WASHINGTON - As we approach Veterans Day, U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service of Mark Linkous in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series highlighting the military service of Arkansans.
Linkous was sworn in to the U.S. Air Force on October 26, 1950 and the next day he traveled to San Antonio, Texas for basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. “It was a tremendous transition,” Linkous said.
He joined the Air Force two years after it became an independent military branch, recalling how basic training was very similar to the Army due to that newly minted status. When he was issued his first uniform, they didn’t have “all the blues,” they gave him one pair of brown boots and pair of black boots - but by the end of basic they all had their blue uniforms.
After completing basic training, his first assigned job was as a math instructor. “You could be teaching multiplication one hour and trigonometry the next. They kept it that way intentionally to keep the instructors on our toes. We all had to have our lesson plans.”
For Linkous, the most difficult part of service was adjusting to different people and their varying opinions. The easiest was the physical aspect since he grew up on a farm, hunted and had worked on an oil rig.
Two years before his enlistment was up, the Air Force had started constructing housing in preparation for welcoming women into the service. He was assigned as the Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of the academic training for the women at Lackland because of his aptitude in mathematics. He likened his role to being a school principal.
“I had input into, while I was there, of the math program, you know for the men and the women but their math course was exactly the same as the men’s,” he said.
Linkous credits his master sergeant for his initial encounter with his future wife, Ann.
“He invited me to their home one weekend, and we had a real good time. I think his wife and little boy seemed to like me ok, then she started telling me about this niece she had that lived up in east Texas,” said Linkous “I could never have, in my wildest dreams, ever found any one like her. She and I had a great life together.”
Ann was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014. Linkous says the real journey was the eight years together after herdiagnosis. The experience led him to become active in advocacy for Alzheimer’s research and treatment, and he continues to be a champion for policies to support patients, families and caregivers.
Linkous believes military service is good for high school graduates who are unsure of what they want to do in life. Service allowed him to fulfill the “patriotic responsibility” he felt growing up with multiple family members in the military.
“We need more people to take more pride and responsibility, we need more patriotism in this country,” he said.
“I am grateful for Mark Linkous’ dedication and service to our nation. He honorably served our country. His memories of his military service are an important part of our history and I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories for future generations,” Boozman said.
Boozman submitted Linkous’ entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.