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Military service generations apart

McCurdy gives Veterans Day keynote address at PHS


Military service a generation apart was the focus of former Purcell resident Tom McCurdy’s keynote address to the Veterans Day assembly at Purcell High School on November 11.

McCurdy attended the University of Oklahoma where he was in the Army ROTC program. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1962 and asked the Army for an extension that would allow him to play basketball on an exhibition team.

The Army turned down the request.

“My Army service did not start off well,” McCurdy told the assembly.

Instead of playing basketball, McCurdy found himself at Fort Benning, Ga., for infantry training.

“We were thrown together with West Point grads. They thought the ROTC guys were low. But we were committed to let them know who was best,” he said.

After infantry training they were sent to intelligence school at Baltimore. Following that training, the rest of McCurdy’s group were sent to Vietnam.

“I’m the only one (of that group) still alive,” he said, adding his orders  were for Ft. Sill where he was an investigator.

“We had a chance to obliterate that country.”

His stateside service wasn’t that simple, either.

“I was the commanding officer of my unit when President Kennedy was killed. That was a pretty tough time in the life of this country,” he said.

He ended his active duty in 1964 and completed his commitment to the Army as a Reservist from 1964 to 1968.

McCurdy then switched gears in his address, speaking of another Purcell man who married in 1937 and had a son in 1940. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the United States went to war.

The man left his young family and joined the Navy which sent him to California for training. Eventually he was assigned to the USS Wadleigh, a brand new destroyer.

The ship saw action in several “pretty tough battles,” McCurdy said. And its crew rescued several U.S. flyers who were shot down.

The man would later recall standing on the deck of the Wadleigh and watching the Empire of Japan surrender on another ship. It was then the man knew he would be coming home.

“There were no parades and he came home on the train,” McCurdy said. “This veteran I am talking about was my Dad who died in 2010, short of 98 years.”

McCurdy said if there was one thing he wanted the students to take away from his address, it was patriotism.

“We’ve got to have it … to defend this country. The greatest country in the world. It is very important you realize that. It is what I want for my kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.”


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