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They're truly some of our favorites. Up next, a story from Brent Timmons. Today he shares with us a story entitled Balance.
Take it away, Brent. Asher had left on his motorcycle for work at his summer job. He had just graduated and needed to make a quick stop at his high school to drop off his borrowed laptop and calculus calculator.
Thirty minutes later, my wife answers the phone. The information she was given was brief. Asher had had a motorcycle accident in front of the school. They thought it would be okay, but the ambulance was coming and may end up taking him to the hospital.
That was about the extent of the information. Both of us quickly thought the worst, like he had collided with another vehicle when either turning into the school or coming out. The wording, thought he would be okay, registered in my mind as non-life-threatening injuries.
Where would they take him, was the first question out of my mouth. Tina called the school right back and was told it would be Nanticoke. We wondered how we would know whether to go to the school or to head directly to the hospital. This state lasted about three minutes.
I wouldn't call it hysteria. It was more like a laser focus on how we were going to get to where our son was. Then Asher called. He said he was okay, described the situation and told us we just needed to come get him and his bike. We know our son well enough that this immediately put us at ease.
I hooked up the trailer and we hit it off. It was a relatively minor event. Asher was slowly turning into the drive of the school. They actually caught it on camera and he hit a small patch of sand on the asphalt. The rear end slipped out in a heartbeat and he ended up on the ground under the bike. The school staff was fabulous. They rushed to his aid immediately and watched over him in the nurse's office as he gathered his wits and the shaking from the adrenaline wore off.
He had some scrapes, the bike had some scrapes, but overall he and his bike would be fine. This is one of those things. One of those things that remind us how quickly something can happen which could alter the future. It's one of those things that remind us to appreciate every moment. One of those things that changes us. One of those things we are thankful for because of the lessons learned. Motorcycle riding is by nature much riskier than riding in a car or truck.
If you look at the statistics, it's, well, you don't even want to know. It's a choice made with a known risk. We let our boys make that choice with that risk.
I ride myself. Why would we do that? Would we rather our boys didn't engage in such an activity?
It isn't that simple. A life lived without any risk is, well, it's not really living at all, is it? We take a risk when we choose a college major in the face of uncertainty.
We take a risk in participating in a sport when we may possibly be embarrassed by poor performance. We take a risk in choosing a life partner. We take a risk in changing jobs. We take a risk in buying a home and committing to pay a mortgage for the next 30 years. A life without any risk is a life of not moving forward.
It's not really life at all. Of course, there are ways to reduce risk and we do those things and with a passion. At some point, there is a balancing of the passion to live and the passion to walk in caution and wisdom. And that's really part of the secret of life.
People choose different ways to go about it. Maybe you lean on your faith in God or maybe you lean on your faith in yourself. Personally, I've been disappointed in my own strength way too many times. At the risk of making you feel like I've tricked you into a discussion about God, I'll share this. After we decide whether there is a God or not and who that God is, comes what I'd say is one of the most prevalent debates about faith.
What does God do and what do I do? People fall all over the spectrum on this. It would take me volumes to try to communicate where I've landed personally.
And honestly, who really cares what I've concluded? I'll just say this. I want my boys to walk in wisdom, to not be averse to taking a risk and to trust God in the midst of doing that. Take a risk, ride safe and live well. Take a risk, ride safe and live well. Wisdom in all of those words. A special thanks to Monty Montgomery on the production of that piece. And to Brent Timmons for a short but profound story with some real, real life implications as it relates to all of us and our lives.
And we'd love to hear stories from you about this space. We spend a lot of time talking about risk and risk taking. Our entrepreneur stories are nothing but risk stories. A lot of people think entrepreneurs love risk, but that's not quite right. What we've learned is that they love to manage risk and that a life without risk is not worth living.
And so they manage risk better than most of us and live within the space of risk and real traumatic risk because it's how they're hardwired. You can't make an entrepreneur any more than you can make someone ride a motorcycle. It's risky business riding a motorcycle. I've done it for many years of my life. Gave it up when I had kids.
So I made a very different decision about risk than this family did about, for instance, riding a motorcycle. Then your risk stories, your failure stories, because we love both of those. And what you learn from failure to OurAmericanStories.com, that's OurAmericanStories.com.
Brent Timmons Story, who listens to us in Connecticut on Spotify, of all places, here on Our American Story. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of seventeen dollars and seventy six cents is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to OurAmericanStories.com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.
