The Wingman

Duncan Weaver and Cole Duprey

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Sergeant Fred Shea lived in Somerville, Massachusetts before he was drafted into the military during the Korean War. He had to make a tough decision: he could either join the Navy, where he could be seasick on a boat for six months at time, or he could join the Air Force, where he could be sick on a plane for six hours. He chose the Air Force and pursued his hobby of electronic fundamentals.

After he was drafted, he attended military classes in Tennessee where he learned about electronics and aircraft instrument panel repair. During his training, he recalls his instructors as “being stupid as a brick” and not being as smart as one would think or hope.

     Even though his unit never saw combat, Sergeant Shea travelled to many different countries including Greenland, Iceland, parts of Germany, and northeast France.

His experience in the military was very unique: he had very little stress and even had some fun on his long journeys around the Atlantic. As he travelled to many places around the world, he would communicate with his family by mail and never saw a lack of supplies.

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The picture (above) shows Shea at his highest rank of Sergeant. He had many photographs of citizens and other service members he met all around the world. He recalls the other soldiers being great to be around, but officers and his superiors were definitely “not his favorite.”

        When his service had ended, he was dropped off in New York with his belongings that included about a gallon of whiskey and his service jacket. They did not give him any form of transportation back to his home in Somerville, Massachusetts, over 200 miles away, so he hitchhiked his way home.

When he got back, he did not have a job. He did what any other person would do with no job at his age, which was loafing around and living with his parents until he could get on his feet. He also signed up for the American Legion although he never attended reunions with them and has since dropped out since he has been married.

After he finally settled in back home, he attended Northeastern University and received an Associate’s degree in electrical engineering. Since the cost of his entire education was covered under the G.I. Bill, he later went back to Northeastern to get his Bachelor’s degree in engineering and got a career as an electrical engineer.

Without the military, Sergeant Shea would have never gotten his high level of education and been able to stay in the same career for 37 years.

     When asked about what he would like to add that was not covered in the interview, he expressed his deep sympathy with Vietnam War veterans. When they came back from the war in Vietnam, “they were treated like crap by the citizens” simply because the citizens “didn’t want to be in the war.” He said that no veteran should ever be treated like that, and when we thanked him for his time and service at the end of the interview, he said, “Don’t thank me. Thank a Vietnam Vet.”