Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Pair of Fiancées

(click here to read previous story: An Ecumenical Conference in Illinois)

Near the end of 1953, Dinon was in a predicament.

Before his graduation in the spring of 1953, Dinon had exchanged letters with a pretty girl named Liz Marshall.  He had met Liz by chance at an Ecumenical conference in Illinois, but they had only corresponded for a short time and never expected to meet again because of the +1,000 miles between The University of Wisconsin and her school in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Present-day photo of the entrance to
Washington Adventist University
But now, drafted into the army for the Korean War soon after his graduation, Dinon was stationed at Camp Pickett, near the town of Blackstone, Virginia.  His family and fiancée were more than a thousand miles away back home in Wisconsin Rapids ... but Liz was still going to school at Washington Missionary College (now called Washington Adventist University), which was a little north of D.C. and less than 200 miles away from Camp Pickett.

The proximity that had previously been a disadvantage suddenly became an advantage for a lonely soldier far from home.  So, in spite of his engagement to Dorothy Brown back in Wisconsin, he reached out to Liz and reconnected with her.

"Camp Pickett was close enough that you could find someone to take you into Richmond or D.C.  ... So while I was there, I went to Washington, D.C. a few times to visit Liz.  I guess I was lonely or something like that," Dinon admitted.  "I thought, well, she’s a girl, so, OK.  So I went to see her several times."

Dinon grew to like Liz more and more as he continued to date her and, regardless of his fiancée back home (whom Liz knew nothing about), he fell in love with her.  After just a few weeks, Dinon proposed to Liz ... 

... while he was still engaged to Dorothy Brown back in Wisconsin.

Quite the predicament.

Shortly after proposing to Liz, he sat down with her and confessed, "I think I'm in love with you, but I'm engaged to another girl back home.  What should I do?"

She was furious.

"Don't ask me to tell you what to do!  You've got to make up your mind!"

While retelling the story more than fifty years later, Dinon laughed.

"It was proper for her to say that," he said.

Dinon's parents, Ralph and Alma
Liz went back to school and left him to make his choice: Liz or Dorothy.

It's likely that Dinon asked his parents for advice.  If so, his mother probably advised him to choose Dorothy.

"I don’t think my mother really liked Liz," Dinon said.  "She was sure that, since Liz came from a divorced family, we would divorce at some time, too."  And back in Wisconsin there was his hometown fiancée, Dorothy Brown, a girl that his mother liked so much that she had helped Dinon pick out the engagement ring.

But for some reason, reasons that even Dinon can't quite remember, he chose Liz.

"I don’t know why I picked her," he said.  "I really don’t know.  I guess I liked her better.  Or it could've been because she was current, y'know, since I was seeing her right then."

1954: Photo of Liz with unknown child
Whatever the reason, he made his choice and he followed through: He went to Dorothy and he broke off their engagement.

"She gave me back the ring," he said.  "She could've kept it, obviously, but she gave it back."

Shortly after that, a dozen red roses arrived for Liz Marshall at the dorms in Washington Missionary College.  And everyone heard about it: she ran around the halls of the dorms, joyfully shouting, "He sent me roses!  HE SENT ME ROSES!"

However, their relationship was tested again not long after that.  Camp Pickett was being closed, and Dinon was being relocated to Fort Sam Houston more than 1,600 miles away in San Antonio, Texas.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Ecumenical Conference in Illinois

(click here to read previous story: Camp Pickett)

Before his graduation in the spring of 1953, during his junior or senior year, Dinon drove from The University of Wisconsin down to Illinois to attend an Ecumenical conference.

He arrived a little earlier than most, and as a result volunteer to help direct parking for the event.

One of the cars he directed in was driven by a girl, about his age, named Liz Marshall.  After he waved her toward a spot, she turned to her girlfriends in the back seat and exclaimed, "Oo, wasn't he good-looking?"

Liz had driven up from Washington Missionary College in Silver Spring, Maryland - close to Washington, D.C. - to attend the conference with other members of her church youth group ... And to pursue one of the boys in the group that was, conveniently, attending.  But Dinon caught her attention; she remembered their meeting, even though he did not.

July 1954: Liz and unknown child
After the conference, Liz and Dinon somehow ended up in the same group of people that went out for a late-night snack in the little Illinois town.  "I don't know how I was in the group, there were a number of students there and I was just one of them, and we went to this restaurant late," he said.

At some point before the group parted ways, Dinon and Liz spoke and exchanged mailing addresses, and even corresponded for a short time.

