John Hoffpauer

I served on active-duty in the U.S. Army from 21 Aug 1972 until 20 August 1974. While this was during the Vietnam War, I barely got out of Texas and did not see combat. Instead, I was sent to Ft. Ord, in Monterey Calif. for reception and 2 weeks of processing into the Army. However, because I was a conscientious objector, I was sent to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio for 6 weeks of modified basic training (i.e., w/o firearms).

I also received 8 weeks of medical A.I.T. training at Ft. Sam, as well as 2 weeks of driver's training at Camp Bullis nearby San Antonio. By the time my Army training was complete, the last U.S. combat unit had been withdrawn from Vietnam. My good luck continued, as I was sent a few miles up the road to Ft. Hood where I spent 1.5 years as a medic in 1st Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery, 2nd Armored Division, where I was assigned to Headquarters Battery. I basically ran sick call for the battalion and was also medical supply clerk. In the field I drove an ambulance version (M792) of the Gama Goat, which was specially equipped to make it comfortable, esp. during the winter. Unlike everyone else, I was required to sleep in this comfort, so that my first sargent could always find me in an emergency. For the same reason I only pulled guard duty one time.

Also, being a non-combatant CO, I also never had to drill or march in parade. Looking back, I must admit that my Army experience was generally good, and moreover, it's had a lasting effect on my life. With the help of the G.I. Bill, I was able to earn a B.A. in Geography and an M.A. in Urban Affairs, which yielded in a 27-year career as an urban transportation planner. In addition, I bought a home without a downpayment using a V.A. mortgage. Even now, at age 70 and with various medical issues, I rely on the V.A. for all my health care and plan to be interred at the Dallas–Fort Worth National Cemetery at the end of my life.

Had I been sent into combat, my military service could have been a nightmare, but instead I was lucky. My two years in the Army were sort of fun, and subsequently my veteran benefits have been an integral and supportive part of my life. My experience makes me interested in the good that might be accomplished through a program of universal national and community service. If more Americans could have a positive experience doing national or community service, America could become a better place.