That's OurAmericanStories.com. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year, and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October fifteenth through December seventh. If you're working past age sixty five, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCMedicareHealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners, too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.
Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we continue here with our American stories and we love bringing you stories of family businesses. Today, we bring you the story of a company who recently celebrated their 190th anniversary with four members of the sixth generation in leadership roles, and it just happens to be America's oldest brewery, Yingling. Here's Jennifer Yingling. Jennifer Yingling, I'm a sixth generation family member of America's oldest brewery.
I have three sisters and the four of us comprise the sixth generation of Yingling's. So our dad, Richard Yingling, fifth generation current owner and president, has essentially been at the helm now for over 30 years, since 1985. We were founded in 1829 by my great great great grandfather. He emigrated from Germany, came over here, and we've learned that he was the youngest of his siblings and his father was a brewer in Germany. David G. Yingling realized that he would not have an opportunity to own and run the family business over there, so he decided to come to America and settled here in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
At the time, anthracite coal was becoming quite popular, so were lots of thirsty coal miners coming home from work every day. So he built his brewery in downtown Pottsville. It was actually down on Center Street, where our city hall now stands. So he built that in 1829 and was destroyed by a fire.
So in 1831, he relocated over to the present site where we are now at 5th and McIntong streets. We refer to that as our historic brewery built into the side of a mountain. So there was no electricity, no refrigeration by those means in those days. So he dug tunnels into the side of that mountain to use the natural refrigeration of the earth to age and lager the beers.
Also, there was a spring, a well, not far from that location, so he used all of the spring water for his brewing needs. So you had David Yingling and then he had a couple sons. His one son, D.G. Jr., he branched off on his own and started a brewery in Richmond, Virginia, called the James River Steam Brewery.
I don't know that David was all that successful because it only lasted a few years. So a transition then set to second generation, third generation, was Frank Yingling, who was my great-grandfather. And he probably was at the helm longer, I'm going to say 60-some years, longer than any other owner. Went through a lot of different trials and tribulations and probably the biggest one being Prohibition.
And that was enacted in 1918. He really was a true entrepreneur, learned how to diversify, did a few real estate-type ventures, made near beer. And that was one half of one percent alcohol and that was legal in those days. So produced near beer to keep many of his workers still employed, 13 years of not being able to make real beer. Then the biggest, I think, innovation, diversification that he did overall was he built a dairy, which is across the street from the brewery, where he made ice cream and milk products. As Prohibition came to an end, he had a batch of what he called winter beer, as though the breweries had won their fight against Prohibition. Had that ready the day Prohibition was repealed and had it delivered to FDR's doorstep the next day.
Before you get into my grandfather and his brother, they were some really lean years. You know, you're getting into kind of the 60s and the 70s there and it was the rise of the mega-brewers, if you will. You had your Budweiser, your Miller, your Coors. Interstate transportation became much more widely used in St. Louis, Missouri. Anheuser-Busch could make their beer and they could get it across the country much more quickly than they had in the past.
Advertising and merchandising budgets, marketing budgets became much more popular, too. So a lot of the local brewers, regional brewers, started to either go out of business, families didn't want to run them anymore, or they simply got bought out by these bigger brewers. You know, you give that fourth generation of my grandfather and his brother Dorman a lot of credit for just hanging in there through those lean years, because there wasn't a lot of extra resources and capital to invest, but they were able to get by. We had a lot of local support from our community. They supported our brands and we just, like my dad likes to say, we hung in there. My grandfather became ill in the mid-80s, at which time my dad had broken off from the brewery and he had his own distributor ship, so he had a local wholesaler here in town.
So he still maintained ties locally, he had just distanced himself from the plant. So when his father became ill, he came back into the business, took it over, and that's when we really started to see our huge growth trajectory take aim. A couple of initiatives that he did were he invested, once he had the ability to invest, he invested in machinery, increased our production efficiencies, and he came out with some good brands, like our traditional lager brand, which is our flagship today, Black and Tan. And then he came out with a light beer, so some great innovation there, too, in my dad's early years that put us on the map and enabled us to broaden our reach and expand our footprint. I'd like to talk about the founder being an entrepreneur, because obviously he founded his own business, and I almost think Frank, the third generation, was very entrepreneurial in being able to diversify the way he did. And I think my dad has a lot of those same characteristics, so he had a vision of, number one, this lager brand that he wanted to get into consumers' hands, a beer that had more taste, more character, than what most consumers were used to seeing at that time. And I think my dad, along with Jim Cook, the owner of Samuel Adams Boston Brewery, essentially pioneers in the craft brewery movement. They were the first ones to come out with this beer that looked a little different. It wasn't yellow, it didn't have that fizz to it.
