Military man, doctor and grandpa
Publishers note – This is the first out of three stories written by children about relatives who served in the military. There will be one a week with the last story November 21.
GRAFTON–We had the honor of interviewing our grandpa, James R. Gaustad of Grafton, N.D. who served in the military during WWII. He is now 86 years old. The questions were asked by us, his two granddaughters, Gabbi Gaustad (14) and Grace Gaustad (12), also from Grafton. Grandpa answered the questions as well as he could remember them. This article is for Veteran’s Day. We are very proud of our grandpa and love him very much. Here is his story.
Grandpa Doc, that’s what we call him, was drafted in 1944 when he was 18 years old. The recruiter wanted him, and the other young men, to graduate from high school before they enlisted them. He left Jamestown, N.D. by train for Fort Snelling, Minn., to be inducted and to receive his first military uniform. He left from there to take his basic training at North Camp Hood, Texas. He chose that branch of military because his father was in the U.S. Army during WWI.
During basic training they wanted to get the recruits in good physical shape. He slept in barracks with about 75 other men who lived together for about six months. They were not allowed to leave the base during their free time but they had things they could do to keep them busy. The recruits were dedicated to their training because they wanted to be there. Their superior officer and sergeant were very good to the men.
After Camp Hood, he went on to Camp Swift in Texas for tank destroyer training. According to grandpa, the training wasn’t too bad because the recruits were motivated and very interested. They received roughly $50-$75 a month. There were able to purchase items like pop and candy. Because of their age, they were not allowed to drink alcohol; however, they were allowed to smoke. The government supplied cigarettes to those who smoked. Back then they did not know that smoking would be hazardous to your health. Grandpa also had to serve on KP (kitchen patrol) duty. He was glad that he only had to do that once in a while.
After serving in the military for two years, he returned to Jamestown where he attended Jamestown College. He then transferred to the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago where he studied optometry and became an eye doctor. Because of his military background, his education was paid for;
books, tuition – everything! In addition to his education, he received $105 a month from the government for living expenses.
Grandpa did not serve overseas due to a birth defect in his right hand. They said his handicap would affect his “trigger” finger. He worked in the finance department paying all the troops.
We enjoyed interviewing our Grandpa Doc. We learned a lot about his military background and his is a great role model for us. He also shared his military uniform from WWII along with his father’s from WWI. He said that grandma keeps them in a cedar chest to protect them. We loved interviewing our grandpa and hope you enjoyed our story.