If you join the military, there’s no doubt you will be properly trained. Even in the middle of a war, training is still a priority.
“The training never stops in the Army,” said Waco resident Raymond “Ray” Maciel, 85. From the start of his basic skills training, to serving in Korea, much of the time was spent in exercises, drills and other preparations — no matter where one might be at the time.
Maciel, who grew up in the little town of Leroy, attended and graduated from Waco High School. He went to work for an oil company for about a year before Uncle Sam came calling on May 10, 1953. He went briefly to San Antonio and took his basic training at Camp Roberts, California, where he discovered he would be going to Korea.
Maciel got a 15-day leave before he had to report back to a ship that was to take them to Korea. He and another person got there late, and the barracks were full, so they ended up sleeping elsewhere. In the meantime, the orderly woke up the first group of soldiers but failed to wake Maciel and the other guy. They overslept and missed the ship.
A court martial was threatened, but they happen to find a plane that took them to Japan to wait for the arrival of their ship in about 10 days. It was his first flight. Upon arrival, he was kept busy, doing KP and cleaning barracks, among other duties.
Once everyone was together, the soldiers were set to go by train to Sasebo, Japan, with the ultimate destination of Pusan, Korea. At the Army compound, 150 people were assigned to the 24th Division, who stayed in Pusan, including Maciel. Once at full strength, everyone was issued weapons and ammunition. He always carried a 30-caliber M-1 rifle.
“The whole division moved into reserves behind the DMZ,” he said. “We did more training; we never stop training.”
While he was there, an amnesty lead to a cease-fire and Maciel was assigned as a prison guard to watch over the North Koreans until a prisoner exchange.
Unbeknownst to the soldiers, the North Koreans were digging a trench under the prison. In the meantime, they got several days of rain and the trench collapsed. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and the exchange only took about two weeks. “Apparently, they didn’t know there was a prisoner exchange.”
In the meantime, Maciel had been sleeping in fox holes and enduring a cold winter of snow and below zero temperatures. His outfit moved to about 50 miles outside Seoul and bivouacked there. Of course, they did more training. Soon, they sent a division back to Sasebo, and that included Maciel, who said they did even more training. He returned stateside without ever firing a shot in March of 1955.
He had one month left to go when he rotated to Fort Bliss, El Paso. He was ready to be discharged, but because there was no war going on, he decided to take the chance and re-enlist. He reported to Fort Hood, were he was assigned to artillery rather than infantry. He joined the AAA AW Battery A, guarding and supporting airports in the event of an attack.
Six months later, he was assigned to Fort Polk, Louisiana. It was during this time he was promoted to E-5 Sergeant.
One of his more interesting assignments occurred when his platoon was called to the Little Rock, Arkansas crisis, which involved school segregation. They set up a small tent city just outside the city. “We were training to control riots and helping, too,” Maciel said.
Elvis Presley joined the Army
During the time he was in Louisiana, he would get passes and go to the Louisiana Hayride and listen to up and coming artists, including Elvis Presley, who later joined the service and moved into the barracks right next to Maciel.
Even though Elvis lived in a private apartment in Killeen, he still got to meet him and talk to him. He never asked for an autograph and said it was forbidden to take a picture with Elvis.
Meanwhile, the Army was trying to get Maciel to re-enlist again. But, when he found out he would be sent to Vietnam as an advisor, he decided to get out. “I heard how much trouble the French Army had out there,” he said. He was honorably discharged in May 1958 with a host of medals and citations.
Maciel came back to Waco and went to work for another oil company, working his way up to vice president before he retired after 36 years.
On May 21, 1976, he married Sally Webber, and they have been married for 43 years now. Maciel has three stepdaughters, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Maciel, a member of Post VFW 2148 in Waco, is a trustee on the staff. He thinks about his service from time to time. “If I was still young … someday they might start another war out there (in North Korea). I hope none of my grandkids have to go to war. Still, I was proud to serve.”