Temple native John Potts Jr. has spent most of his life in and around the military, since joining the Texas National Guard more than 60 years ago when he was a senior in high school.
“In 1955, when I was a senior, Congress passed a law that (said) if you joined the National Guard before you were seventeen-and-a-half, they couldn’t draft you,” Potts said, recently. “So I joined December the 18th, 1955, one day before my 17-and-a-half birthday.
“I was a tank driver in the Guard, and I broke my leg and couldn’t go to summer camp. When I did that, they moved me to the Army Reserve. After that, I was working in Midland, (Texas). I wasn’t married, and I decided that it was time for me to go (back) into the military, so I joined the Air Force in 1960.”
Over the next two years, Airman 1st Class Potts was stationed at Strategic Air Command in Nebraska, and worked on a KC-135 air refueler. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, his unit took aircraft down to Homestead, Florida, but that is as close as he ever got to being involved in a combat situation.
Potts went on to a career with the Department of Veterans Affairs, where he retired in 2002, spending the last five years there as a special programs coordinator for the director.
Last month, the 81-year-old father of two, grandfather of five, and great-grandfather of one — with a second on the way in December — was one of 11 Central Texas veterans honored by U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, during ceremonies at Texas A&M University-Central Texas for service to the country and the community.
“I loved it,” said Potts, who serves as a general superintendent for the Bell County Youth Fair, and for the past 10 years as commander of the local American Legion in Temple. “I’m just a common old boy who likes to do stuff for his community. It was truly an honor.”
Potts says he is looking forward to next week’s Veterans Day observance at the American Legion, which is to include a Temple Police Department honor guard and recognition of service to 25 Vietnam veterans.