"I didn't keep up a running letter conversation with Liz," Dinon said.  "I practically forgot about her.  I didn't really write her a lot - I met her, I got her address, but she was in Washington, and I was up in Wisconsin.  There was no expectation of ever seeing each other again."

Another photo of Liz
But all that changed a year or two later when Dinon was staying in Camp Pickett, a thousand miles away from home but less than 200 miles away from D.C.

"[Camp Pickett] was close enough that you could find someone to take you into Richmond, VA or Washington, D.C.," Dinon said.  "Well, Liz was going to college just outside of Washington, D.C. in Silver Spring, Maryland."

So he recovered her mailing address and struck up a correspondence again.  After all, she was much closer than anyone else he knew, including his fiancée.  And it didn't hurt that Liz was a smart and very pretty young lady.

"While I was at Camp Pickett, I went to Washington, D.C. a few times to visit Liz," Dinon admitted.  "I guess I was lonely or something like that.  I thought, well, she's a girl, so, ok.  So I went to see her several times."  He also confirmed that when he went to visit her, "It was dating her, yes, that's right."

And as the weeks went by and he continued to date Liz - while, unbeknownst to Liz, still engaged to Dorothy Brown - Dinon began to fall in love with her.

(Next story: A Pair of Fiancees)


K Loaf
Dorms, Food
and Studies

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Camp Pickett

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Basic Training at Fort Riley

(click here to read previous story: The University of Wisconsin - Graduation)

Dinon graduated from the University of Wisconsin in June of 1953.  While working at a camp that August, he got the call.

The timing of his draft is interesting when compared to the timeline of the Korean War, which was considered to have ended with the Armistice Agreement that was signed on July 27 of 1953.  Dinon got his call in August of 1953.

A map showing the location of Fort Riley
"By that time, the Korean Armistice had been signed, so we were there just in case something happened," Dinon said.  "I was drafted for two years, but only served about 21 months because Congress would not appropriate enough money to keep the army as big as the military wanted."

The first thing that happened to Dinon was basic training.

"Now, basic training is broken up into two sections: one is the basic that everybody goes through, and then the second part is for a specialty," Dinon said.  "I was in the medics: I knew how to give a shot, bind up somebody’s wounds.  But I first started out in Fort Riley, Kansas, that's where I went through the basic."

Fort Riley, named for Major General Bennett C. Riley, is a U.S. army installation located on the Kansas River.  It was established  in 1853 to protect the people and trade traveling the Oregon and Santa Fe trails, and later provided protection to the building of Kansas railroad lines.  In the early 20th century, Fort Riley was also identified as ground zero for the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.  During World War II, approximately 125,000 soldiers were trained at Fort Riley, and many Korean War soldiers were also trained here.
Young Dinon in his
army uniform

Part of the army dress code was a requirement to remain clean-shaven.  This was easy enough for Dinon when he had access to his electric razor in the barracks, but out in the field he had to rely on the light color of his hair.

"I mean, I wouldn't know how to shave with a straight razor," Dinon said.  "I was glad that my beard was very light and not easily seen - it was there, but you really had to look for it, so I got away with not shaving and then I shaved when I got back to the barracks.  I was just glad that I escaped detection."

During training, Dinon did well enough on the rifle range to qualify as a sharp shooter.

"I never shot a gun before going into the army, but I paid attention to what you’re supposed to do for aiming and so on, and I guess I was steady enough that I could do that," Dinon said.  "I never had to do anything with it, but that’s what I was designated anyhow."

He remembers one night that he was on guard duty for the finance office, where the payroll was.

"The sergeant in charge of the guards said, 'Tomorrow, I either want to find the money in there, or a dead soldier,' and so, we got the idea, 'OK, I guess we better pay attention'," Dinon said.  "Now, we had live ammunition that night, which we hadn't really had much of before ... Well, I was on guard duty, and it went all right."

An M1903 Springfield Rifle: this model, possibly
used by Dinon, was used as a sniper rifle during
the Korean War and is still used as a military
drill rifle
While at Fort Riley, Dinon also participated in the drill team.

"I got involved in a group where there'd be a bunch of us practicing, and you’d learn how to manipulate your gun and display it for parades and the like," Dinon said.  "So, for instance, if you were in the front, we'd be marching along, then you'd place your gun and walk away from it and then the guy right behind you, having done the same thing, he picks up your gun and the last guy ends up with two rifles.  We'd march around, and do different twirling and so on, and I thought that was fun."

After the first part of his basic training was completed, he was sent to Camp Pickett (now Fort Pickett) in Virginia for continued training as a medic.