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John Coombs

Master Sergeant (Ret.) John Coombs served as a Navy Sailor and Army Air Corps Soldier before becoming an Airman in the Air Force. He has seen a little of everything throughout his military career. He enlisted before he was 18 so the Army wouldn’t draft him. “I wanted to enlist for myself to have the choice of joining, not them telling me I had to,” he said. He turned 19 on June 6, 1944 on the beaches of Normandy. “We were the first boat to hit Normandy,” he said. “Everyone was about my age; the oldest person was an officer, who was 23. I tried to just keep my head down and hope for the best for most of it.” After the war, he played many different roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force, such as working on a crash rescue boat out of Bolling Field, Washington, D.C., working as a recruiter in Philadelphia and managing the NCO Club in the Miho Islands of Japan. “It was a learning experience for all of us,” he said. “We almost burned the place down once, but other than that it went well.”

He retired out of McChord Air Force Base, Wash., as the manager of the officers’ club after 20 years of military service. “I accomplished a lot in my career… just do what you’re told and do it to the best of your ability,” he said.