Robert Richmond was 17 when his grandmother took him to the Army recruiting station and signed the papers.
The year was 1955. The Korean war had just ended.
”I went to Korea 16 months,” he said. “I got over there in July of ‘55. I was on the clean-up.”
Why did he enlist?
”There wasn’t anything going on around here,” said Richmond, who grew up on the South Side, near 37th and Indiana,
I met Richmond last week on the No. 3 King Drive bus. I noticed his Army baseball cap and we got to talking. He was on his way downtown on a few errands and I tagged along.
Richmond, who like most vets never saw combat, has no regrets about enlisting. He’s glad.
”Yes,” he said. “Because it gave me the ability to be a man. Responsibility. I learned how to get up in the morning and do manly things. Things that I needed to do, like taking care of myself.”
Richmond is one of about 628,000 veterans living in Illinois, according to the Veterans Administration, with 20.4 million veterans nationwide.
The bus stopped at Randolph Street.
”Coming out, wheelchair,” he called out, working the joystick on his electric chair.
First Richmond visited —choosing my words carefully—a social organization whose commitment to anonymity is equal to its commitment to temperance. To buy a commemorative coin for himself—18 years in January—and one for a relative.
”It’s a blessing,” he said, of the anniversary. “It’s a miracle.”
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