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U.S. Army veteran enjoys service, hates the desert

Published: Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 11:25 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 11:37 a.m. CDT
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(Dave Hon/Daily News)
After being drafted into the U.S. Army just before the Vietnam War, Jim Marconi served as an engineer on a base in Texas.

Jim Marconi figured one thing out during his two years in the U.S. Army: He doesn’t like the desert.

When Marconi was 26, he was drafted into the Army, where he served as an engineer on a base in Texas. The base was in the desert and he said his bunk was often inhabited by critters. One night, he found a scorpion in his duffle bag, which he had been using as a pillow. Marconi got out his trench shovel to kill the scorpion.

“I must have beat on that thing for five minutes,” he said. “But I got him taken care of.”

Marconi said copperheads and black widow spiders were also more prevalent and bolder in Texas. Aside from the ails of desert life, Marconi said he enjoyed his time in the service.

“Really, I didn’t mind it at all,” Marconi said. “I was adaptable, more or less. It was not a bad duty at all, as far as I’m concerned. The military is a lot different than it is back then.”

Marconi said some of the changes he’s seen over the years includes higher wages and a lower tolerance for shenanigans. He said while he was stationed in Texas, some of the men decided to play a joke on another man who was afraid of snakes. They tricked him into thinking a snake had entered his tent and so he took off running, while in the tent, and ran into the field sergeant’s tent.

The next day, the man didn’t show up for formation, but luckily some of the other men called his name for him. Marconi said what he liked most about his time in the service was the diversity among the men.

“Everyone’s different and everyone got their ways down from where they live,” He said. “You just adapt and get along.”

Marconi’s last day in the service was the day of the Bay of Pigs. Marconi was told he could go home but not to unpack because he might be called back in the event of a catastrophe.

After his time in the service, Marconi married a woman from Texas and moved back to Newton. Marconi said he and his wife were divorced after a while, but it wasn’t a bad separation. He went back to work in Newton as a mechanic, and worked for a while at Maytag. He finally settled on work at Manatts.

“I really didn’t like the desert down there,” he said. “I really didn’t like the idea that you could be in your back yard and you might be approached by a rattle snake.”

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