Salutes & Awards

November 8, 2013

Part-time door gunner, full-time Soldier

Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Bill Medinger, a bagger at the Luke Air Force Base Commissary, stands in a checkout lane Oct. 28 where his customers see him on a daily basis. Medinger served in the Army for 20 years and in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970. During his tour, he flew as a light operator and a volunteer door gunner.

Bill Medinger walked past the long line of customers at the Luke Air Force Base commissary and greeted each one. He stopped to greet a small child and entertain them with a joke or two. The jovial commissary bagger learned the valuable lesson of fostering relationships with customers early on in his Army career.

Medinger arrived in Vietnam in 1968, nearly a year after enlisting in the Army. He had just earned the rank of corporal and volunteered for this assignment.

“I got tired of listening to everybody run their mouths about Vietnam, so I decided to give them something to complain about,” Medinger said with a laugh.

Medinger’s military occupation specialty at the time was food service. He was promoted to mess sergeant six months after his arrival and quickly changed how business was done in his dining facility.

“I made some changes because the guy they relieved was one of those ‘If you’re five minutes late, you don’t get to eat’ types, and I didn’t like that,” Medinger said. “So I changed it to if you come in from a flight, you’re gonna eat; I don’t care what time it is.” He was talking about the door gunners.

Medinger built a reputation for himself among the troops because of a valuable lesson he learned. On one of his supply trips, Medinger talked with Sailors who wanted to have a small gathering and blow off some steam. Medinger quickly learned for the price of a small favor, the Sailors would give him extra food for his mess hall. This relationship benefited all troops in Vietnam as Medinger would pay it forward and give extra helpings to Soldiers coming through his chow line.

“I had it to the point where they could take what they wanted, but the rule was ‘If you take it, you eat it,” he said.

Medinger formed close bonds with many of his customers. One Soldier in particular wanted Medinger to visit as soon as he returned to the United States. Sadly, an attack on an area nicknamed “Impact Alley” claimed the young man and prevented a future reunion between the two.

“When that happened, I kinda lost it and decided I wanted to be a door gunner, so I volunteered to help,” Medinger said.

He visited his commanding officer on a daily basis asking for the opportunity to be a door gunner, but each time his requests were rejected. Medinger’s CO finally offered a compromise and made him a light operator, flying night missions to seek out the enemy.

“After about six flights of that I started bugging the CO again about being a door gunner,” he said. “Finally he said, ‘If we do it, it’s never going to be on your records, and I said I didn’t care about that.”

Thus began Medinger’s secret unofficial life as a door gunner flying above the sweltering jungles of Vietnam. Officially, he was still the mess sergeant, feeding his beloved troops.

“The guys liked it because I’m out there helping them out with that plus we had midnight meals and stuff like that,” he said. “I was single at the time, no girlfriend, and here are these guys with kids and all back home. That really shook me up.”

For his service while in Vietnam, Medinger was awarded the Army Commendation Medal twice and he left the area of responsibility as a staff sergeant, two promotions within his three-year tour there.

Today, Medinger is content working as a commissary bagger and sharing his experience and wisdom with those around him. American holidays hold a deeper meaning for him than for some of his acquaintances.

“The Fourth of July is a big one for me because the real reason for that holiday is our freedom,” Medinger said. “On Veteran’s Day, I think about the one who didn’t make it home.”

The Army has changed since his years in Vietnam, but Medinger has a small piece of advice for today’s military member.

“No matter what branch you’re in, we’re here for one reason and that’s to protect the United States,” he said. “Treat each other right, and enjoy it while you can.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Pg-1-photo-150612-F-EC705-058

Emerald Knights go out with bang

Emerald Knights watch a burning piano during the 308th Fighter Squadron inactivation party June 12 at Luke Air Force Base. The 308th FS and aircraft maintenance unit have packed up and are transitioning to the 314th FS standing...
 
 
2_lemery_d2

Respect — want, earn, give, but don’t lose it

Lt. Col. David Lemery We all want it, some earn it, some are given it and some lose it. Respect can be defined as a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements. As ...
 
 

Solve problems at lowest level

Crucial in our Air Force environment today is having the proper tools and skillsets available to deal with problems. There is literally something new almost every single day that will invoke problem solving skills. When faced with a problem, an important mindset to have is to resolve the issue at the lowest possible level. Some...
 

 

News Briefs June 26, 2015

607th ACS change of command Lt. Col. Charles Jones will relinquish command of the 607th Air Control Squadron to Lt. Col. Jerald Canny in a ceremony at 8 a.m. Wednesday in Hangar 999.   CMS change of command Maj. Scott Hall will relinquish command of the 56th Component Maintenance Squadron to Maj. Anthony Sutton in...
 
 

Fighting Falcons arrive at Holloman

Courtesy photo Six F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 308th Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base arrive in formation June 16 at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The 308th FS has inactivated and the soon to be activated 314th FS assumes the 308th FS mission of training F-16 pilots as a 56th Fighter Wing...
 
 
5_Courtesy-photo

Monsoon season blows in storms, rain, dust

Courtesy photo Arizona is known for being sunny with clear skies for the majority of the year, but every year “it” happens. As the clouds roll in, the sky darkens with thunderbolts streaming overhead, and the first drops of...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>