Editor's note: This is part of a weekly series published each Monday between Memorial Day and Veterans Day honoring local veterans.
CHAMPION - Looking back on his service in the U.S. Army, John Streitferdt says it was one of the best things that ever happened to him and his wife.
That's not what he thought then.
Tribune Chronicle / Joe Gorman
John Streitferdt of Champion talks last week about his time as a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the Cold War. Streitferdt initially had trouble adjusting to Army life but now says it’s one of the best things that ever happened to him.
Streitferdt had been married about five months when he received his draft notice in January 1952 and immediately dreaded it.
''I didn't want to go,'' Streitferdt said.
The Army didn't do anything to help him change his mind. He was bused to Canton and then sent to Fort Meade, Md., which he called the ''hell hole of Army camps.''
Family: Wife, Ruth; three children
Occupation: Retired senior engineer and journeyman tool-and-die maker
Service branch: U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1952-54
Medals / Commendations: Good Conduct medal, German Occupation Medal, National Defense Medal Certificate of Recognition for the Cold War
''There was no heat,'' he said. ''The only clothes we had was what we had on. The food was horrible. The first two weeks was pure hell.''
From Fort Meade, Streitferdt was sent to Camp Gordon in Georgia, where things did not improve, he said.
''Take 60 guys in a barracks. There's no privacy,'' Streitferdt said. ''If you want privacy, you ain't getting it.''
Streitferdt's high scores on tests when he was inducted landed him an assignment to the Signal Corps. He thought he would be going to Korea because of the war, but because of the specialized training he received on fixing radio teletype machines, a 32-week course, he was sent to Germany.
''I had some friends that didn't come back (from Korea). That hurt,'' he said.
The trip aboard the USS General C.H. Muir across the Atlantic Ocean to France was not a four-star cruise, Streitferdt said.
Even though it was seven years removed from World War II, the Germans were still cleaning up the damage, Streitferdt said.
Streitferdt and his unit traveled throughout Germany and France, helping units in both countries, including some in the French army, with their communication systems.
''That was a good job,'' Streitferdt said.
When he was with a French unit, they often slept on concrete floors and the water was also bad, so Streitferdt began drinking another beverage.
''That's how I learned to drink coffee,'' Streitferdt said.
Being in an occupied land was not bad duty, though, Streitferdt said. ''The German people treated us well.''
As the only married man in his four-man unit, normally he was left by himself when his buddies went out at night.
Streitferdt said that while he had trouble adjusting to Army life, he said looking back on his experiences, it served to benefit him and his wife, Ruth.
''It made different people out of us,'' Streitferdt said.
Streitferdt said he thinks all young people should serve at least one year in the military.
''It'll give them a love of country, and they'll find out who they are,'' he said.