It was an amber-colored beer with a little more flavor to it. So he had a vision, number one, he was an entrepreneur, and I think he had a lot of confidence in knowing what he wanted to do and very independently thinking, too, but able to surround himself with people, whether it was in the marketing department, the sales department, to get where he wanted to go. I think he saw that the standard yellow pilsners, they weren't gaining volume, and realized that you can educate consumers to different styles and different beers that are out there that have a different flavor profile to them. And he really, he hit it on the mark with our lager brand.
It's about between 70 and 80 percent of our sales today. So he grew the business, we had our original historic Pottsville Brewery, which he got it to the point where it was maxed out on capacity. So by the late 90s, we were maxed out over there, we were making more beer than the brewery was able to sustain.
That's when my sisters and I started to play a role, because his thinking was, I need to invest here, I need to invest in this company if I want to continue to grow, but I don't want to do that unless I know the next generation is interested. But once he recognized that we had that commitment and we were interested in coming into the business, then he made the decision to build this brewery that we're sitting in right now. So we call this our new brewery, even though it is almost 20 years old, and this has been here since 2000. At the same time though, you don't build a brewery in a day, it takes a couple years. So we still had to get beer into our wholesalers' warehouses, because we just could not make enough over in Pottsville. So the timing was appropriate. He happened to be in Tampa, Florida, and the last Stroh Brewery in the country was up for sale.
So lots of different things, all coming together really well there. The timing, the size of the brewery was good for us, so we bought that Stroh plant, did some trial brews, got a flavor match, and then all that initial beer came up into our northern markets to satisfy our wholesalers' needs until we were able to start pumping beer out of here. So at that point in time, once we had beer coming out of here, we could start opening markets. New York, Maryland, Virginia, and then the beer from Tampa, we started opening up our southern markets.
North South Carolina, Florida, and then we've expanded as far west as Mississippi, Tennessee, and we're currently in 22 states. It's amazing having his, and I would say it's close to 60 years of industry experience, so I think every day it's picking his brain, understanding why he thinks the way he does, because he was around and he remembers those lean days, so he's not quick to make changes or decisions, because we're in this for the long term. We've been here for 190 years. We say we want to be here for the next 190 years. And I don't think our ancestors would have allowed us to be here this long if they made too many knee-jerk decisions.
So he's very meticulous about his thinking, and I think that's one of the things that we've all learned from him. Don't jump into something or jump on a trend or a fad just because everybody else is, because some of those guys might not be here tomorrow. Our goal is to be here for the next several generations. And you've been listening to Jennifer Yingling and the voice of the sixth generation of Yinglings. Survived some really lean years in the 60s and 70s when companies like Coors and Budweiser, the mass retailers, were at it. But in the end, really, they were the pioneers in this area, along with the Samuel Adams folks. And my goodness, exploding now today.
When we return, we're going to continue with the story of this sixth generation family business and with Jennifer Yingling, here on Our American Stories. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year, and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot, and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So, if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try All-Free Clear Mega Packs. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs. My family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So, the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that All-Free Clear Mega Packs, they have your back.
Purchase All-Free Clear Mega Packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we continue here with our American stories and the story of Yingling, America's oldest brewery, which just celebrated its 190th anniversary. The company's success has come in part from their patience.
Let's get back to Jennifer. The 70s is when light beers started to develop and I think we didn't come out with a light beer until the late 80s. So, we gave it time to make sure it's something that's going to stick before we just jump on the bandwagon and say we're going to change our model. Because our whole business model is kind of about scale and volume. So, we run very few products, we make them well and we set up our production lines and we don't do a lot of changeovers and we're extremely efficient in that.
And we need to be because a small, I say that relatively small brewery today, playing in the same swimming pool with the global brewers, we have to be very meticulous with maintaining those efficiencies and saving monies. Grew up in Pottsville, went to college not too far from here, kind of did a year after college not knowing what I wanted to do, a little bit of coaching. Went on to graduate school, got my graduate degree and it was during that time, I was just finishing that up when we had that kind of like come to Jesus meeting with our dad. Like, what do you guys want to do with your lives? And I didn't have a job lined up, didn't know where I was heading, I mean had some thoughts.
