Veterans’ Reflections: ‘What it Means to be a Veteran’

Buster Adams, a World War II Army veteran, poses for a picture at the Alexandria National Cemetery on Sept. 11, 2010. Adams discussed his time in service and what it means to him to be a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer Second Class William Selby.

By Ian Graham

Veterans’ Reflections is a collection of stories of men and women who served their country in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm and present-day conflicts. They will be posted throughout November in honor of Veteran’s Day.

Buster Adams dedicated his life to serving his country, though he didn’t intend initially to do it through military service.

Originally from Texas, Adams moved to the Washington, D.C., area to work as a civilian for the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1942, when the Pentagon was still under construction and the Department of War was based in downtown Washington.

His talents with encryption came in handy when he was drafted into the Army in 1942.  He would end up spending three years in the service, encoding messages at Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s rear headquarters in Oro Bay, New Guinea.

He hadn’t intended to join the Army, but when he got his notice, he knew he had an obligation to fulfill.

“I wasn’t particularly happy about it [at the time],” he said. “It was a thing I had to do, so I did it.”

His Signal Corps experience paid off in more ways than giving him the skills needed to be a cryptographic clerk.  His island station was sandwiched between sandy beaches with clear, warm water and coconut plantations.

Timing was on his side as well.

“When I first arrived there, the Battle of Buna was over,” he said. “It was still technically a combat zone, but the combat had already moved up to coast away from us.”

Upon returning to the U.S. in early 1946, Adams resumed his career as a civilian with the Signal Corps.  He ended up serving more than 30 years as a civilian and a servicemember working for the Department of Defense – he retired from his job with Naval Air Systems Command Jan. 1, 1977.

Though he hadn’t intended to don the uniform when he started working for the Army, he said he learned a lot of valuable lessons as a soldier, ones he thinks every young man needs to learn.

“I think it builds character, it gives people an appreciation for what we stand for in our country, and I think everybody, every male at least, should have some military duty,” he said.

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  • Timothy Parker

    If you stood a post, if you had radio watch, if you had road marches, if you trusted the person beside you with your life, if you went days without a shower,if you mised holidays away from your family, if you trained in the heat and the cold, if you ate MRE’S, if you performed PMCS, if you heard, all present all accounted for, if you served on the DMZ. Then from one solider to all the others, be proud, you wore a patch on your arm, you trained, and you said, hey you guys sleep good tonight, because nothing going to happen on my watch. VICTORY OR DEATH -ACO TF 1/32 AR 2ND BDE(BLACKJACK) 1ST CAV DIVISION. One Proud Veteran!!!