“I’ve lucked out on a lot of things,” said Edward Conrad, as he approached his 100th birthday.
The Frank M. Tejeda Texas State Veterans Home in Floresville provided a special celebration Nov. 19 to mark the occasion, but I decided to have a private visit with the veteran a few days before.
He was sitting on the edge of his bed in what he described as the nicest room at the veterans home. With his hands on his walker, he was ready to go for one of his frequent walks around the facility.
The veteran of three wars demonstrated for me several times his ability to stand up to his walker quickly.
“When you get old, everything gets old,” he said. “But I feel good all the time.”
He said his memory is “not too good” anymore, but he clearly recalled the day in 1935 when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps at the age of 17, not long after his father had died.
“I got in right out of high school,” he said. “A friend at Randolph Field talked me into it.”
He remembers how the future Air Force base looked in the 1930s.
“It still had dirt runways,” he said, mentioning the BT-13 and BT-14 aircraft used to train new pilots.
Conrad received a promotion to technical sergeant — a relatively new rank at the time — in six months.
“The war was coming,” he said. “I guess they needed techs.”
Throughout most of his military career, Conrad served as a line chief, the noncommissioned officer who supervised the upkeep of a flight line.
During World War II, Conrad supported the Pacific Theater of Operations. He got out of the military after that war, but returned after North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950. By this time, America’s air arm had become an independent service.
He rose in rank to master sergeant in six years and decided to make the Air Force his career.
Conrad also served during part of the Vietnam War. He is especially proud of his assignment as the first line chief for a flight of B-52 bombers — newer versions of which still hold an important place in U.S. air power. Conrad retired from the Air Force in 1966 as a senior master sergeant.
Conrad married when he was 20 and his bride, Linelle, was still a teenager. After he hung up his uniform, they raised cattle for beef on land near Fort Worth that she inherited from her parents. Eventually, the Conrads moved to a ranch in Skidmore, where they lived after World War II.
“We had two children, a boy and a girl,” he said. “Now they are in their 70s.”
Although both Don and Beverly Jane live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Conrad said they talk on the phone “all the time.”
He enjoys growing jalapeño peppers in a box garden at the veterans home for Jane, although his plants didn’t survive the recent cold snap.
Conrad has five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
“I am really proud of all of them,” he said.
He is also happy with the people at the veterans home, where he has lived for two years. He said he made the choice to move there after his wife died.
“The staff here takes good care of me, and I have lots of friends here who help me out,” he said.
It’s easy to see why he has lots of friends.Tags: 100th birthday • centenarian • Floresville • frank m. tejeda Texas state veterans home • long-term care for veterans • military birthdays • Texas veteran homes • Texas veterans • veteran stories • Wilson county news