Our veterans who served our country: Robert “Rob” Fuller

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rob Fuller

Rob Fuller

Many of the so-called “Baby Boomers,” born during the demographic Post–World War II baby boom between the years 1946 and 1964, had parents who had served in World War II. Following in their footsteps, they often decided to enlist in the same branch of service.

Robert “Rob” Fuller was born in Chicago in 1948 and his family moved to La Grange, a western suburb of Chicago when he was five. He enlisted in the Navy in 1966 when he turned 18 and graduated from Lyons Township High School. One of his reasons was because his father, Bob, had been in the Navy during World War II and his brother-in-law Chip Kessler had also been in the Navy.

“I also enlisted because the Navy was offering to send high school graduates to their school of choice, which for me was as an aviation electrician. I went to Great Lakes Naval Station, the United States Navy’s only boot camp, located near North Chicago, in Lake County, Ill. in October where I was fortunate to be selected as a recruit petty officer and spent most of my time there fixing things around the barracks and dispensing toilet paper, sheets, and blankets. Although I had to take the fire safety class, swimming and other important courses, I did not have to take most of the routine classes. Because my time at Great Lakes was during the Christmas holidays, I was also asked to put together bicycles and other toys by my superiors.”

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“When I graduated from boot camp in 1967, I was briefly stationed at Naval Air Station (NAS) in Warrington, Fla., a community southwest of the Pensacola city limits. Then I was reassigned to a fighter squadron, VF-74 for the remainder of my time in the Navy. My squadron was called the “Be-Delivers” and our motto was ‘Can do.’ We were assigned to the USS Forestall so, whenever it was deployed, so were we. My job out at sea was to take care of a Phantom F-4. Designated as the Plane Captain, I always made sure that the plane was ready to fly. When the squadron was home at Oceana NAS in Virginia Beach, Va., I had the additional duties of making sure any support equipment, such as tractors and air compressors, were functioning and ready to go.”

“The slogan, “Join the Navy and see the world,” was pretty accurate. Although we did one tour in Viet Nam in the Gulf of Tonkin, we also had a few cruises to the Caribbean, South America, and three deployments to the Mediterranean. Travelling to different places in the world like that, I had an opportunity to experience different cultures.”

“The Navy was one of the most positive and rewarding events of my life. My experience in Viet Nam was tremendously sad as I lost many good friends there. That negative experience was offset by other more rewarding ones like having a beer with the actor Telly Savalas on the beach in Athens, Greece, walking on the Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, skiing the French Alps, and discovering the wonderful food in southern Europe.”

“I felt that being in the Navy made me become a man. I learned responsibility, not only to the plane I took care of and the pilot who was going to fly it, but to myself and, more importantly, to my shipmates. Whether I liked my supervisor or not, I had a job to do. I learned I could work long, tough hours and still complete the job. When our squadron was given a challenge, we always came through with flying colors because we learned to work together with that ‘can do’ attitude.”

After serving for four years, the Viet Nam war was winding down and, although his overall experience in the Navy was wonderful, Fuller left the service with an honorable discharge. After, spending a little time in college on the G.I. Bill, he managed apartment communities, first in Chicago, then in the Southeast before moving to Polk County in 1993 and becoming a licensed massage and bodywork therapist. He most recently returned to school to get a masters degree in social work and is currently providing mental health assessments and clinical services to children and adults for a local North Carolina non-profit and a South Carolina mental health organization.

If you are a veteran and would you like to share about your experience in the US military, please contact Robin Edgar at 2robinedgar@gmail.com or call The Tryon Daily Bulletin at 828-859-9151.