Thomas (Tom) Howard
Thomas (Tom) Howard
At the age of 20 Tom received his draft notice, quit his job at the A&P grocery store and left for Fort Leonard Wood. He had been told that due to his poor hearing he would not be sent out, but they instead sent him to Fort Gordon, Ga., to military police training. This was 1962 and word soon came that the president had been killed which Tom remembers created a lot of confusion around the post.
Although Tom was being trained for police duties he still served many days in KP, helping train new recruits, and serving as squad leader, which put him through an eight-week training in two short weeks. He remembers it taking one half hour to make his bed because his sergeant would actually bounce a quarter off the sheets to see that it was made the military way.
Tom guarded the stockade and cell block, seeing soldiers serving time for various offenses, from being AWOL to murder to mental collapse. It was strict duty and Tom served it well. For a while he escorted prisoners from Georgia to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and liked that job. He was handcuffed to the man all the way on the trip, and only once remembers having to threaten to use his weapon against someone.
Tom made sharpshooter grade and $78 per month. He worked hard and caused no trouble. He was hoping to be sent to Germany, but remained in the States instead. Tom remembers that being such a "neat freak" that he is was both good and bad. Others in his company had to mimic Tom's behavior with cleanliness and some liked it, while others didn't. When his time was up he considered re-enlisting, but it is hard to earn rank while serving as an M.P.
The day of Tom’s discharge those remaining in his company were sent to Vietnam. It was both a joyous and sad time for Tom. Once home he says, like others at that time, that servicemen were not treated nicely. He feels they come home today as heroes, but during the Vietnam era they were certainly not thought of in that way.
Tom came back home to Independence and found employment with Frito Lay. He soon was district sales manager covering five routes throughout South Dakota. He hated the freezing weather and eventually moved back home to work the next 22 years at A&P until they went out of business. Having learned to cook from his sister, Tom worked for Taystee Bread for 11 years, working 70-hour weeks. He continues to cook all the meals at home saying his wife has probably cooked only a few meals in their 16 years together.
Tom and his wife, Debra, live in Indepenvdence and are big fans of the Mavericks, attending as many games as they can. He has one daughter who has served in the Air Force, one son, and twov grandsons.