Norm Covert

(Norman M. Covert)

b. 10 Feb 1943

Public Affairs Officer and Command Historian
at Fort Detrick, MD (1977-1999)

Fall of 1960
Newport News, VA
Ft. Benning, GA

Please allow a memory - as brief as I can make it.

This Friday, August 10th, marks the 40th anniversary of my entry into the U.S. Army. About 60 young men gathered that Thursday in 1967 at the Newport News Post Office at 25th and West Avenue . Most of us came at the behest of Local Board No. 123, U.S. Selective Service. I cannot recall all the names, but it was a gaggle of NNHS, Warwick High and Hampton High grads, whose deferments had run out.

The late
Charlie Wiggins (’62) and I sat together on the charter bus to Richmond; Bobby Boyce (’61) was in the next seat up (he wasn’t inducted). Charlie and I were among those who were inducted into the Army after a day of running around in our skivvies at the Armed Forces Entrance and Examining Station (AFEES). A chartered plane took us from Byrd Field to Columbus , Ga. ; an old city bus to the Fort Benning Welcome Station; had a midnight meal of liver and onions; then began a nine-week odyssey as platoon mates in A Co., 11th Battalion, 3rd Infantry Training Brigade. We graduated on Friday, October 13th, spent a night on the bare floor of the transient barracks, then shipped by aircraft to Maguire AFB/ Fort Dix , N.J. for four weeks, thence to Fort Hamilton , N.Y. , where Charlie and I shared a room with six others and learned how to be Chaplain Enlisted Assistants. We saw a lot of the subway, New York City , Brooklyn and Far Rockaway: the city for USO tickets to plays and Giants football games, Far Rockaway for military maneuvers. I also had the pleasure of KP for Thanksgiving Day (not a volunteer). We had leave for Christmas then overseas.

Charlie and I also were the only two U.S. Army Chaplain School grads NOT sent to Vietnam . He went to a U.S Army Europe supply center south of Stuttgart , I wound up at Wharton Barracks, Heilbronn (237th Combat Engineer Battalion), along the Neckar River . Charlie’s wife, Rose Roughton Wiggins ('65), was able to join him and we got together a few times. Germany was a good assignment for us with any number of challenges, including being locked and loaded on the Czechoslovakian border from August – October 1968 when Russian armor units invaded Budapest . My education included working for two Southern Baptist chaplains, an American Baptist, a Presbyterian, and two Order of St. Benedict Roman Catholic Monks. Sundays were interesting for a soldier who was reared by a Church of God minister in a fundamentalist Christian home.

Charlie got home a couple weeks before me. At 6 a.m. July 21st 1969, AFRT-Europe broadcast Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the moon. I watched the TV from a top bunk at the Rhein-Main AFB transient barracks (it was about 10 p.m. on the 20th EST).

Arriving at Maguire AFB, I spent the next 18 hours getting two haircuts (separate inspections) and being processed out. Dressed in our Class A uniforms and hauling our duffels, five of us took a crowded train from Wrightstown, then endured “Peaceniks” threatening us as we walked in tactical formation from Union Station to the Greyhound Depot in Washington, D.C. I arrived in Newport News , across the street from where we had started two years earlier.

As a final note, Charlie was a good buddy and we helped each other through several difficult challenges. I hope Rose and the family are doing well. God certainly had his hands on us in a time of great turmoil.

- Norm Covert (’61) of MD - 08/06/07
WOWZERS! Thanks, Norm!

Sincere thanks and kudos for your generous play of the nostalgia on my U.S. Army anniversary. It made me blush (Neta Mae Collins [’60] and Micki Ellenson [‘60] did that to me, too, in D Period Journalism). Who wouldn’t be proud to be between Julia Child and Joltin’ Joe Dimaggio. You deserve lots of hugs!

..... I’ve attached my basic training photo. I have the graduation book somewhere and will try to identify the Peninsula guys as time allows. Many of them went on to Fort Polk, La., and thence to the Republic of Vietnam, arriving just in time for the storied Tet Offensive in January 1968.

Thanks again for all that you do in making this website so complete.....

- Norm Covert (’61) of MD - 08/10/07
Oh, WOW! Thanks again, Norm!

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