Armed Forces Day 1965

Armed Forces Day 1965 holds special memories for me. It was a big deal for a military brat. I was living on Biggs Air Force Base in El Paso, Texas.

Living on a USAF base was wonderful as an eleven and twelve years old boy. I had so many other boys my age to play with. Boy Scouts was a big deal to me in 1965. I loved wearing the uniform, going hiking, camping, and our community action projects.

Armed Forces Day 1965 was a community action project for the Boy Scout Troop I belonged to that year. We went on the flight line (the tarmac and runway). We touched the airplanes. We went inside some of the airplanes.  It was the adventure of a lifetime for a boy.

In May 1965, the television show Twelve O’clock High was big on TV. It had B-17s airplanes on it. We had a B-17 present that Saturday for Armed Forces Day. Allowed to sit in the gunner turrets, sit at the radio, and sit in both the pilot and co-pilots seats I felt like I was a star on Twelve O’clock High. At the end of the day, they took some of us Boy Scouts up in the B-17. I felt like I was in heaven.

B-17 at Biggs Air Force Base, El Paso, TX
B-17 at Biggs Air Force Base, El Paso, TX

Other airplanes I was able to go into included the B-52B Bomber and the only C-123 at the base. I did not get to go for a flight in them.

B-52B at Biggs Air Force Base on Armed Forced Day Open House

Most of the day the Boy Scouts either worked serving refreshments to the dignitaries or being the guides to move the big shots from the holding rooms to their appointed assignments.

It was one of the most fun days I ever had growing up. I was sure that day I would go to the US Air Force Academy and become a US Air Force officer. That didn’t happen. Instead, nine years later I became a US Army Officer. That is another story for another day.

Yes, it was great growing up as a military brat.


clean shavenJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

Church and the Military Brat

Luke Air Force Base Chapel
Luke Air Force Base Chapel

I have a tough question for you. When and where do you first remember attending church services?

I told you the question was hard. No, I am not asking you to recall what you’ve been told by your mother or grandma about church attendance, but what you can remember. In my case, the year is 1960. I had just turned six years old in November 1959. In February, my family moved from Glendale, Arizona into base housing on Luke Air Force Base near Glendale.

Once on Luke AFB, I was quickly recruited and joined Cub Scouts. I can read your mind. You’re thinking, “Cub Scouts? I thought you were asking about a church.”

I’ll tie it all together, I promise. The first time I remember going to church was attending the Luke AFB chapel service on a Sunday where they recognized the Cub Scouts. We got to wear our uniforms. We sat together. The Chaplain recognized our Cub Scout Pack at church, introducing each of us and everyone politely clapped.

At the chapel, I filled out a card where they got my name, telephone number, address, and religious affiliation. For the religious affiliation, I wrote Baptist. I did that because my mother told me to.

A few days later someone called from the Luke AFB Chaplain office. They assigned me to a Sunday school class. Sunday school met at the Luke Elementary School located near my house. The Base Chapel was the other direction. It was through the main gate and at Luke AFB.

I attended Sunday School the next Sunday. My Sunday school class was almost everyone in my elementary school class. Some gave me a hard time for not attending until now.

When asked why I hadn’t been before I said I had never heard of Sunday school. When they laughed at me, I bristled up and asked why they hadn’t invited me. That shut them up.

In August 1963, I started attending Trinity Baptist Church in Seguin, Texas with my mother, brother and Uncle Lee, Aunt Leona, and their three girls. My father was in Vietnam from August 1963 to August 1964. I was never asked to join the Sunday school class or church since my family was military. When told I didn’t have have to fill out a form since my family would be moving next summer because we weren’t permanent to town. I was heartbroken. They made me feel second-class.

A year later the family was in El Paso, Texas with dad stationed at Biggs Air Force Base. There father was the Sunday school director for the Protestant Chapel. He worked with Chaplains Henry and Gurtiss. Major Henry was a Presbyterian while LTC. Gurtiss was a Lutheran. We didn’t have a Baptist chaplain.

