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Randall and Lib West's Story
Randall West was born on October 23, 1946, and grew up in Crumpler, North Carolina. His parents were George F. and Odell West. George West served in the Army during WWII. Randall also has one sister, Anne West Bowers. In his teen years, Randall worked at Shatley Springs while on summer break from school. He also worked at Lowes Supermarket, where he was employed when drafted.
Randall and his sweetheart Lib graduated from Ashe Central High School in June 1965 and were married on October 10, 1965. Randall was expecting to be drafted and sure enough, five months later on March 10, 1966, he was called to serve at the age of nineteen. Randall served in the Army and first went to Fort Hood, TX, for basic training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training).
While at Fort Hood, the tank commanders were drill sergeants. Randall’s sergeant had actually served in Elvis Presley’s unit during the beginning of the Cold War.
Lib was able to join Randall in Texas, and while he was training she went to work at the credit union. Just two weeks after Lib took this job, Randall received orders for an assignment in Germany.
In July 1966, Randall flew to New York to board a ship to Germany. He actually took the last ship that transported GI’s from the US. From that day forward, all US Army soldiers were flown straight to Germany. Randall's voyage over took about a week; and once they reached land, he traveled by train to Augsburg, which is about 30 miles from Munich. He was part of an armor unit that handled M60 Tanks.
Meanwhile Lib went back to North Carolina and packed things up, got the necessary shots for travel and met Randall in Germany just in time for their first anniversary. They lived in a couple of upstairs rooms that were rented in a German home. Soon after Lib arrived, Randall went into the field for six weeks of training. There was a guy from Randall’s unit who had married a German girl, and she was also alone while her husband was training. The two women helped each other. Both needed someone to translate, with shopping in German markets or the Post Exchange on base.
“Learning how to deal with people from all over the United States was one of the best parts of my experience in service. Some parts were better than others. It was hard to leave family behind. Definitely harder on those back home, since we knew what we were doing every day, but our families knew nothing.”
Randall and Lib spent over a year in Germany. Randall was an assistant to the Maintenance Officer, who happened to be from Bessemer City, NC. It was good to connect with someone who was close to back home. He drove the officer around in his jeep, and this guy was a stickler for vehicle cleanliness. Every year they gave the jeep a new paint job. Once his unit was put on alert for a 7-day war in Israel. Luckily they weren’t called to go there.
When Randall had downtime, he and Lib would set out in their Volkswagen Beetle to explore, visiting France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, and other places. They also enjoyed visiting the military recreation center in Munich and with friends stationed in Frankfort.
Randall left Germany as a Specialist E-5 and later when he joined the National Guard he entered with this rank. He was promoted to 1st Sergeant while serving in the Guard. He had first heard about the National Guard flying helicopters in the 1960s. When the 1453th Transportation Unit formed in Jefferson, they were the only unit recognized with over 100% membership. This membership shows Ashe County’s patriotism. Randall joined the local guard when they formed in 1974. The unit was later consolidated with the 1450th Transportation Company out of Lenoir, with Jefferson being the unit’s headquarters. In 1990, the 1450th was called to serve in Desert Storm. They were a strong unit, with men that represented all service branches.
Lib remembers that once a year there would be a Family Day Event held at the armory for military families to spend time together and share a meal. The women were close and decided to form a group of ‘Auxiliary Wives’ that supported the unit and organized community service projects. They started collecting Christmas gifts for children in the county and every year they decorated a tree and held a party with Santa Claus to distribute the gifts. They even delivered gifts to homes for those who weren’t able to make the party. When the unit knew their men would soon be leaving for Desert Storm, the wives assisted with making copies of needed deployment paperwork for every member. They visited local merchants to collect things that would be needed while the men were away (toothpaste, bug spray, sunscreen, etc…).
On October 10, 1990 (Randall and Lib’s 25th Wedding Anniversary), unit members and their families met at the armory to prepare for deployment. This meeting lasted until after 9:00 p.m. When they finally got back home their daughter Pam had organized a surprise anniversary party for them.
Before long the unit pulled out and began their journey overseas. Lib and other wives met to support each other while the men were away. Some of them enjoyed painting ceramics and made a lot of decorative Santa Claus figures. This was one calming way to help with stress and worry at that time. Lib still decorates the West home with these Santas every Christmas. They continued fundraising to help the unit and also represented the 1450th in West Jefferson’s Christmas parade. Lib and Pam Lookadoo, wife of Captain Scott Lookadoo, were Grand Marshalls for the parade (along with baby Lookadoo). And the whole parade had a patriotic theme in support of those away at Desert Storm. Lib recalled that seeing the news reports on television was particularly unsettling and her daughter would always check-in on her, even spending the night sometimes, to keep her company.
Captain Lookadoo was from Morganton. While in Iraq, he listened to the radio each day and wrote out daily news reports to pin-up on the bulletin board. The 1450th Transportation Unit worked well together, since all had varied experiences and skills. The unit’s main mission was to haul things: fuel, ammo, food, anything that needed to be hauled. It was hot and dirty work. The worst part about being there was when a sand storm blew. It was like Ashe County snow blowing, but with sand.
While in Iraq, staying in touch by mail was still the main way to hear from families at home. On arrival the only phones for calling were in little Saudi Arabian towns. Randall remembers waiting on Christmas all day for his turn to get a chance to call Lib. When he finally was able to call out, she wasn’t home. That was a hard day … missing Lib, Pam, and other family. Later there were special tents with an American phone bank set up to use, and it was much easier to call out. There was a lot of support for the troops that Christmas, and somehow an Ashe County Tree was shipped to the desert. The unit celebrated the holiday together, despite feelings of “a blue Christmas.” Christmas cards and gifts for soldiers were received from students in Ashe County and from all over the country. Randall remembers writing one student back and sending some Saudi Arabian money.
Randall retired from the military 1994 with twenty years of service. Randall’s closing thoughts in telling his story are:
“You learn a lot in the military. You Learn to deal with people and also how to do things for yourself. While defending the country, it would be better if politicians let the military do their job. The military has the equipment and experience, but government sometimes gets in the way … slows things down.
"I think people ought to appreciate veterans more, especially young people. When you’re in the military you know what sacrifice is. Most young people don’t have any idea. I think it would be good to still have the draft. Serving our country is important. I am thankful that enough people are concerned about the United States to volunteer.”
Randall and Lib live in Jefferson on family land and both enjoy outdoor gardening. They have one daughter, Pam Barlow, and two grandchildren, Mary Beth and Jonathan Barlow. Randall also likes to work on equipment and has even restored his father’s 1956 Ford tractor. In the winter months, Randall spends time working puzzles. The walls of his entire barn display puzzles he has finished and framed. It is like a puzzle art gallery. Last winter he put together at least fifty puzzles!