- Associated Press - Sunday, November 20, 2016

EL DORADO, Ark. (AP) - El Dorado residents John Cary and John Cary Jr. share a special bond.

The El Dorado News-Times (https://bit.ly/2gmkGDG ) reports besides being father and son, both men are also combat veterans.

“I am very proud of him, and I am very proud that he has served,” John Cary, 68, says of his son, John Jr.

“It is a special bond,” said John Jr. “We will be talking about our experiences, and I can say, ‘I remember when we did this and this happened,’ and he’ll say, ‘Oh, I had this happen.’”

The Carys come from a family where service to country is a long standing tradition. John’s father, Clyde W. Cary Jr., was a World War II veteran, serving in the Coast Guard. Great-grandfather Clyde Cary Sr. saw service in World War I.

“We go back at least four generations, and it has usually been the oldest son who serves,” John Jr. said.

John served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and John Jr., 38, saw action in Kosovo and Afghanistan as an Army MP.

John dropped out of college in 1968 and enlisted in the Navy before being called up in the draft.

“I was going to college and I was struggling through school,” John recalled. “I was not that interested in college at that time, I was bored with it.” John’s father recommended he join the service, so he chose the Navy, joining the service on Aug. 11, 1968.

After going through boot camp in San Diego at the now defunct U.S. Naval Training Center. After boot camp, John went to radioman school, then off to duty on his first ship.

“I remember on board ship, guys who got mad because they got sea duty,” John said. “I thought, ‘Well, it’s the Navy, what did you expect?”

John served from 1968 to 1972 and was at sea for 34 months.

“I was stationed on the USS Arlington AGMR2, a high-tech communications ship based off the USS Saipan,” John said.

His mission was to do communications relay in the Gulf of Tonkin. “We went where we really weren’t supposed to be,” John said.

One of the highlights of his duty on the Arlington was the recovery of the space capsule for Apollo 11.

“President Richard Nixon came on board, he was a really short guy,” John said. “I was working on the mess decks and had on my stained, white uniform pants but they made us all go get on clean T-shirts for the president,” he added with a laugh.

“We got to watch that capsule come down, it was a Mercury capsule, and there were Sikorsky helicopters with frogmen circling. As soon as the capsule splashed down those frogmen were out and getting the astronauts out of the capsule.”

Although John was in Vietnam, he never made landfall in that country. “I never set food in country in Vietnam, and I am thankful for that.”

His next ship was the CVA 31 Bon Homme Richard, nicknamed “Bonnie Dick,” where he met Admiral George Morrison, father of The Doors’ frontman Jim Morrison.

“It was on the day of the decommissioning of the Bon Homme Richard that Jim Morrison overdosed,” John recalled.

For his last ship, John was stationed on the USS Enterprise, CVN-65, the world’s first nuclear(powered aircraft carrier.

When it came time to change duty stations, I said, ‘I want to do something different for my last ship, I’m tired of flattops,” John said. “My commanding officer said, ‘What are you talking about? you’re a radioman, you’re with aircraft carriers rest of your life.’”

John Jr. had a different set of experiences when he joined the Army in 2000, even though he started his military career in a similar fashion to his father.

“After three years of college, I was bored with school, so I thought I’d join the Army. It was a family tradition, and I talked to him about it,” John Jr. said, referring to his father.

After 12 weeks of basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and eight weeks of Advance Individual Training, John Jr. was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the 21st Military Police Company.

“From Fort Bragg, we got sent to Kosovo, and that is where we were when 9/11 happened,” he said.

When the soldiers saw what was happening in New York that day, their first thoughts were disbelief.

“We saw the first tower after it had been hit, and we thought it was some sort of propaganda, that someone had cut into our Armed Forces Network feed,” John Jr. said. “Then we saw the second tower get hit.”

In Kosovo, John Jr. and his unit had been searching for weapons caches hidden in the mountains. But 9/11 was a game changer.

“We were on a flight back to Bragg when our CO got word that we were going to be met on the tarmac by a plane to take us straight to Afghanistan,” John Jr. said. “There were some words exchanged, and things got heated.”

John Jr. and his fellow soldiers got a few months’ reprieve, but then they were off to Afghanistan, where they were stationed in Kandahar.

One of the less unpleasant duties the 21st MP s performed was security for the USO acts visiting service men overseas.

“We provided security for Robin Williams, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders, Aaron Tippin,” John Jr. said.

His company also participated in Operation Mountain Sweep in 2002.

According to CNN, Operation Mountain Sweep was a weeklong mission in southeastern Afghanistan which resulted in the discovery of caches of weapons and Taliban documents.

John Jr.’s final overseas posting was in Busan, protecting the Demilitarized Zone separating North Korea from South Korea.

“There is a golf course on the DMZ, it’s a nine- or six-hole course and it’s par 3,” John Jr. said. “It’s called the most dangerous golf course in the world, because you have to hit your ball straight. If it goes off the green to the left or right, you don’t go looking for it or something might blow up.”

Both father and son returned to South Arkansas following their tours of duty. John Cary went on to get bachelors and masters degrees, and worked in newspapers, including a stint at the El Dorado News-Times, before becoming a journalism professor at Southern Arkansas University.

John Jr. served in the reserves in El Dorado and currently works for Trotter Nissan Dodge Jeep Chrysler Ram.

“I feel like we have a stronger bond as father and son, now, thanks to our military service,” John Jr. said. “It makes our relationship different.”

“I’m just really proud of him,” John said of his son. “And I am thankful that our family has served for generations, and I hope it is a tradition that continues.”

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Information from: El Dorado News-Times, https://www.eldoradonews.com

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