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Wilkes County Veterans History Project: James B. Steelman

Veteran Top Box

James B. Steelman's Story (Submitted by Velva Calloway)

James B. Steelman - GMG - C - E7 - Joined the U.S. Navy in November 1955 and retired in September 1975.

Reason joined - He was 17 years old and it was a job. 

Boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. 

After boot camp, James went to a school in Bainbridge, Maryland. He then went to a nuclear weapons school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Then he went abroad to the coral sea (carrier) in the Mediterranean for two months. He was transferred to the Intrepid carrier in Norfolk, Virginia in 1958. He was also on a Mediterranean cruise for six months. He married Velva Calloway on June 5, 1958, who was from North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. We have been married for 65 years, and we have three children. Diane Triplett, Larry Steelman, a Navy veteran, and Gary Steelman, who lives in New York. 

James was on the Cruiser USS Canberra from 1960 to 1965. The ship's home port was Norfolk, Virginia. They then moved it to San Diego, California, and that was the reason the whole family moved to California. 

In 1965, James was taken off the Canberra and sent to school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The family moved to Albuquerque in July. In January, he received orders to Rota, Spain for three years of shore duty working in the weapons department.

James was sent to a hospital in New York. We left Spain for medical reasons. The family then went to North Carolina which lasted for a year. James was then given orders to Naples, Italy which was supposed to be for three years but ended after 18 months due to medical issues with our son Gary. He was born with a cleft lip and palate. He had been sent to Germany for his issues. 

We went back to Norfolk, Virginia for the last three years of Navy life. After retiring, we came back to North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. We lived here almost 48 years now. 

While doing all this traveling, the kids never missed one day of school (either going or coming overseas). Larry and Diane started school in Spain. Gary started school in Italy. 

We visited Portugal and also Madrid and the Rock of Gibraltar while in Spain. 

James and Velva have four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Kevin Triplett served in the Air Force from 2004 to 2010. James and Joshua Steelman served as firefighters. Anna Steelman, the only granddaughter, lives in New York.