But the timing was right for me then, I was like okay, I'll come home, you know, bought a home here and that was 20 plus years ago. The map to where I am now in operations, I found that on my own. You know, just decided sales and marketing wasn't really my thing, accounting wasn't my thing. But I immersed myself in the operations end of it. Went through a training program, it was pretty rigorous, everything from incoming raw materials through the brewing process, you know, hot side, fermentation, storage, filtration, packaging, warehousing, logistics.
So, you know, soup to nuts. Went to school then, which was like a 10 week brewing course. And, you know, I've found my own way and along the years I've tried to take some of the responsibilities off my dad's hands, like scheduling, ordering materials. And, you know, tried to make life easier for him at the same time learning from him how he does things. So that guided me and, you know, I'm in the role of VP of Operations right now. So I was actually, I was the first one to come on board and then Debbie and then Wendy and Cheryl slowly, we each took our own paths to get where we are. We each have very different personalities in one respect but interests, I think, more so.
So, like I mentioned, I gravitated into operations. Wendy runs our sales and marketing. Debbie does a lot with our employees and our cultural engagement and Cheryl works in order services. So we don't overlap a lot and I think that's a big part of our success. Because I think if we were overlapping too much and tripping over each other, we would probably struggle to make decisions. Whereas because we have our own kind of areas of responsibilities, it works out well for us. We each have different areas of expertise. So it's a matter of respecting the other's expertise and their area. You know, and still the ultimate decision maker is our dad because he's here every single day and he's earned that right. But I think there's that comfort factor in that we have different ways of thinking sometimes. But in the end, what's best for the business is important to all of us.
So I think that's generally how we resolve anything that comes up that needs to be decided. I think there's been some things, I don't want to say it was a mistake, but things that we've done that maybe we've taken our eye off of our, and I'm going to refer to our core brands. An example would be seasonals. We started making seasonals a few years ago. And I think, so what we would do is we'd transition, we'd have Oktoberfest in the fall and then we would roll into an IPL.
Our version of an IPA, it's an India pale lager. And then we would roll into summer wheat and then that would be cyclical. And they were great brands. Consumers loved them. Our brewers enjoyed making them.
We had great packaging. But I think we learned that they became a bit of a distraction. So our operations people were, you know, spending a lot of time and being inefficient because we were making these brands.
Our sales people were pushing these brands and gaining shelf space with wholesalers and retailers. But in the meantime, we took our focus off of our lager brand. And I think we took a step back and we realized, like, this is our bread and butter.
This is what we have to put first and foremost. So we decided to step back from seasonals a bit. We still make our Oktoberfest.
We've kind of mothballed the other recipes for the time being. We keep things very simple. We don't overcomplicate things. We work hard. We expect everybody in the company to work hard. There's no sense of entitlement for anybody. We expect our people to think for themselves, figure problems out.
We don't have a lot of layers. We're not corporate. If an hourly employee needs something, that individual has accessibility not just to my sisters and me and obviously his or her manager, but to our dads. So we have a strong presence as a family across our employees and even our wholesalers. We look at ourselves, too, as a multigenerational family-owned company. But we're also very proud of the generations of employees that we have in our company, too.
So another kind of fun fact is that we've determined that 10 percent of our employees and we have probably around 350 employees, 10 percent of those either have or have had a family member work here. So that's very important to us. And it shows that we're dedicated to our employees.
They're passionate about us. And they're enabled to have opportunities as well. So between our two breweries here in Pennsylvania, we're separated by our Tampa brewery by roughly 1,000 miles.
But there's been folks who have transitioned from one brewery to another. So we have folks who started here, one individual in particular, as a forklift operator. He worked his way up to a lead, and he's now our packaging manager in Tampa. So it's that opportunity and that training and that commitment that we have.
It's that opportunity and that training and growth and development that I had as a family member to grow through the company, but that we're able to support our employees with as well. I can think of another example of him. He's our plant coordinator over in Pottsville, and he started here in his early 20s cleaning tanks is what he did. It's kind of like the lowest job in the brewery is to clean tanks. He worked in the racking room, worked his way up to a brewer, brewed, cleaned brewing equipment. When we brought this plant online, he was instrumental in getting this started up, again, working from the bottom up. And he was our brewing manager for several years, and now he has ownership of our Pottsville plant.
