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Veterans’ Voices
Honoring our men and women in uniform

By MARY DRENNON

I

Special to the Tribune-Herald

n the 1980s, the movie “Top Gun” with Tom Cruise
was a hit. It left an impression on many a young
man, including Ron Bates of China Spring. After he
viewed the movie, he decided he wanted to work on
a deck of a carrier in the U.S. Navy.
Born in Farmington, Missouri, Bates’ family moved
a lot, but for the last 10 years of his schooling, he was
in Burleson, Texas, where he graduated high school in
1987.
By this time, Bates had already joined the Navy
under the delayed entry program. Two weeks after he
graduated, he found himself in boot camp in Great
Lakes, Illinois. Advanced training was in Millington,
Tennessee, where he learned aviation ordnance and
how to load it on planes and helicopters.
Bates got what he wanted and went to work on the
flight deck of the USS John Kennedy, homeported in
Norfolk, Virginia. “The ship was so large that if you
stood it on its end, it would be as high as the Empire
State Building,” Bates said. It carried some 5,500 men.

u.s. NAVY
His first cruise was to the Mediterranean, where he
visited lots of ports. But it was his second cruise that
was a bit busier. The Kennedy went through the Suez
Canal to the Red Sea during Desert Storm. Africa was
on one side, and Asia was on the other.
The experience was pretty much one-sided, as
Bates said he loaded lots and lots of bombs, but never
took any incoming. Bates would load weapons on the
aircraft, and it would take off to bomb its targets. The
hours, however, were long and hot.
He also served as a spiritual adviser of sorts, leading
worship service for the Baptists on board. He would
also try to lift others up who were suffering from
separation anxiety.
By this time, Bates decided to get off active duty. He
did so in 1992 but ended up joining the Navy Reserves
in 1998.
“I missed it,” he said.
Bates did the monthly service for a while but was
called to active duty in 2006. This time, he wasn’t on
a ship but an actual base in Baghdad, Iraq. There, they
took incoming fire, but nothing too close.
“Initially, you’re scared,” Bates said. “After you’ve
been on base a while, you don’t think about it as
much.”
Something else those who’ve never been there don’t
think about: sandstorms. Bates said you could see them
coming like a huge cloud. “You had to cover everything
because sand gets in everywhere,” he said.
The highlight of his career came when he was called
to go to Djibouti, Africa, where he spent a year on an
airfield handling arrivals and departures. Bates met
a lot of interesting people and had some wonderful
experiences, he said, including learning how to scuba

Photo by Mary Drennon

China Spring resident Ron Bates visited more than 30 countries during his 24 years of active and
reserve duty in the U.S. Navy.
dive. He also got to swim between the two continents. In
the right spot, you could touch both continents at the same
time, he said. While he was swimming in Africa, he got to
swim with a whale shark.
He also always had to try the local fare wherever he
went. In Africa, it was camel ― camel hump to be exact.
It tasted like beef, he said. “I have eaten a lot of crazy
things,” he added.
Bates also helped train Ukrainian and Romanian
sailors. He would go into an academy and teach short gigs
between deployments.
In the spring of 2014, Bates retired as an E-7 chief
petty officer. He had spent some 24 years on active and
reserve duty and visited over 30 countries.
Bates married Lisa Allenbaugh and they just recently
celebrated 25 years of marriage. They have two children,
Brian and Meghan. His son followed in his footsteps and
joined the Navy for a time.

574 Youngblood Road, Waco, Texas, 76706 • 254.662.5571 • JRoof.com

Bates went to college for a time then went to work
for a trucking company, where he drove a truck for
about 10 years before he went into management. (He
still has his commercial driver’s license.) He has spent
27 years with the company. The family moved to
China Spring about four years ago. “We love Texas and
Waco,” he said.
As a member of the VFW 2148 in Waco, Bates
enjoys spending time with other veterans. “It’s nice to
have someone who understands,” he said.
Even though he’s seen a good portion of the world,
Bates, 51, prefers America the best.
“It was a good career,” Bates said. “I really enjoyed
it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
“Veterans’ Voices,” featuring stories about Central
Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday. To suggest
a story about a Central Texas veteran, please email
voicesofvalor@wacotrib.com. “Veterans’ Voices” is
proudly sponsored by Johnson Roofing.

At Johnson Roofing, we believe in America and proudly stand behind the men and women of our armed forces.

OFFICE, WACO, TX 76701

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