The summer of 1965 I attended my first vacation Bible school. My mother was the director. I learned the books of the Bible in order. We used plaster of paris molds to make Bible verse plaques. We would paint the plaque and give the to our parents who would keep them until the day they died. We also made plaster of paris imprints of our hands. Vacation Bible school was fun. Again, it was the same kids in my class as at school. The best part may have been the snow cones we had for refreshments.

I would attend other Sunday schools on other military bases. It wasn’t until my dad retired from the USAF that we joined a civilian church and Sunday school. But, that is another story for another time.

Picture Source: It is in the Public Domain. Works of the United States Government are not protected by copyright and are thus in the public domain.  http://www.luke.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-130702-054.jpg


clean shavenJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

Tumbleweed Forts & Snow Forts

Snow Fort in New Hampshire
Snow Fort in New Hampshire

In January 1966, I was digging foxholes and building forts in the desert near the military quarters my family lived in on Biggs Air Force Base located in El Paso, Texas. My friends and I would dig big holes in the sand and surround our fort with tumbleweeds and other desert vegetation.  Nature camouflaged the fort’s site from prying eyes.

While we were building our prized base, another group of kids would do the same thing building their fortress several hundred yards away in another part the desert. One team would be the American soldiers.

A second team would be the German Soldiers. Pretending it was 1942 and 1943 we would play a dismounted game of “Rat Patrol” where we chased each other around the desert. The goal was to surprise and defeat the bad guys and their leader, General Erwin Rommel.

It would be hot, sandy and lots of fun as we played Army. Many times we took home huge amounts of sand home with us in the cuffs of our turned up blue jeans and in the blue jean pockets. Sometimes we added intrigue using water balloons as hand grenades.

Just a few weeks later in February 1966 my family relocated to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Pease Air Force Base. There my role-playing and mischief continued with a new group of friends. Instead of sand, tumbleweeds, and water balloons we graduated to snow forts and an endless supply of snowballs. We would sneak up and destroy the enemy’s creation.

It would be cold, damp and lots of fun as we again played Army. This time we played pretending we were German troops on the Russian front facing the Red Army. It was sometimes confusing as we had trouble understanding how the Russians could be the good guys in this scenario. After all, this was in the middle of the Cold War, and the Russians were the Evil Soviet Empire.

Nevertheless, the fun was endless as we would dash in running and throwing snowballs. Sometimes we would ride our sleds and swoosh into action. Growing up a military brat was endless fun. The never-ending supply of kids your age made the fun that much greater.


clean shavenJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

Mom Gets an Amateur Radio License

201 Maco Terrace Greenville, SC in 2012
201 Maco Terrace Greenville, SC in 2012

The earliest memory of this military brat has my Dad stationed at Donaldson Air Force Base. Our family lived in a small, wooden framed house located at 201 Maco Terrace in Greenville, South Carolina.

Our across the street neighbors were Don and Doris Bedford. Don was a propane route salesman. Doris was a homemaker, part-time school crossing guard, and sometime honky-tonk girl guitar player and singer. They had three children. The oldest two were daughters Donna and Cheryl. The youngest was son Dee.

Doris Bedford considerably influenced my family and me. She sang like Kitty Wells and played an electric guitar. She frequently worked at area honky-tonks performing to earn the extra dollars her family needed. She would become my Mother and I’s first guitar teacher. That is a story for another time.

Doris also held an FCC Extra Class Federal Communications Commission Amateur Radio license – K4AOH. She was an HAM. She had learned Morse code and obtained her license as a teenager during World War Two while working for the US government.

Me and my brother - 1957
Me and my brother – 1957

Mother became enamored with the possibility of talking to people around the world via Morse Code or voice on a radio. My father already held an Amateur Radio license earned through his primary military job specialty as a radar technician and secondary specialty as a radio technician. When Doris suggested Mother get her license, Dad encouraged her as well.

About this time, my Dad reenlisted in the United States Air Force, He also had a new duty assignment that transferred the family across the USA to Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona. My parents were buying the house at 201 Maco Terrace in Greenville and decided to keep it. Their thought in 1958 was to move back to South Carolina in 1967 when Dad retired from the USAF.

