The following is part of a series of weekly stories featuring West Siders who have served in the armed forces. Newman resident Murray Day, a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, is featured.
NEWMAN - Murray Day was a student at San Jose State when he answered the call to serve.
Against the backdrop of an escalating war in Vietnam and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Day said, he decided it was time to do his part.
Day, who was in the middle of his senior year in college, cut his studies short to enlist in the U.S. Air Force in February 1964 and went on to serve for four years.
He learned during his college ROTC program that his eyesight would not allow him to be a pilot, Day related, but he still believed that the Air Force offered opportunities due to its developing technology.
“I felt there were things that I could learn and do. Technology was beginning to come in, and I was a business major. I could see some potential career paths developing from that,” said Day. “It was the technology, and an opportunity to serve.
His military service eventually took Day from the northern plains of the United States to Okinawa and Vietnam.
After completing basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Day was assigned to Francis E. Warren Air Force base in Wyoming, where he played a role in the Strategic Air Command’s missile system.
“I was a supply clerk using electronic data processing machines,” Day told Mattos Newspapers. “I received requests from units on the base for supplies in support of the mission of various units. We were primarily a missile base, and I would receive requests from units in the silos.”
He shifted to a different position on the base in which he was responsible for finding whatever parts were necessary to repair missiles that were not operations-ready and arrange delivery to the site.
“We had to have the missile back up in 24 hours. I don’t think we once missed our 24-hour window. We could not afford to be in a down condition,” Day shared.
That was during the waning years of the Cold War.
The atmosphere, Day said, was intense but also enjoyable.
“You were doing something that, at least I felt, was really important,” he explained. “We had to keep those missiles up and meet our mission. It was exciting.”
Day’s next stop was Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa, where he was an inventory specialist.
At times, though, he would help prepare B-52 bombers for missions.
“I would drive trucks out to the flight line carrying bombs and fuses and that kind of stuff,” said Day. “We had to have the bomber fueled, repaired, armed and turned around within 24 hours. It was all hands on deck, and because I had a license to drive the big trucks I was pulled into driving.”
Day was also sent to Cam Rahn Bay in Vietnam on a 30-day temporary assignment.
“I was aircraft supply point for aircraft maintenance,” he said. “(Aircraft) would come in with battle damage and go into the repair facility. We could get calls for everything from nose cones to instruments to flight controls.”
Day said he had grown up with an interest in the military, inspired in part by an uncle who served.
In high school, he was a member of the California Civil Air Patrol, which helped foster his interest in the Air Force.
He was proud of his service, Day said, and he did in fact develop skills that paved a future career path of many years with General Electric and later Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, before he turned to teaching.
“It was an opportunity to serve and be proud of what I was doing. That was a tough time in history. A lot of the country was opposed to the Vietnam War. When I came back, I was advised to not wear my uniform off base because there were so many people opposed,” remarked the now-retired Day, who has lived in Newman for five years and serves on the City Council. “That was really tough, because I was proud of what I had done and who I was.”
Day, who notes with pride that his son followed in his military footsteps, looks back on his military experience and said he would do it all over again.
“I don’t think there is anything I would change,” he concluded.