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Toledo Serves: Kenneth Collins

In honor of Veterans Day, meet some local veterans.

Name: Kenneth Collins

Branch: Army

Years Served: Two years, 1954-1956

Where Served: Oahu, Hawaii

Status: Non-active/peacetime

Tell me about your service:

I started in the reserves, where you are at home and you meet a couple times a week. I was on active duty starting July of 1954, for two years ending in 1956. In the 25th Infantry division. Hawaii is their home base – most army bases have their own home base.

How did you choose your branch of service?

Originally I did the Navy reserves, and I didn’t care too much for the Navy. I went through Navy training and went on an ocean cruise for a couple of weeks to Havana, Cuba. That was back in 1953. The Korean war was going on then. I decided I wanted to go into the Army reserves, so I got a discharge from the Navy and then I went into the Army reserves and did that for a while. When I graduated from high school, I went into active duty for a few years. 

What were some of the reasons that you joined the military?

I really didn’t have anything else I was planning to do at that time – I wasn’t planning on going to college. I was young and I felt like doing it. Ne and another fellow who lived down the street from me, we decided to do it. The draft was going on back then, so we decided to go in and get our time served. Most guys were drafted – they weren’t volunteer. 

What was basic training like?

I did my training in Fort Knox, Kentucky. They teach you different things about what you do in the service, like how to fire weapons and how to do other things that all military men go through when they enlist. It’s hard to explain exactly. I served in the tanks, in the infantry division.

Was the experience different than you expected?

No, it was about what I expected. At first you think it’s rough, but once you get in and get established into a regular outfit and out of the training stage, things are a little different. You have a job to do and you do your job. You meet a lot of nice guys that you get to be buddies with and it makes things a little bit easier., You get used to it – it’s a different way of life, but I didn’t mind it one bit. 

How did you stay in touch with family and friends back home?

I didn’t keep much contact at home. I would maybe write a letter once a month or every other month, but I wasn’t big on that. I had five brothers and sisters, there were six of us, and we all did our own thing more or less. But I would send a letter to my mother once in a while and touch base with her. 

Your father was also a veteran and was awarded a Purple Heart. What did it mean to you to follow in his footsteps in the military? 

I was about seven or eight years old about that time when he was in the military. My dad died quite young, he was 46 when he died, and I never had too much with my father. He worked and when I went into the military and got out, he died. But back in those days, a lot of guys I knew went into the military after high school, but we were in between wars, so it was different (from my father’s service).

Tell me about the men in your unit. Any that you remember fondly?

You meet a lot of nice guys. They’re all pretty much your age, most of the guys in the service are 18 to 20 years old, and a few drafted when they were 26 or 27 years old. In my platoon I even had a couple of Japanese fellows who lived on the island and watched Pearl Harbor being bombed from rooftops. 

When did you leave the military? What was that process like?

Kenneth Collins on his birthday.

Well my enlistment was up. You go in for so long and when that time comes, you’re out. While you’re in there you have a job to do, you train, you do it everyday and then that’s it.

How do you think your time in the military affected you?

I enjoyed being in the military. Being in peacetime I didn’t get shot at or anything, but the experience of meeting other people and seeing how other people lived, you learn a lot of things. I think it helps you in the rest of your life with how you live.

What’s something you want people to know about veterans?

There’s a lot of veterans out there and a lot of guys who never come back. Veterans are important guys in this world and they should be treated with respect, I think. A lot of guys got wounded and are in bad shape, and sometimes I don’t think they get what they deserve. Lots of veterans appear to be taken care of, but they can’t get too much care as far as I’m concerned.

Any advice for young people considering joining the service?

I think the military is good in one way, it helps you get a good idea of what life is really like. It helps a young person grow up. You learn discipline and respect for other people when you’re in the service.

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