Honoring our veterans: Kelly determined to serve his country

Published 4:53 pm Monday, October 7, 2013

Gil Kelly was determined to serve his country in uniform, and he wasn’t taking “no” for an answer.

Gil Kelly

Gil Kelly

At age 21, Gil was working as a tool and die apprentice at Kearney and Trecker, a machine tool manufacturer in West Allis, Wisc.

“One night, probably a Saturday,” says Gil, “about six of us went to the movies. They used to show newsreels before the movie, and recruiting films. I saw Jimmy Stewart get out of an airplane, point his finger at the camera and say something like ‘The Army Air Corps wants you!’ Well, that was it. I told the guys, ‘I’m going!’ They said I was nuts, but I didn’t care. Monday morning, I went right over and enlisted.”

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Gil was accepted. He went home, back to his job, and waited his turn to be called up.

“I kept on waiting, but they never called me. Finally, I called them. They said I was deferred. I waited some more. They didn’t call. So I just kept calling them.”

That was when the Army broke the bad news: they weren’t going to call him, he would continue to be deferred. He worked in a “vital occupation,” a worker in a plant that supported the war effort. They were already serving their country by supplying tools and parts to keep the boys flying, sailing and rolling. Their job was just as crucial as the jobs in uniform.

Gil, however, wasn’t happy with that.

“I asked them, so, what happens if I quit my job?” They said, ‘Then we’ll call you.’ So, I went in and quit my job. They called me.”