The transfer to Arizona motivated my mother to study harder and faster. No, she didn’t pass the tests and get her license before we left Greenville.

After we arrived and got settled in our rented house in Glendale, Arizona, Mother continued studying in hot pursuit of her HAM license. Doris Bedford introduced Mother to Ken and Gertrude Pond. They were an older couple who lived in Phoenix and both held their FCC license.

Me in 1960 at 2420 Navajo, Luke AFB, AZ
Me in front of 2420 Navajo, Luke AFB, AZ in 1960.

I still remember mother buying 78 RPM records that had the familiar dit dah of Morse Code as she studied her radio theory and Morse Code. I helped my mom learn the code by playing the records for her and sometimes sending the code for her to practice using an old military surplus Morse code key. I was proud of how she learned the code. I also learned the code, but at five years old I couldn’t send or receive it as fast as was required to pass the license. I eventually would.

I remember how excited we were when mother passed her Novice Class license. She received the call sign KN7JYX. The N meant she held a Novice class license. It meant she could only be on the airwaves using code. She would have to pass the General Class exams before she could use voice communication. The General Class license required sending and receiving the code at 25 words per minute, as well as additional electronic theory. She passed the exam, and the call sign dropped the N, becoming K7JYX.

We built the first HAM radio from military surplus parts. I still remember the first antenna. It was an inverted V. It had a center conductor and wires going down from each it, one on each side. I helped put up the antenna. The first time we tested it under a radio frequency load we took a Florissant light bulb outside and held it near the antenna. With a good foot between the glass tube and the wires, the antenna light up like a spotlight!

With her license Mother was able to talk to Doris back in South Carolina. Mother would remain active in Amateur Radio until her death. She went on to earn Amateur Advanced and Extra Class license. Her Morse Code speed was over 75 words a minute for the Extra Class license.

She was proud as I went on to earSkywarn Certn the HAM radio and Morse Code merit badges as a Boy Scout. I also passed the exams for the Novice Class, Technician Class, and General Class FCC license. My call sign is N5FRJ.

Over the years, I have run a two-meter repeater from the steeple of one church I served and had my HAM rig in my office at three churches I served. For years and decades, I was also a National Weather Service Skywarn Certified Weather Spotter – a storm chaser.

One of the fun things about being a military brat was all the interesting people and lifelong friends you meet and make. The Bedford’s were friends until Don and Doris died.

GraveWhen we moved to Texas in 1963 Mother had her HAM call sign changed for Texas and became W5MWK. HAM radio was so important to my parents that their call signs are on their tombstone. It was wonderful sharing a lifelong interest with my Mother.


“Mom Gets an Amateur Radio License” is a chapter in the forthcoming book “Military Brat Memories: Growing Up During the Cold War” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler.


clean shavenJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

Walk in a Manner Worthy of Your Call to Write 

integrityMaybe you are a Christian writer whose drive is sharing Christian themes for the mainstream market. Your goal may focus on writing to develop Christian Believers. Whatever your motivation, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” Ephesians 4:1b.

Ephesians 4:1-6 (English Standard Version) says,

I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  These verses give five guidelines that will help you:

These verses give five guidelines that will help you: Walk in a Manner Worthy of Your Call to Write

Guideline One: Humility“to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility” – Ephesians 4: 1b—2a

As a Christian writer, we should be full of Jesus, not self. The temptation is to be full of ourselves. When this happens, we are at risk of treating others with contempt, of coming across as preachy.

Guideline Two: Gentleness – “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience,” Ephesians 4: 1b- 2a.

As a Christian writer, we should be bold but under control. Under control does not mean being a wimp. Just as a powerful race horse is under the control of the jockey, as a Believer we need to be under the control of the Spirit of the Living God. Share the love Jesus and his teachings without beating the reader over the head with the Holy Bible.

Guideline Three: Patience – “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience,” Ephesians 4: 1b- 2a  As a Christian writer we need to trust God believing His word would come true. We need to keep on keeping on. We need to accept the fact that it takes time to develop our writing craft.  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but wish patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” — 2 Peter 3:9

As a Christian writer, we need to trust God believing His word would come true. We need to keep on keeping on. We need to accept the fact that it takes time to develop our writing craft.  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but wish patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” — 2 Peter 3:9

Guideline Four: Forgiving Love – “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” – Ephesians 4: 1b – 2.

