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Boozman Shares Memories of River Valley Army Veteran

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 U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service of Keith Greene in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series highlighting the military service of Arkansans.

Keith Greene was born in Jackson County, Missouri where he and his siblings grew up working in their dad’s grocery business. He remembered working hard from an early age with the rest of his family.

Greene enrolled in junior college after graduating high school in 1960, but quickly realized he didn’t enjoy the class schedule or continuing to work for his dad.

“I thought, you know, it’s time to make a change,” he recalled before enlisting in the Army in September 1961.

He was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for basic training. Although it was in the same state, Greene remembered it being very different from his life at home.

“It was an adventure because you never knew what the next day was going to bring,” he said. “It really opened my eyes.”

He learned a lot from the experienced soldiers around him who served in WWII and the Korean War and was reminded in simple ways of what they had endured. One day he noticed the holes in the used field training jacket he had been given and asked if it was eaten by a moth. He learned they were bullet holes. “That stuck with me,” he said.

Greene also found that the skills he learned in his family’s business could help him in the Army, especially his ability to drive a truck. He had a chauffeur’s license and was frequently assigned to haul people all over the base. He remembered being thankful the job allowed him to get out of kitchen patrol duty.

After basic training, he remained at Fort Leonard Wood for wheeled vehicle mechanic school.

“That’s the Army’s thinking, you know, they’re going to let you fix something,” he said.

His first assignment after school was with the First Aviation Company at Fort Benning, Georgia, today known as Fort Moore.

The base became a hub for planning America’s response to the Cuban Missile Crisis and he put his truck driving skills to use again while stationed there. “We were just constantly picking up people coming in from all over the country. High-ranking brass and everybody that was involved with planning this invasion,” he said.

During his time in Georgia he struck up a friendship with a commander who flew a helicopter and encouraged him to apply for flight school. Greene was accepted, but wasn’t successful in becoming an Army aviator. “I got over that,” he said given the high number of casualties of helicopter pilots in Vietnam.

Greene’s next duty station was Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. “That was a neat place,” he recollected.

Once on base, his driving skills were noted when a commander looked at his records and Greene was assigned to serve as his driver.

In Hawaii he found himself closer to the war and able to follow news about what was happening in Vietnam. “We all kind of stayed in tune to things, the day room had TVs, we saw the news all the time.” It was also where he learned of the death of President Kennedy.

In February of 1964 Greene said an alert came down to board up everything and he was airlifted to Okinawa, Japan. He then unloaded ships of refurbished equipment and drove up into the mountains where he stayed for several weeks.

He said the trip was dangerous despite the reporting he read in an issue of Army Times that detailed the successful mission.

“I mean we had all kinds of troubles with this stuff from the way they stored it on the ships,” Green also recalled tanks and trucks sliding off the road because they went through a snowstorm in the mountains.

After completing his military service, Greene started a career in poultry distribution. He used the skills he learned from his dad to excel as a poultry salesman and eventually became a successful business owner.

Although he did not fly for the Army, his earlier interest in aviation led him to pursue a private pilot’s license, which he used throughout his career. He owned many airplanes over the years and turned his passion into community service by introducing young people to aviation at the local Boys and Girls Club.

Greene’s lifelong commitment to service included serving as the Mayor of Alma, Arkansas for several years and working with many veteran-related organizations. He continues to engage his fellow veterans as an active member of the American Legion, Military Officers Association of America and through his involvement in the Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame.

One of his top priorities has been to recognize the service of his fellow veterans.

“That has really been something that I have found really interesting and looking at their individual stories of what they did. People don’t realize what they’ve experienced, what they’ve done. It’s got ahold of me. I was glad I got on there and I’m still on,” Greene said about his work on the hall of fame.

Today he is continuing his efforts in support of veterans by helping create a statewide Arkansas Veterans Coalition to be a voice in the Arkansas Legislature for men and women called to military service.

“I enjoyed the Army, I really did and I think part of it was the fact that I was able to move around quite a bit during the time I was in,” he said about his service.

“I’m grateful for Keith Greene’s service to our country in uniform and his continued commitment to public service and recognizing the unique experiences of veterans. I’m pleased to preserve his memories of a lifetime devoted to helping others,” Boozman said.

Boozman will submit Greene’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.

Do you know a veteran interested in sharing their memories for the Salute to Veterans series? Nominate an Arkansas veteran to share their story by calling Boozman’s Fort Smith office at 479-573-0189.

Heather Pedersen

Heather Pedersen (125)

“Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity.” -C.S. Lewis

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