WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Millions of dedicated men and women have proudly served in the United States army for decades. One of them is a Wichita man, John Monk. But, John is far from typical. He was enlisted during not one, not two but, three wars. That’s why John is this week’s hometown hero.
So, where do you start to tell the amazing story of a hometown hero like John Monk. Well, you have to travel back to his humble beginnings as an African-American, growing up in a segregated Louisiana.
“Regardless, how you felt. If you wanted to be friend to a white person, white man or woman you couldn’t do it,” said Monk.
John credits his family for his strength amidst realities of an unjust world.
“My mother, god bless her soul. She taught us, you take it or you run, you take it or they will kill you or you have to run,” said Monk.
He ended up running to Kansas, a young man with only a 7th grade education eventually found himself in the segregated south in 1942 for basic training. It wasn’t pleasant.
“Doctor told me, don’t drink too much and don’t drink nothing cheap. I took his advice” – Sgt. John Monk
“They were mean, violent, they could do anything they wanted to you. They didn’t have no regulation back then. We’re trying to save this country and I’m down there they were kicking my ass, doing all these things to me. Well, I’m fighting for my family, fighting for a cause,” said Monk.
Amidst his suffering, John found the strength to become a leader.
“First of all, I can handle men. I’m big tall and ugly. I had a good voice,” said Monk.
John wanted to fight overseas, but, the Army believed he was more valuable stateside.
“I made my mind up, I said they treat me like that. They treat everybody like this. I said we’re fighting for the same cause. I said from there on I’m going to be the best soldier in the Army,” said Monk.
He was responsible for big weapon, anti-aircraft and infantry training. Also, hand to hand combat.
“Go to the bayonet training. Get the bayonet pull the cover off and you better know how to use that rifle,” said Monk.
His biggest task was in Tennessee, teaching African-Americans in the barrage balloon training center to take down Hitler’s planes.
“Send those balloons up, 25, 35, 55, 100 feet. If I had too, that’s what kept them out of there,” said Monk.
John says the balloons not only acted as a diversion, but could blow up fighter planes too.
“Because, we had a quick release attached to the bomb. They couldn’t see the cable. I pulled that balloon to the plane’s wing, and it blew the wing off,” said Monk.
After World War II, John was back state side with another tall task. As a First Sergeant Quartermaster, he earned his units respect by driving men behind enemy lines in Korea.
“That’s why I got along so good. I treated them right, treated them like they are supposed to be treated. I treated them like I wanted to be treated but I wasn’t,” said Monk.
After Korea, John was stationed in France, Virginia and, his final assignment Fort Riley, Kansas, training men for Vietnam.
“A lot of them didn’t come back. You’re sending them off to get slaughtered that it was coming into my mind,” said Monk.
The continual loss, including the deaths of two of his own children during birth, took a toll on John.
“I started crying, I couldn’t stop. Well, I don’t know why. They rushed me to the hospital. They said what you crying about? I don’t know,” said Monk.
After nearly 20 years fighting for our freedom, John’s war days are over. Now, he lives a much simpler, peaceful life. At 101 he follows a couple of simple rules. Crown Royal and cigars.
“Doctor told me, don’t drink too much and don’t drink nothing cheap. I took his advice,” said Monk.
The Army hero, a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, small business owner, even a farmer at one time, still celebrates the journey he gets to take everyday.
“I thank God for what he did for me. I didn’t have anything to work with. No regrets. I’m black poor and ugly. I didn’t have anything to work with. I didn’t know how I was going to make it. If i didn’t go in the Army, I don’t know what would have happened to me,” said Monk.
John will celebrate his 102nd birthday in January. If you have a Hometown Hero, we’d love to hear about them.
Just send your nominations to email@example.com. Your hero could be featured on KSN News at 10.