SHERIDAN—“To be honest with you, (my family) didn’t know I was leaving,” Raymond Usher, a 74-year-old Vietnam veteran, said.
Usher left his car and life on a farm in North Carolina behind when he hopped on a milk truck at the age of 18 and didn’t look back.
Usher said growing up with a veteran — his father fought in World War II — inspired him to join the military. He had quit school in the eighth grade and spent his days milking cows and helping out on the farm. Unaware of the 23 years of service ahead of him, Usher set off for boot camp at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in 1959.
Despite his bold takeoff, Usher found it difficult leaving behind the only life he had ever known.
“(Leaving home) was scary, going into the unknown at 18 years old,” Usher said.
But as soon as he got settled into the camaraderie of boot, Usher said he knew he had chosen the right path.
After completing weeks of rigorous training, Usher set off that same year to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where he trained to be a paratrooper.
In 1960, he was sent to Germany and was stationed there for 15 months as the Berlin Wall was raised.
Upon finishing his duties in Germany, Usher was able to return home to North Carolina. However, after 19 days at home, it felt like 19 too many for him.
“I just liked the Army,” Usher said. “I like the regimentation, seeing different things, and I joined back up.”
Usher served as a communications specialist in the Third Brigade 82 Airborne Division before attending flight school. Flight school, Usher explained, was what he pursued in spite of suggestions that he attend Officer Candidate School. His choice and four-year degree in aviation management served him well over his remaining years of service.
Usher retired from the Army on Dec 1, 1981, at the age of 41.
“(Coming home) was strange, nobody was in charge,” Usher said.
Usher explained one of the main attractions for leaving the Army was a job flying for the Aramco Arabian-American Oil Company that offered quite the salary upgrade.
Over his years of service, Usher divorced, but later he met and followed his second wife, Geri, to Wyoming.
Now together for 28 years, the Ushers make their home in Sheridan.
Usher retired from Aramco in 2006, and now that his three children are all grown with kids of their own, he spends his time looking after his home and wife and, “shooting skeet twice a week,” when he’s able.
Though combat took its toll on him as it would any other soldier, Usher still looks back on his time in the Army as the best thing that ever happened to him.
“People see that I’m a disabled veteran from the sticker I have (on my car),” Usher said. “And they say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ but what I really want to say is, ‘Thank you for letting me do it.’”
By Kaylin McKinley