What this Korean War veteran does have, however, is a storage unit, a mobile home, kids scattered across the United States and the desire to visit all four of them.
Born and raised in Knoxville, Beeler spent Saturday morning in the first Veterans Day parade that Johnson City has had in decades, posted up in a vehicle identical to the ones he rode in overseas. This 85-year-old reminisced briefly after the parade about his time in the service, first in the Army beginning in 1949, and then in the Air Force.
Q: Why did you join the military?
A: Well, I went in when I was real young. I went in when I was 17 and I just wanted to, you know, get in. That was the thing to do. I joined the reserve to beat the draft and they activated the reserve so I went in anyway. Then I got out and stayed out 10 years then I went back in. Instead of going back into the Army I went back in to the Air Force. And I spent 14 (years) in the Army and 17 in the Air Force. So I got my pick of which one I wanted to retire from.
Q: What was your job?
A: In the Army I was in the infantry medics, so I was in the medical field most of the time. Then went I went into the Air Force I was in the hospitals.
Q: What do you do now that you’re retired?
A: Well, I’ve got a motor home now. I’m going to travel around and see my kids. I’ve got one here, I’ve got one in Arizona, I’ve got one in upstate New York I’ve got another in Florida so .... That’s what I’m doing mostly now. Somebody said ‘Why dont you get a job?’ and I said well I’d knock somebody else out of it if I get a job. And it costs me to go to work, so ...
Q: How did being in the military effect your life?
A: It just made me a better person I guess. And I’ve always enjoyed it as much as possible. I’ve been everywhere.
Q: What’s your most memorable moment from your time in the service?
A: I guess the first time I hit Hawaii in 1955 when there were just two hotels: one civilian and one for the Army. That all that was there.
Q: Have you been back?
A: I went back in ’85 and what a difference. They had one little two-lane road in ’55 and they had 6-lane roads in ’85. And wall-to-wall hotels. I had to drive a short way off the two-lane road to get to Waikiki beach and when I went back in ’85 to the hotel I stepped out of the hotel into the water on Waikiki beach, so that’s the difference.
Q: If you could do it over again is there anything you would do differently?
A: I don’t think I would. You know, I’ve made it enjoyable. I’ve been to places like Alaska and Hawaii and all over Europe. France, Germany, Switzerland. ... I even got to visit the Girl Scout Chalet in Switzerland and a male has to get permission to go there. You know, It’s been a pretty good life. I made the best of a bad situation.
Q: So where are you going now?
A: Wherever the motor home takes me!