Ralph Wainright received the same advice from his father and uncles – join the military.
“My dad served in World War II,” said Wainright. “He said if you can serve for 20 years, you’ll be set for life. Two of his brothers also served in World War II, and they kept saying the same thing.”
So, he followed their advice and joined in 1967. He almost didn’t heed the other part of staying in for 20 years, but he decided to reenlist after meeting his wife on a blind date in Fort Hood, Texas. He came down with orders for Europe and asked her if she’d like to spend a three-year honeymoon in Germany.
He retired as a first sergeant after spending 24 years in the Army.
He’d worked on vehicles during his active duty time and once he got out, he was able to translate that into a civilian career.
“As a mechanic in the Army, you have to order your parts. I went to work in an auto parts store, and I did what the military trained me to do,” he said.
But there was one part of his military job that he wasn’t interested in taking with him into the civilian world.
“In the Army, I was responsible for a company of 425 soldiers,” he said. “Not only was I responsible for the soldiers, but their families, 24 hours a day.”
With his civilian job, he only had to worry about a problem with a customer’s vehicle and helping them solve it.
While he might not have been in charge of soldiers and their families after he retired, Wainright still wanted to maintain connections with other veterans.
After moving to North Augusta, he joined the Jesse C. Lynch Memorial American Legion Post 71. He’s served in several official capacities with the organization including as staff judge adjutant, membership chairman, first vice commander and commander. He’s also been part of the American Legion Riders serving as chaplain and chairman of the 2014 state legacy ride.
He’s also a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5877 in Aiken and the Aiken County Veterans Council.
Post 71 takes an active role in North Augusta in veterans-related events presenting programs in schools as well as the public ceremonies on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. This year’s Veterans Day observance will be at 11 a.m., Friday, Nov. 10. at the Wade Hampton Veterans Park.
“I love Veterans Day,” said Wainright. “We remember all the veterans, all the heroes for generations of our great country.”
Wainright said he remembers how veterans were treated during the Vietnam era.
“Soldiers were coming back and getting spit on and having food thrown at them. World War II and World War I veterans got parades,” he said. “And the Korean War was the forgotten war. For Desert Storm, there were parades and yellow ribbons welcoming home our veterans.”
The local Veterans Day observance gives respect to all who served regardless of popular opinion.