|It started at the front gate and was waiting there ahead of me at
every turn I made inside the fort; I saw proof that this is a new army.
There is a new professionalism and a new patriotism that hasnít been
seen in decades, well since Jane Fonda began her crusade to slime the
Yesterday was my grandsonís day to graduate from boot camp and I came a day earlier to tour the fort Iíd served in for two months in 1959. The soldiers I saw at Fort Sill were serving proudly and I kept asking myself, where did these boys come from; how did the army find so many of them? I was astonished.
As the graduating class began their roll call I began to catch a glimmer of the answer. Each one would snap to attention at the microphone and give his or her name, rank and origin. There were soldiers from Africa, South Korea, Philippines, China, Canada, South America and even one from Mexico. The other half came from points in the United States. There was one from Lawton Oklahoma, right next door to the fort. All of these men and women could have served on the drill teams of my day.
An officer explained that many comrades had not made the grade even though they had made the cut at enlistment which demanded high school graduates with good marks in certain fields and pass a strict physical. These platoons had every right to be proud of themselves for having passed their course.
At the end of the ceremony they stood up and pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. They swore fealty to protect the Constitution of the United States.
Then they were declared, SOLDIERS and marched out of the building. It was my grandson that carried the American flag back to the barracks. Tears streamed down my cheeks, unashamed as my country, my flag and my grandson passed by in review on the way to service.
|On the 23rd day of May in 1953 the world's first atomic
artillery round was fired at Camp Desert Rock NV from a 280mm
Heavy Motorized Gun M65. It only took 19 seconds for the shell
to start from a dead stop and whistle through the air for almost eight miles. It exploded
directly over the target with a violence equal
to 15,000 tons of TNT.
The test was carried out at the request of the Atomic Energy Commission as directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 3,100 military officers and men witnessed the Atomic fireball so potent that it could wipe out an entire division of infantry with one direct hit. Fire Direction Control specialists trained at Fort Sill provided directions to the artillery crew firing the weapon. The stellar performance was declared to be a milestone in military history and in the advancement of nuclear weaponry. Dubbed the Atomic Annie, this artillery piece has been on display at the United States Army Field Artillery Museum on Fort Sill.
|To reach the museum, Take I-44 from Oklahoma City and
use Exit 41 Key Gate. No one over the age of 16
is permitted on the fort without photo identification
documents -- such as photo driver's licenses.
Enter at Key Gate then take the first right on Randolph Rd. followed by a left turn on Corral to the parking lot. Don't worry about passing it by; you can't miss the immense display of field artillery.
In fact, the museum has the most comprehensive collection of field artillery exhibits in the world. It is open for your convenience from 9 thru 5 Mondays through Fridays. Stanley Byers and other staff members are exceedingly friendly and helpful.
Fort Sill lies about 85 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, in Plains Country. It was created on 8 January 1869, by Major General Philip H. Sheridan. He had led a campaign into Indian Territory to stop hostile tribes from raiding border settlements in Texas and Kansas. Sheridan's campaign involved six cavalry regiments that were accompanied by revered frontier scouts Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, Ben Clark, Jack Stilwell and others.
The 7th Cavalry, the 19th Kansas Volunteers and the black "buffalo soldiers" of10th Cavalry were under his command. The buffalo soldiers were put to work and constructed many of the stone buildings that can be seen still surrounding the old post quadrangle.
Sheridan named Fort Sill in honor of Brigadier General Joshua W. Sill, who was killed during the American Civil War.
The first post commander was Brevet Maj. Gen. Benjamin Grierson.
The first Indian agent was Colonel Albert Gallatin Boone, a grandson of the stalwart soldier guarding and protecting our western frontier during the Revolutionary War, even Colonel Daniel Boone.
|In 1894, Geronimo and 341 other Chiricahua Apache prisoners
of war were brought to Fort Sill, where they lived in villages
scattered around the post. Geronimo and the other Apache
prisoners had free range of the reservation. He became one of
Fort Sill's Native Scouts. Late in life he also became a Christian,
of the Dutch Orthodox persuasion. Four years later he lost
his standing in the church
Read Geronimo's Life Story
After a few years of good conduct, Geronimo was granted permission to travel with Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show. In the 1890s and early 1900s he joined the Indian contingent at several annual World Expositions and Indian Expositions and was proud of the money he earned honestly by selling pictures of himself and giving autograph sessions.
Geronimo and some other Indian leaders rode in the inaugural parade of President Theodore Roosevelt. He met President Roosevelt during that trip. He died of pneumonia in 1909 and was buried in an unmarked grave less than four miles from the museum. Today there is a monument over the plot it is believed he is buried in; it is the widest and tallest monument in the cemetery. An eagle decorates the top. Native American visitors to the monument leave tokens of power at the foot of the eagle and on the trees.
There is an unfounded rumor that the Skull and Bones Society took up the bones of Geronimo for secret ceremonies. There must be at least 100 other Native Americans buried in the same, well-maintained cemetery. A nearby stream keeps the air moist most of the year. It's a shame, but there are NO picnic facilities -- or information brochures to be found at the site.
It would be a perfect place for peaceful meditations.
The rest of the Apaches remained on Fort Sill until 1913 when they became American citizens. The Fort Sill Chiricahua had been promised the lands surrounding the fort by the US government. Unfortunately history repeated itself and the Euromerican citizens of the area resented and resisted the settlement of Native American citizens on that property. Consequently, in 1914 two-thirds of the tribe moved onto the Mescalero Apache Reservation and the remaining third settled on allotments around Fletcher and Apache, Oklahoma
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