So everybody and everything over there falls under his jurisdiction. He works here, his wife works here in the accounting department. His two daughters, when they were going through college, they worked for us part-time.
His son is a brewer over in Pottsville, so you kind of get that same theme, that family theme that we have with quite a few of our employees. We have folks who start here maybe when they're 18 years old, and they retire when they're 65. Every generation leaves its mark.
My dad's is obviously the tremendous growth that we've experienced during his tenure. And we're not a company that does things too quickly, and we joke, it's taken us 190 years to get to where we are. And we want the success of generations coming after us to have those same opportunities. And we want to leave this brewery in good hands, viable, sustainable, sustainability.
We want to be conscious of our environment as well. So I think just leaving it a good company for the next generation is important to us. Music And you've been listening to Jennifer Yingling and the voice of the sixth generation of Yinglings, and that is 190 years they've been together.
And there's no doubt they'll be together another 190 listening to the care with which they run things. By the way, it was so interesting that they didn't see this merely as a family business, but it was a family business as it relates to the workers. And these small businesses propel the nation. They're the ones that turn into bigger business. 350 employees, that's 350 families this small business is taking care of. The Yingling story and what a voice Jennifer's is, VP of operations there.
The Yingling story here on Our American Story. Music Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. Music I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot, and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So, if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So, the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.
Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we return to Our American Stories. And up next, a story from Carl Morlantis. Carl is the author of the award-winning books Matterhorn and What It Is Like to Go to War. Carl is also a Vietnam War veteran and the recipient of the Navy Cross, our nation's second highest award for valor.
But in 1967, Carl was far removed from the chaos of battle. In a position of privilege, here's Carl to tell the story of why he chose to join the Marines and why he later chose to go to Vietnam. It was a series called Landmark Books, and I can't remember who put it out, one of the big publishers. It was like the story of Betsy Ross and the American flag, the story of Thomas Jefferson and all those sorts of things that were written for about 10-year-olds or 12-year-olds.
And I remember reading one called The Story of the U.S. Marines, and that just fascinated me. But more importantly, it was this thing, like the guys on the football team, the good athletes, the good runners. When they left high school, they would go down to some mysterious place called San Diego, MCRD, Marine Corps Recruiting Depot. And they'd come back, first of all with suntans, which we never saw where we lived.
And they would, I swear to God, they looked like they were four inches broader in the shoulder and two inches taller. And they would literally swagger up and down the main street of our little town, Seaside, Oregon, which was a logging town, a little town of about 2,500 people. And I'm 15, 16 years old, and I'm just thinking to myself, I don't know what that is, but I want some of that. So I went to the Marine recruiter, and I'm talking to the Marine recruiter, I'm 18, and I say to him, I said, you know, I've read books about the Marines, and I've seen John Wayne, the Sands of Iwo Jima, and I know what the Marines do. They land on beaches and all that sort of stuff. But I said, do they do anything else? And he looks at me and says, oh yeah, he says, we guard all the embassies all over the world. I went, really? You mean like in Paris? And he said, absolutely. And I can swear to God, this is what went through my mind. I went, well, the odds are you won't get Paris, but you'll surely get Madrid or Rome.
Sign me up! So it's a combination of those things. And then there was the draft. It was patriotism. I mean, I grew up in a time when virtually everybody's dad and uncle was in what they called the service. We don't call it that anymore. We call it the military today, and I think that that's an enormously important change in our language. Now that was when your dad was in the service.
That was when your uncle was in the service. And there was that sense of, you know, the draft was like the income tax. No one likes to pay their taxes.
Nobody wanted to get drafted. But you sort of felt like you owed your country. You know, it's like, you know, the country won't operate unless you pay your taxes.
We don't, you know, the roads don't get fixed unless you pay your taxes. The country isn't safe unless you, when they draft you, you go and do your bit. That was the feeling at that time. And that was the late 1950s, early 1960s.
So there was that. And there was the fact that, you know, I wonder if I can do it. It's sort of a young man, you know, challenge.
Can I make it? So I joined when I was 18 in a program called PLC, Platoon Leaders Class. It was a classic Marine Corps program.
It was like they didn't give you any money. You joined as an enlisted in the reserves and then you went off to Quantico in the summertime. And if you survived what was just the same as boot camp, then you got to go to college. But they didn't pay you and you just went back in the summer again. And at the end of that you got a commission if you graduated from college. I went to Oxford on a scholarship in 1967.
