Veterans continue to serve
November 10, 2011
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 proclaimed Nov. 11 as Armistice Day, a day to remember the more than 4 million Americans who served in the trenches of Europe during World War I and the 126,000 servicemembers who lost their lives. In 1954, lawmakers designated Veterans Day as a time to honor American veterans of all wars. This Veterans Day, Americans honor more than 21.8 million military veterans who have served their country, many of whom continue to serve the nation in various ways.
These are three of their stories.
Religion has always been important to Richard Love. As a child, Love followed his father on Sundays as the preacher made rounds to churches near Memphis, Tenn.
"We would get on a train in the early morning, go to one church, get back on the train and go to the next church," Love said. "We wouldn't get back until 10 at night."
Growing up, Love worked to help support his family.
"I went to work at 8 or 9," he said. "I picked and chopped cotton. I worked in a grocery store, in a restaurant, as a delivery boy. … When I was 9 years old, our house burned down and we lived in a shed for two years."
Love knew the military could offer a stable income and at 15, he began the examination process to enter the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
"There weren't too many blacks getting into the academies," Love said. "You had to know a congressman."
Love attended the three-day examination, which took place from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and required numerous cognitive and physical tests.
He never found out if he passed.
During his senior year of high school, Love received an offer from the Army to send him to college. He took it.
"I was 17," he said. "My parents had to sign me in."
Four years into his contract with the Army, Love's mother received a letter from the Navy informing him that he was AWOL since he had never reported for duty at Annapolis.
"I found out I had passed those tests five years after I'd taken them," he said, laughing. Love said that he chose to remain in the Army, serving tours in Vietnam and Okinawa, Japan.
In 1976, Love arrived at Fort Carson where he later retired as a first sergeant.
Love married his fiancee, at Soldiers' Memorial Chapel in 1984.
"I've attended chapel here for 30 years," said Love, who volunteers as the choir director and Sunday School leader. "There have been a lot of changes, but we enjoy the Soldiers. I'm proud to have served my country."
Soldiers, staff and even patients recognize Clara Huff when they see the six-foot-tall American Red Cross volunteer.
"That's one of the things I enjoyed about the military. You meet people and you continue to run into them over the course of your career," Huff said.
"I figure out how I know them based on what they call me: Clara, Ms. Clara, colonel, Col. Huff, Huff."
For more than 40 years, Huff has been caring for patients and supporting hospital staff.
"I came into the Army in August of 1968 during the Vietnam War," said Huff, a native of Belleville, Ill. "The Army was short on nurses and they offered an Army nursing college degree program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (in Washington, D.C.)."
Huff completed the four-year program, working on installations in California, Germany, Hawaii and Texas. The job required Huff to perform tasks outside her training.
"You were the only nurse on duty so you learned a lot," she said. "I did a lot of things that in the current standards for hospitals I'd never be able to do because I wouldn't have the credentials. But back in the 70s and 80s, they needed people, so if you had those skills, they utilized them."
Huff said she worked in neonatal intensive care and intensive care units as well as delivery and emergency rooms.
"I think that's part of why I stayed in," she said. "The Army gave me a lot of new experiences. … I never got bored."
Huff attended the Army-Baylor Graduate Program, earning her master's in health and business administration, completing her residency in the old hospital complex at Fort Carson.
Because of her medical and administrative training, Huff worked as a liaison for several installations, communicating the needs of hospital staff to administration officials.
After being promoted to colonel, Huff's duties included assessing the training and staffing at every military hospital as well as overseeing the management division and finance and accounting departments.
She retired to Colorado Springs in 2002 after more than 30 years of service.
"I love to ski and I like the cold weather," Huff said.
A couple of years into her retirement, Huff said she received a letter from U.S. Army Medical Command asking her to return to work. Huff decided to volunteer with the American Red Cross at Fort Carson, using her years of knowledge to support the Soldiers and staff at Evans Army Community Hospital.
"My focus has always been … to help the nurses and the docs and the people who take care of patients, the resources they need to be able to do their jobs," she said. "Even though I don't do hands-on patient care … I can still provide assistance."
After more than seven years of volunteering with the Red Cross, Huff said she'll continue to volunteer as long as she's having fun.
"I feel at home on a military base," she said. "I'm proud having been in the military. My closest friends are … from my military days."
Knickknacks and souvenirs from Germany, Holland and Belgium line the walls of Richard Pike's living room and kitchen, a testimony to the places he's lived and traveled in his 21-year Army and 23-year government service careers.
"We've been all over," Pike said, listing numerous installations in Europe and the United States.
Pike, originally from Nebraska, was brought to Father Flanagan's Boys' Home when he was 8 years old. After 10 years in the orphanage, Pike enlisted in the Army in 1959, completing basic training with the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Carson.
"My memories of Fort Carson -- I picked up a lot of rocks, especially on Sunday mornings," he said. "A Greyhound bus dropped us off at the edge of town, which was Platte (Avenue) and Circle (Drive). They were dirt roads."
Pike said throughout his eight-week basic training, Cheyenne Mountain and Pikes Peak tempted him.
"I didn't get up there until last year," he said.
After basic training, Pike said he auditioned for the 1st Infantry Band as a French horn player.
"I split my lower lip on the rear side of an M1 rifle during basic, I lost all my musical talent," he said, laughing. "In other words, I did not pass the audition. So they sent me to Fort Knox, Ky., for clerical school."
Pike spent the next 20 years as an Army clerk, deploying to Vietnam and rotating duty stations throughout the United States and Europe. He retired from the Army in 1980, working in government service positions in several countries including England, Germany and the U.S., until 2003.
He returned to Colorado Springs in 2008, along with his wife, Martha Pike.
"We kept visiting here. We like the weather and the mountains," he said.
Although he's been retired for eight years, Richard Pike continues to support fellow Soldiers and veterans through the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal, Catholic organization dedicated to charitable causes. A fourth-degree knight and Colorado state coordinator for veterans volunteer services, Richard Pike helps place volunteers in Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics throughout Colorado.
Richard Pike said he is also an avid metal detectorist, gold prospector and fly fisherman.
"I just applied for a job as a background investigator," the 70-year-old said. "I got to keep in shape."
This Veterans Day, the Pikes said they would enjoy the parades and perks around Colorado Springs.
"We appreciate all the businesses giving military discounts," Richard Pike said. "We support the community and we work hand in hand."
Martha Pike said watching the community honor her husband and other veterans made
her feel great.
"I'm proud of him," she said.
"I'm nothing special," Richard Pike said. "I'm just another Soldier."