Alvin J. Schmitt worked behind the scenes during the wars in Korea and Vietnam and later, Operation Desert Storm.
Schmitt’s military career stretched over parts of six decades, starting when he joined the North Dakota National Guard at 17 years old in 1949 as a cook and eventually retiring from active duty at Fort Stewart in 1992 as a command sergeant major in recruiting.
On Friday, he will travel from Hinesville to Hunter Army Airfield to join more than 20 veterans on a trip to the nation’s capital.
Honor Flight Savannah will bus the veterans and their “guardians,” volunteers who accompany them, to several war memorials, monuments and other military sites in Washington.
“It is very important to me because you know the people are thinking about you. And it’s certainly going to be something interesting,” Schmitt said of the trip.
He was called to active-duty service in 1950 by President Harry Truman and sent to what is now Fort Rucker in Alabama as part of the 47th Infantry Division during the Korean War.
During the 1950s, Schmitt joined the Alabama National Guard and, in 1972, he re-entered active service until his retirement, according to his daughter Misty Schmitt.
Alvin Schmitt never saw combat in Korea or Vietnam, she said, because he primarily worked in administration.
He said he was proud to be a soldier during the Vietnam War, but at the time it “was just a job.” “Being with the troops,” he said, is what made him proud.
During his Army career, Schmitt worked several jobs, including as a cook, supply sergeant, administrative supervisor and, finally, as an in-service recruiter. He worked on long and short assignments in several states, including Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Texas and Alaska.
Schmitt also served in West Germany when the Berlin Wall fell.
His last job, in-service recruiter, was his favorite. His responsibility was to “keep the troops in the Army” by transitioning soldiers to the National Guard or Reserve after they left active service.
Misty Schmitt said the Honor Flight will allow him to see the military sites with people his own age who share similar experiences.
“I just finally decided that this might be the last enjoyment that I’ll get, you know, as far as the military side of the fence,” Alvin Schmitt said. “Because once you’re discharged and retired, your contact is few and far between.”
Misty Schmitt said her father would have stayed in the military if he could have, but had to retire because he reached the maximum length of service allowed.
“I love my service and I still do,” he said. “And again, like I said before, I’d do it all over again.”