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Week 21 – MILITARY SERVICE – Always a Team

Always a Team

In 1967 AIC Maurice T. Wilson, Jr.  told his CO that he planned to get married. He was denied permission with a typical military response, “If the service wanted you married, they would have issued you a spouse.”  57 years later Stella and Maurice T. Wilson, Jr. are still a team. When a man enlists or joins the military so does his spouse and family. But whether living thousands of miles apart, or together on six different bases, “The spouse is the backbone,” Wilson stated.

Maurice grew up on SSI, Route 4, Box 325 North Harrington Road and attended the Harrington School. He enlisted in the Air Force right out of high school in 1964 and retired as a Master Sergeant, as he put it, “23 years,11 months, 7 days. I stayed to serve my country.”  Wilson points out, “I also stayed those extra three years so my Bride would also have twenty years as a military spouse.”

During his long career he worked mostly in Logistics and Transportation.

The Vietnam War was underway and so were the struggles and clashes of the 1960s civil rights movement.  “Race wasn’t much of an issue on base,” said Wilson recalled. “I lived in squadron dorms with Caucasian soldiers and had a white roommate.” The biggest thing that separated soldiers, he smiled, was music. “We liked R&B. They liked Country Western.”

African Americans did struggle for rank in the Air Force. “We were given the unwanted jobs, the worse jobs to clean up after others… Some supervisors were more willing than others to move you up. Others kept you down.”  Wilson recalled being passed over for a promotion when a supervisor, unfamiliar with him, gave the promotion to a white soldier. Later, another supervisor reviewed Wilson’s excellent scores and he got a promotion. Even after retirement he was aware of racial prejudices. Wilson got a job with a DOD contractor who remembered him from another base where he was the Military Quality Assurance Evaluator, for the Base Contracting Officer because, he told Wilson,“You tell the truth.” He worked for LB&B Associates under a DOD contract at various domestic bases for almost 19 years after retiring from the military.

The Wilsons spoke fondly about the numerous places they lived while in the service. Their son and daughter were born in Germany.  They moved every three years.  Stella recalled how army spouses supported each other. Commissioned officers lived on the base, waiting their turn to move on to the base, so the Wilsons lived “on the economy” their term for living off the base.

They liked Germany but would never forget West Virginia when Maurice worked for a DOD contractor. Stella described that “It was like the 1920s — some places had no electricity, no plumbing etc.”  Of course, Mississippi in the segregated 1960s was a time to remember too. Stella remembered that blacks could sit anywhere on the buses that ran on the base, but when the bus crossed outside the base, the African Americans had to move to the back of the bus.

Maurice said that his work at Ft. Sills, Oklahoma probably impacted him the most. There are seven Native American cemeteries on the base and one on Post cemetery.  Geronimo is buried on the base.  As Fort Sills Base Maintenance Contractor one of LB&B ‘s many duties was to maintain at the Post Cemetery.  “I came across a grave marker for a Buffalo Soldier,” he recalled.  “Here I was standing at the grave of a black soldier who had fought against the Indians and who represented an important part of U.S. military history and black history.” This grave was for the first Buffalo Soldier who was killed in the Indian war in Indian territory (Oklahoma) and was the reason for the start of the Fort Sill Oklahoma Cemetery.