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McNeer’s time in the service inspired his world travels

Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 11:23 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, April 25, 2014 11:42 a.m. CDT
(Zach Johnson/Daily News)
Since moving to Newton, John D. McNeer has served his community and country. McNeer has traveled to 65 countries and four provinces. His family gave him a poster of the world, putting pins on each of the countries he has traveled to. McNeer turned 80 this year on Jan. 1. He plans on celebrating all year long.

Retired U.S. Army Military Police Sgt. John D. McNeer has lived a life filled with travels and service, not just for the community of Newton but for his country.

Before being drafted into the service, McNeer was working his way up in Newton Manufacturing and had begun a life with his wife, Mary.

“I remember getting my papers to begin basic training on Valentine’s Day 1956, and I had to leave for basic training on my wife’s birthday,” he said.

McNeer began his basic training at Camp Carson in Colorado and left when the camp turned into a fort. McNeer would become a member of the military police.

After his training, McNeer got on a train with 20,000 troops heading to New York City. It was from New York City that McNeer would begin his travels outside the country by taking the USS Buttner, an old World War I ship, across the Atlantic to Germany.

“It was an eight-day journey across the ocean to ‘gyro’ with the ninth division,” McNeer said. “I knew it was going to go under at some point during the two storms that happened during our journey.”

McNeer’s wife Mary, came over to live with John off-post in June 1956. They found a single room in a house in a village close to the Army post.

“It was a small room with one window, and we had kitchen and bathroom privileges as well,” McNeer said. “To this very day, we still keep in touch with the family that shared their house with us.”

While in Europe, McNeer decided to take his wife on an adventure, one they would repeat at every opportunity in the future. McNeer bought a new “fully loaded” 1958 Volkswagen that had a radio, sunroof, chrome, white wall tires and “mox-nix-sticks,” which was used as a turn signal.

“I bought that car for $1,310,” McNeer said. “Everyone loved that car. When we got back to Newton, everyone thought that I bought it from a fancy dealership. I had the chance to take the president of Newton Manufacturing at the time, Clyde Angus Peck, on a ride in the car. He stood at about 6-foot-6, so we always had to have the sun roof down.”

The first two weeks of the adventure was spent heading north, making stops in various countries, including northern Germany, Holland and France. The final two weeks of the trip was spent heading south, making stops in southern Germany, Austria, Italy and Monaco.

“Every year, we would make the trip over to see our friends and (those we called) family,” McNeer said. “We had a chance to take our children on the same journey we took when we lived over in Europe. We’ve had a chance to take our children to Ireland, England and France, which was fun.”

McNeer turned 80 on Jan. 1 and plans to celebrate all year to continue living life to the fullest. McNeer has retired from work and the service but still continues to serve the Newton community by serving on multiple volunteer boards and groups.

“I don’t want to hibernate,” McNeer said. “I feel sometimes people die because they just decided to stop living.”

Staff writer Zach Johnson may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at zjohnson@newtondailynews.com.

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