
McGee married his high school sweetheart when he returned from the Navy. They were married for a few years before getting a divorce. He got married for a second time and they were married for 19 years. They had five children. He also has 18 grandchildren. He loves those kids with all his heart. “They are my bread and butter,” said McGee.
If McGee could go back to any place he was stationed, he would travel back to Japan.
He still keeps in touch with his high school friend. They were on different ships but met up in the Philippines. His friend lives in Denver and they keep in touch all the time.
McGee is proud to be a veteran. His dad and his granddad are veterans as well, but Veterans Day does not hold a lot of significance to him. Veterans are treated with a lot of respect that McGee was not given when he first came back from Vietnam.
If McGee could live anywhere, it would be back in Honolulu. “It is a beautiful place,” said McGee. He loves being retired from the military because he gets to fly free.
McGee moved into the Kansas Veterans Home five or six years ago. He is a student at Wichita State University, where he is learning creative writing and how to speak Spanish. McGee said “I love to write, I am in the process of writing my memoir for my grandchildren.”
Cristelle Tejes is a sophomore majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at email@example.com.