FREDERICKTOWN — Now a resident of Fredericktown, Robert “Bob” Vernon, 78, spent his entire adult life in service to others. A U.S. Navy veteran, Vernon also served as an educator in Knox County and remains active in various veteran service organizations. That ability to serve others is one of the benefits Vernon appreciates most from his time in the Navy, he said.
At the age of 17, Vernon, a junior at Mount Vernon High School, left school in 1951 to enlist in the Navy during the Korean conflict.“I don’t know how the idea of getting in the Navy came about,” he said, “except I knew I didn’t want to join the Army. My oldest brother served in the Army for several years. I really thought about going into the Air Force because I liked their uniforms. Somehow I ended up in the Navy.” Calling himself a land-locked sailor, Vernon said his only experience at sea was on a troop ship when he was deployed after aviation mechanics school to a fleet air squadron based in Atsugi, Japan. Although he did visit Tokyo, Vernon did not do much traveling while in Japan. He also had limited contact with the people there.“We were still the occupying forces,” he explained, “so it was a totally different atmosphere. It was a little nerve-wracking. They didn’t particularly like us being there to start with, then to be there as ‘superiors,’ so to speak, obviously it didn’t go over too well.”In Atsugi, Vernon was a clerk in the operations office, then worked in the dispensary as what is called a “striker” for the hospital corps. He was also getting prerequisite training working inside the dispensary preparatory to going to the hospital corps school. After a year in Japan, Vernon returned to the states and attended the hospital corpsman school in San Diego, Calif., and served at Corona (Calif.) Naval Hospital.While at Corona Naval Hospital, Vernon’s four years were up, so he was discharged. He was only a civilian for about 85 days. “There wasn’t much of a job market,” he said, “so I ended up re-enlisting in the Navy and stayed another six years.”Having completed hospital corpsman training, Vernon was stationed in Naples, Italy, with the job of taking care of patients. “I was glad I had the training to be helpful to those patients,” he said. Vernon said his time in Italy was more pleasant than his time in Japan. The people were friendlier, and he got to do some traveling.“I got to travel to Rome and see the cathedral there,” he said. “I visited Palermo and other places. That was neat.”During his second enlistment, Vernon met and married his wife Nola, who accompanied him when he served at Quantico, Va., and Annapolis, Md. Most of his second time around was served in an administrative capacity in places such as Annapolis, but when he was transferred to the naval hospital on Guam (1960-61) he was in charge of the laundry room.
Vernon was honorably discharged from the Navy in June of 1961. Having earned his General Educational Development diploma while in the Navy, Vernon attended Ohio State University after his discharge and received a masters degree in education. He taught distributive education in West Lafayette High school his first year, then was an instructor at Clear Fork High School before moving to the Knox County Joint Vocational School (currently the Knox County Career Center). He was subsequently promoted to director of adult education at KCJVS and served in that capacity for about 20 years. Vernon also served on Fredericktown’s emergency squad for 10 years and was a member of the Knox County draft board for a time.Vernon’s life of service continues to this day. Besides being a member of the Exchange Club of Mount Vernon/Knox County, he is a Veteran Services Commissioner and member of the Knox County Joint Veterans Council which performs as honor guard for military funerals in Knox County. He is presently commander of the American Legion Post 500 and also belongs to Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 7671, Fredericktown. As such, he participates in Memorial Day events and Veterans Day activities.“Days like Veterans Day are essential to keep the knowledge of what veterans have done for this country, the sacrifices they’ve made to defend the democracy of our country and maintain our freedom. And to help our allies who need help from time to time,” said Vernon. “I think that people need to recognize what veterans do for them, what they have done for them, and to show veterans a certain amount of respect. After all, they are the ones who defend our country and try to keep terrorism away from us.” Vernon thinks it is important to teach today’s youth about patriotism. “We need to teach them about the purpose and goal of having a military force and reinforce the positive aspects of having armed forces,” he added. “I think we came out of Vietnam with a bad reputation and I think people remember that. Those veterans from that era never got the recognition they should have. After all, they were ordered to be there. They didn’t go over there on their own.”Vernon would recommend that young people look into the military as a career.“It offers a lot of opportunities for a lot of the young people,” he said. “There are a lot of different choices of careers and training, and I think it’s a good way to learn discipline and a healthy respect for our country.”
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