I recently learned a cool story about my grandfather, Michael Raddick, Sr.
In late 1941, like many young men of his generation, he volunteered for the U.S. Army. At age 24 and married, he had never left the American Midwest, and suddenly he was on a train to Camp Beauregard in Louisiana for Basic training. The cool story comes at the end of Basic.
The Sergeant addressed the company and asked who could operate construction equipment. Grandpa raised his hand. Sure, he’d never actually operated construction equipment, but he’d driven cars, and it couldn’t be that different. Right?
Thus he became a member of the Army Corps of Engineers. Suddenly the young man who had never left the Midwest was shipped off to Iran, where he worked on the Trans-Iranian Railway (still in use today) to supply the Soviet Union in its fight against the Nazis. He worked there for three years, met the Shah, and was honorably discharged at the end of the war as a Technician fifth grade (TEC 5), at the time the Engineers’ equivalent of a Corporal. You can read about the operation here at the National Museum of the U.S. Army and at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers websites.
He returned home and settled in Neville Township, PA, where he became a principal and community leader, and had two children – Aunt Elaine and my Dad. He died in 2005 at age 88, and is buried in Salem, Ohio next to his beloved wife (my grandmother), who died 12 years later.
This story illustrates what has become something of a trademark strategy in the Raddick family: volunteer for something you are not technically “qualified” for because it sounds cool, then learn fast.
That was how my Dad became a salesman in the lumber industry, and went on to start a successful cabinet supply business.
It’s also how I became a writer/educator/data scientist.