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Veterans’ Voices Honoring our men and women in uniform By MARY DRENNON Special to the Tribune-Herald A t 6 feet and 6 inches, Douglas Stockton, 70, is an imposing figure. You’d almost never know he was a former “hippie” who loved to hang out and surf the beaches of California. Born into a military family in Waukegan, Illinois, at the Great Lakes Naval Air Station, his father was a career military man and Special Forces Marine. Stockton attended 12 schools in 12 years, mostly around California. Shortly before he was to graduate from high school, Stockton quit and, with $3 in his pocket, hitchhiked to California from New Jersey. He went back to New Jersey and got married at age 18. The couple had two children before they divorced. Stockton returned to California and ran a leather shop in Venice Beach. He eventually moved back to New Jersey, where he worked in construction. When the construction market tanked, Stockton joined the U.S. Army in 1970, attending basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. U.S. army His advanced training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, was in field artillery; he learned a wealth about field artillery and fired everything from a .45-caliber pistol to a 155 mm howitzer. The 155 and the 8-inch gun had nuclear capabilities. Stockton would be assigned to multiple units over the life of his military career. But his favorite was the 82nd Airborne. “I turned 30 a month after school,” Stockton said. “I was an old man coming through.” Stockton spent most of the ’70s in Germany through two deployments, one to Augsburg – one of Germany’s oldest cities – and the other to Giessen, located in the middle of the country north of Frankfort. While in Germany, it was during the Cold War. The plan was to always be prepared. “You were called out many times, but no one ever got shot,” Stockton said. During his time with the 82nd Airborne, Stockton made 38 jumps. With his height and weighing 250 pounds, landing was never easy. He broke his back once, his thigh bone twice, and crushed five vertebrae in his back, though the full extent of his injuries wouldn’t be known until later. Stockton never did go to combat, but he was tapped instead for recruiting. He eventually moved to Waco where he was assigned as a recruiter. He served six years, two of them as supervisor. His coverage area ran from Austin to Dallas and the same east and west. “You were with a special group of people,” Stockton said. Each time he saw a guy with jump wings, “I knew he was a cut above.” In 1992, Stockton decided to retire and turned down a promotion to retire as a master sergeant. He had served 20 years all told. While he was in Waco, Stockton met Linda Bost, a Douglas Stockton, 70, said his time with the 82nd Airborne was the highlight of his 20-year military career. Photo by Mary Drennon teacher who was working part time at the YMCA. They had a lot in common, including that her father was a 36-year career military man and her mom was an Army nurse. Her son was in the Army and her brother in Special Forces. They were married on Halloween in 1988. They each brought two kids to the marriage, which brought them five grandchildren, and three greatgrandchildren. This Halloween, they will celebrate 32 years of marriage. When Stockton got out, he turned his attention to school. He attended Vincennes University, where he received an associate degree, and then attended McLennan Community College to earn a second associate degree. He then attended Baylor University, where he graduated in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in science and history. He continued at Baylor, earning his master’s degree in museum studies in 2002. For a time, Stockton went to work for the Department of Homeland Security, where he worked in intelligence analysis with all kinds of departments, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency, the CIA, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and more. Stockton also taught school for two years at La Vega Independent School District and then served as a project manager in construction at the Cameroon National Museum, 574 Youngblood Road, Waco, Texas, 76706 • 254.662.5571 • JRoof.com where he interacted with native cultures. He also helped procure artifacts for the museum, everything from beadwork to thrones. Stockton also was curator for the Bosque County Museum and was director of the Bosque County Historical Commission. In addition, he put together the World War II section at Hill College, helped excavate the Waco mammoth site and assisting in assisted parts of the Mayborn Museum. Today, Stockton is content with his service. “If I was young, I would do it again,” Stockton said. And despite now being 100 percent disabled, that wouldn’t deter him. He went to school on the GI Bill, bought his house, traveled the world, and gained valuable experience, all perks of his service. “I hope I earned my keep and have respect from those I served with,” he said. “Much respect and reverence from me to all who served, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.” “Veterans’ Voices,” featuring stories about Central Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday. To suggest a story about a Central Texas veteran, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. “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.