- Associated Press - Saturday, July 29, 2017

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - Every soldier has a story.

Dick McKinney’s is one told less frequently, often passed over for those of the battlefield. He never saw combat. His time in the United States Air Force was primarily administrative.

“It’s not all war games,” McKinney said. “Everybody has a job to do.”

A lifelong Quincyan, McKinney was born just after World War II in January 1946. His father worked for Sunshine Biscuits, and his mother stayed at home and cared for him and his two older brothers, Tom and Harry.

“We were Tom, Dick and Harry,” he said with a smile. “Mom always said we didn’t have much money, but we had a lot of love.”

The three brothers never fought. Where one was, the other two were sure to be nearby. Tom was five years his senior, but Harry was only 15 months older than Dick. Most of his favorite stories involve his brothers in some way.

“Harry’s buddies used to pick him up to go cruising,” he said. “One day he ran down the steps, and I was sitting there, head hung low. He turned around and said, ‘Tell mom and dad you’re going with me.’ I was a happy kid that day. I got to go with my brother.”

Following after his brothers — Tom had joined the Army and Harry had chosen the Air Force — McKinney pre-empted the draft, choosing to join the Air Force before the choice was made for him. He spent most of his military career at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb.

“The hardest part was leaving home and knowing that once you’re gone, you’re not coming back for a while,” he said. “You don’t have mom and dad there. You’re on your own.”

Everywhere he went on the base, he saw the word, “pride.” Pride — “Professional Results in Daily Effort” — became a guiding force in his life, a mantra he would later bring back to Quincy.

“It gives me a sense of pride to say that I served,” he said. “It was something that I had to do, and I did it.”

He had received orders sending him to Vietnam, but two weeks before he was set to deploy, they were rescinded.

“I was disappointed in a way,” he said. “There was a troop over there that wanted to come home, and there was a job that needed to be done over there. I didn’t ask questions though. You just don’t question your orders.”

He knows the danger he could have faced.

“I have some good friends that came back from Vietnam who were shell shocked, burnt. They were in a job that put them in harm’s way,” he said. “They put their life on the line. You have to respect that.”

Tom, Dick and Harry all made it through their military careers safely. His perspective on their careers has given him a sense of gratitude.

“We came home with two hands, 10 fingers, two arms, two legs, two feet and our minds. A lot of people come back without their minds,” he said. “I’m one of the lucky ones.”

He served four years of active duty and two years of inactive duty. His final day of service was in 1969, but he wasn’t discharged until 1971. He left the service with more respect for human life — his parents, his community, everyone — an understanding of the value of a dollar and hard work and a newfound sense of maturity. After years of homesickness, he immediately returned to Quincy.

“The first thing I did when I got back was hug my mom and dad,” he said. “All three of us boys were always really close with mom and dad.”

Tom served 18 years in the Army. He died in 1984 after suffering a heart attack in his 40s. After a career in the Air Force and as an educator, Harry retired and settled in Springfield.

“Tom had two years to go, and he could have been fully retired, but that’s not the way the plans were made,” McKinney said.

He and Harry returned to Omaha five years ago, and the first stop was Offutt.

“It was just like I’d never left,” he said. “I still knew where civil engineering was. I still knew where Blueberry Hill was. It took me back into the ‘60s, 50-some years ago.”

Last week, during a trip to Hannibal, Mo., with his wife, Gloria Sue, McKinney was stopped on the street by a man whom he had gone through basic training with.

“He said, ‘I think I know you.’ I thought I knew him as well,” he said. “Once you’re in the military, if you make a friend, you have a friend for life. You have a common bond.”

He yearns for the old days, but time goes on.

“I would like to go back to the old days. Anybody would. They were great,” he said. “But you can’t. You have to accept the changes.”

McKinney and Gloria Sue have lived in the same home near Quincy for 44 years. When they bought it, it was in a small subdivision in the county. When he was a kid, Quincy drew its line at 24th Street. With Quincy’s further expansion over the years, he now finds the city limits nearing his property.

“I’m not one that looks down on changes,” he said. “I look up at the change because that’s what makes growth.”

Gloria Sue grew up in Ursa. The couple recently erected a veterans memorial in the New Providence Cemetery north of Ursa, the culmination of two and a half years of work and about $20,000 in fundraising efforts. Gloria Sue’s father was a caretaker of the cemeteries for many years. The memorial honors all veterans from the area, but on the back of the stone near the bottom, it reads, “In honor of Dick and Doris Voth,” Gloria Sue’s parents.

McKinney is a co-founder of the Catholic War Veterans Post in Quincy and the Veterans Day Parade, and both are going strong. He has been a member of the American Legion for decades. He and Harry are Friends of the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

“I hope I’ve left my mark,” he said. “I hope that when I go, there’s more good things said than bad things.”

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Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://bit.ly/2v5WMz8

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Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://www.whig.com

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