Voice of the Veterans: Vernon Anderson | WTRF

(WTRF) – Military service runs in the family for Thomas “Vernon” Anderson.

Specifically, in the Navy.

Anderson’s father was in the naval reserve for 26 years, working as an engineer, and retired as a chef. So when it came time for him to join, there was no doubt which branch was right for him.

I don’t know how I could have joined another branch of the service when my father had influence over me. I knew all the Navy terms as a teenager.

Vernon Anderson, Veteran

Anderson was certainly prepared for what was to come when he enlisted in the Navy in September 1969 at the age of 17.

I had 11 first cousins ​​who served, all of them in the Navy.

He (my father) had two brothers and three sisters and their wives where they served in Korea. These were the army, air force and navy. All three.

Vernon Anderson, Veteran

Anderson’s military roots go back further than that. His grandfather served in the First World War. He can also trace 27 of his ancestors back to the Revolutionary War and has three Civil War medals that belonged to his great-great-grandfathers.

His family not only influenced the branch he joined, but also the work Anderson did. On the recommendation of his cousin, he enters the school of cryptology technician.

He became active before me and went to crypto school. He told me “it’s really a good deal”. I think you should do it and you should ask to be sent to this school”. So I did and I got it and we were both crypto techs.

Vernon Anderson, Veteran

Anderson was then stationed in Virginia at a high-frequency direction-finding base.

Our motto was “In God we trust, we watch over all others”.

Our job was to track all Soviet fishing vessels, merchant ships, submarines and planes. If they launched a plane, we knew about it and we kept track of where they were and what they were doing.

Vernon Anderson, Veteran

He said that when he wasn’t at work, it was almost like he wasn’t in the military because he lived off base. When asked what he remembers most about that time in his life, Anderson said camaraderie.

We had very tight crews. We were all young. We were all away from home. We had nothing but each other, so whatever we did outside of service, we did together.

Vernon Anderson, Veteran

After two years there, Anderson applied for a position on an aircraft carrier. He was assigned to the USS Saratoga, where he wanted to go because that carrier was going to his homeport in Florida. However, the Saratoga was in Vietnam at the time.

This turn of events would have a major impact on Anderson’s life long after his military service ended.

I knew I was going to be safe. I have never been afraid to die.

Vernon Anderson, Veteran

Anderson did the same job at sea as he did on land, except he was now aboard a ship that was over 1,000 feet long, weighed around 82,000 tons, and had over 5,000 men on board. He slept and worked just below the flight deck.

Pilots would wait for our intelligence briefings on where to bomb in Vietnam. They would sit and wait and we would tell them “this is your target”.

Vernon Anderson, Veteran

Since he had the highest security the government could offer, Anderson was often privy to top secret documents, including once a message from Henry Kissinger to President Richard Nixon.

As Anderson recalls, he was on midnight duty one evening while stationed in Virginia when he received a message from the Sixth Fleet flagship, which was in Spain at the time.

No one under my watch was allowed to see this except me. I had special permission to take these kinds of messages, but once I accepted it, I had to send it to the president in Washington. It was the middle of the night and I had to call these stations and say ‘are you taking this message? ‘. Well, they wouldn’t take it. They didn’t want it because they didn’t want to have to wake up the president.

Vernon Anderson, Veteran

Anderson said he couldn’t convince anyone to accept the message until morning, when they knew that by the time he reached the White House, President Nixon would be awake.

Eventually the Saratoga returned to the United States for an overhaul and Anderson was discharged in 1973. He fulfilled his six-year obligation and was fully discharged in 1975.

All of my naval experience has set me up for success for the rest of my life. It made me grow.

The army is very good at making men or women out of girls. It makes you grow. It makes or breaks you a lot of times.

I certainly have no regrets that I had to serve. There were some very enjoyable parts of my service and I have no regrets and if I was physically able I would go back today. I would help them if they needed me.

Vernon Anderson, Veteran

Anderson also served an additional two years in the reserves.

Eventually, after retiring from his professional career, Anderson became heavily involved with the American Legion and the VFW. He is a member of Post 4442 in Elm Grove.

From 2019 to 2020, Anderson also served as the state commander for the West Virginia VFW.

I have been to places in this condition that I never imagined I would see, but it was a pleasure to do so. Places I’ve only read about or seen online, I’ve been to.

Vernon Anderson, Veteran

He said there are approximately 12,000 VFW members in the Mountain State and 74 positions.

Remember how Anderson said being assigned to Saratoga would change his life for years to come?

The ship wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but if I hadn’t been assigned to that ship in Vietnam, I wouldn’t have been able to join the VFW. You must have served in a combat theater. Those who just serve in the military, if they’re not going to a combat theater, they can go to the American Legion, but they can’t join the VFW.

Vernon Anderson, Veteran

Currently, he serves as Judge Advocate General in West Virginia.