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The NYC Veterans Oral History Project: Charles Witherspoon

September 26, 2013

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Biography:
 
Mr. Witherspoon served in the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division. After seeing the movie Screaming Eagles at a movie theater in Times Square, Mr. Witherspoon walked into a nearby recruiting office to enlist. For his first deployment, he parachuted into Turkey, which was extremely dangerous. Troops carried mortar base plates while they jumped. While no one was injured, their entire kitchen unit blew away during their landing. During his time in service, Mr. Witherspoon took part of several very crucial campaigns. He was part of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Berlin Incident. Of his time in the service he says he “took the good with the bad.”  After his time in the army, Mr. Witherspoon eventually found the VA hospital, where he volunteers with the project My Healthevet, which can be found at myhealth.va.gov.
 
Interview Audio Log:
 
  • 1:53 - Walked into recruiting station after seeing "Sreaming Eagles" in Times Square.
  • 2:54 - Joined the 101st Airborne Division
  • 4:52 - Experiences of racism in the South, tried to go to a USO and was not allowed in, but tried to go to a "blacks only" USO and was not allowed in because he was with white friends.
  • 8:25 - Deployed to Turkey, parachuted in. Jumped down carrying mortar base plates, very dangerous.
  • 9:52 - Bivouaced by the Mediterranean.
  • 12:07 - Cuban Missile Crisis was "so real." Issued dark glasses and switchblades.
  • 13:30 - Describes long wait while the Cuban Missile Crisis went on.
  • 17:07 - Went to Germany for the Berlin Incident.
  • 18:25 - Nuclear war seemed imminent.
  • 20:36 - Was injured during a training at West Point, suffered PTSD.
  • 27:30 - Once home, demonstrated against the war for awhile.
  • 28:55 - "Drifted along with the times."
  • 29:20 - Stayed away from the VA for 20 years.
  • 31:14 - Once he went, the benefit was cleaner living, housing, andhealthcare.
  • 31:50 - Now volunteers at the VA, in particular with a program called My HealtheVet.