I thought that that would be, you know, something the Marines wouldn't let me do because the Marines were really short of junior officers. And they were great. They said, go ahead. It's a great honor.
I got a Rhodes. And after about six or eight weeks over there, having a wonderful time. I just felt guilty because this little high school I grew up in, six boys died and about 70 served in the Vietnam War.
And the high school was about, you know, 400 kids, so 200 boys. I mean, it was pretty amazing. And I just felt guilty. I wasn't pulling my oar.
I wasn't contributing like they were. They were putting themselves out there and I was hiding back. And I was always raised never to do that. I mean, that's just something that you don't do. You know, if your friends are risking themselves, then you go out there with them.
And I was choosing not to do that. I was letting them take the risk and I felt like I used the word, I was hiding behind the privilege. Most of the guys I went to high school with, they didn't even go to college. That's why such a large percentage of them served in Vietnam because in those days the draft was very unfair. You could get out of service if you, you know, got a doctor to say that you had a bad knee or if you, you know, you could say that you were gay or you could say, you know, any number of things. And the other one was the legitimate one, which is for a long time called the 2S deferment.
If you were in college, they wouldn't draft you, which is horribly skewed toward the wealthier part of the country. But it didn't make sense to me. I mean, it was a war that was just not making sense. That just was looking, you know, what's the word, problematical, unethical. I mean, we were getting into, you know, trying to measure the war by how many people we killed.
That's not a moral situation. Killing people in the military is a consequence of trying to get something else done. That's the objective.
And if people get killed on the way, that is warfare. But an objective of just killing people is, in my opinion, immoral. And we didn't have an objective other than, you know, well, save the South Vietnamese government. That was looking a little dicey because it was clearly a corrupt government.
On the other hand, I mean, I could see that the North was a totalitarian government. That didn't look good. It was just a mess and it was a moral mess. And so, you know, you'd say, well, then you shouldn't go. But I had sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. And I took my oath seriously. I mean, I swore to God that I would uphold the Constitution of the United States. And the Constitution of the United States says that the President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief of the military. Civilian control of the military is absolutely essential. And if the military decides that it doesn't want to do what the civilians ask it to do, you've got a banana republic. And so you can't have a military where individual people say, I don't think I'm going to, I don't agree with the President. To uphold the Constitution of the United States, you either have to, you know, resign or do what you're told. But now all of a sudden we're fighting a war, which, you know, the civilians in control decided to put us into. Well, now I've got two moral issues, both of which I agree with, which is that the war is wrong, but I'm already in the military. And I swore an oath to do what the Constitution had set up. That was my moral dilemma.
And I was very acutely conscious of it. My girlfriend at the time said she'd go to Sweden with me. She didn't want to go to Algeria. Algeria was taking deserters, and I wouldn't have been a draft dodger. I'd have been a deserter. That's one step above that. So I have to admit that that's a little bit scary, too. So, you know, that would have hindered me a bit. My friend was just deciding to turn in his draft cards.
My friend was just deciding to turn in his draft card as a protest. And we spent this really long night just, like I tell people, I have the feeling that we were sort of hovering over a single candle. I know that's not true, but the feeling of it was the two of us, just the two of us in this single light in this dark room, us trying to decide what to do.
We're 23 years old or, no, I was 22 then, I think. And we're trying to decide what to do in a terrible dilemma. And believe me, a Rhodes Scholarship, there's nothing that you throw away. We didn't throw them away.
We gave them up with a great deal of reluctance. But we made the decision that I'd send my letter into the Marine Corps and I'd go to Vietnam. He turned his draft card in and got out of England and got to Canada. So he took off, I think, a couple days after that decision. And I was, you know, a Marine who was back in America in the Marine Corps and on active duty.
I admire him greatly. Everybody else just sort of hid behind the privilege. A lot of people ask me, how do you feel about the guys that went to Canada?
I'm going, like, they at least acted, most of them with honor. So I think that the issue was being true to your moral position. But it wasn't easy.
And I think, you know, people would like to think that those kinds of decisions are easy. I just felt, ultimately, I just couldn't stay there hiding and look myself in the mirror. And a terrific job on the production by Monty Montgomery. And a special thanks to Carl Merlantas for sharing this remarkable story, service versus the military. The difference between the two, honoring your moral code and how two young men took very different positions. And in the end, well, Carl had respect for both of them. Call Story here on Our American Stories.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-16 16:25:16 / 2023-02-16 16:42:42 / 17