As a Christian writer, we need to realize Christian love covers a multitude of sins. We should write with a love that loves no matter what. We have all heard it said, “hate the sin, love the sinner.” That is what we must do as writers. After all, as a Christian you are, by grace saved through faith, it is the gift of God.  Ephesians 2:8-10

Guideline Five: Unity If the Spirit in the Bond of Peace “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:3 English Standard Version

Guideline five is the sum of points one through four. All four points equal a bond of peace. We are bearing one another in love. Our writing should share and bring people to Christ, not drive them from Christ. “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” – Ephesians 4:4-6 (English Standard Version).

We need to realize it is not a geographical or a denominational thing; it is a Jesus and a God thing.

The article was written by Jimmie A. Kepler on May 4, 2012.


clean shavenJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

Success: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional Approach

postitive-thinking-boosts-physical-healthWritten about six years ago, I originally used it as talking points for a Bible study I was teaching. Titled “How to Discipline Yourself for Success: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional Approach, ” I used God’s word  for the source of the principles I share.

1. You must master your moods.
Proverbs 25:8 – Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.

2. You must watch your words.
Proverbs 13: 3 – He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.

3. You must restrain your actions.
Proverbs 19:11 – A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

4. You must stick to your schedule.
Ephesians 5:15-16 – Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

5. You must manage your money.
Proverbs 21:20 – The wise person saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.

6. You must maintain your health.
I Thessalonians 4:4 – Each of you should learn to control his own body, keeping it pure and treating it with respect …


clean shavenJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

A Mentor’s Story

sherwood_anderson_1933One way a novelist can become successful is by having a more established writer as a mentor. Writing groups can also serve the role of a mentor. Let me share an illustration of the impact a mentor.

In 1919, a youthful veteran returned from World War I. He relocated to Chicago moving into a particular neighborhood with the hope of being near to the author Sherwood Anderson.

The green writer was impressed by the critical acclaim for Anderson and his novel Winesburg, Ohio. He had heard that Sherwood Anderson was willing to help aspiring writers. He worked to meet Anderson. The two men became close friends. They met almost every day to read newspapers, magazines, and novels. They dissected the writings they read.

The aspiring writer brought his works for critique having Anderson help him improve his craft. Anderson went as far as introducing the want-to-be writer to his network of publishing connections. The striving author did okay with his first book “The Sun Also Rises.” The new writer was Ernest Hemingway.

Sherwood Anderson didn’t stop there. He moved to New Orleans where he met another aspiring writer. He took the young man through the same steps and paces of the craft. He shared an apartment with this young man. He even invested $300 in getting this writer’s first book “Soldier’s Pay” published. This young author was William Faulkner.

Anderson would later move to California and repeat the process with John Steinbeck. Sherwood Anderson also mentored Thomas Wolfe and Erskine Caldwell. Ray Bradbury says Winesburg, Ohio was on his mind when he wrote The Martin Chronicles. He rewrote Winesburg, Ohio placing it on the planet Mars.

Only Mark Twain has had a greater influence in molding modern American writing than Sherwood Anderson. Anderson didn’t do too badly, did he? William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck each won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and there are multiple Pulitzer Prizes between them.

If you are serious about writing I encourage you to find a mentor or join a writing group. The support of my writer’s group and critique group keep me motivated. If you are an established writer, why not invest in the life of a new or aspiring writer?


Photo Credit: Public Domain
Photographer: Carl Van Vechten
English: Photo of author Sherwood Anderson.
Date: 29 November 1933

Source: This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a42796. As the restrictions on this collection expired in 1986, the Library of Congress believes this image is in the public domain. However, the Carl Van Vechten estate has asked that use of Van Vechten’s photographs “preserve the integrity” of his work, i.e, that photographs not be colorized or cropped, and that proper credit is given to the photographer.


clean shavenJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.