James Gutshall considers himself among the fortunate.
At 18, he and a friend from Ooltewah, David Smith, decided to volunteer.
"We had nothing else to do," said Gutshall, whose mother didn't believe he'd follow through.
He did, and within a week he was off to basic training.
When he joined the U.S. Army, he was sent to the U.S. Occupation Zone of West Germany and Austria to serve in the U.S. Constabulary. A U.S. Army military occupation and security force, the Constabulary patrolled the 40,000-square-mile zone — home to 16 million Germans — as well as its 1,400 miles of international and interzonal borders, in the aftermath of World War II between 1946-1952.
From 1950-52, Gutshall was stationed 36 months in Bad Kissingen, a tourist town in the Bavarian region. He attended radio and tank school in the Noncommissioned Officer Academy in Munich, Germany. A sergeant in the Constabulary, Gutshall was assigned to military police duty and border patrol.
"I was in at a good time," he said. "The only combat I saw was in the bar joints when I had to separate the guys over some girl."
Name: James Gutshall
Branch of military: U.S. Army
Years of service: 1950-1952
But timing wasn't Gutshall's only stroke of good luck. His time in the military coincided with the Korean War, which ran from 1950-53. After completing basic training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, he and his fellow trainees were separated according to the first letters of their last names. Names beginning with A-H were sent to Germany, and I-Z were sent to Korea.
While others fought in Korea, he traveled twice to Paris, and also to Belgium. When wearing his uniform, he could travel for free to anywhere in Germany or West Germany.
Even if he had been in conflict, Gutshall said, he wouldn't change his decision to join the military.
"I highly recommend the military," Gutshall said. "Where else can you go at 18, 19, and get free clothing, food, travel, 30 days vacation and free medical? Your chances of getting killed are a whole lot better here."
Contact Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.