HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Uncle Sam Wants You!
By J. W. HUNNICUTT
In May 1955 I was a senior at Pasco High School in Dade City, FL. I was in love with the girl across the street, Gloria Baldwin (also a Lacoochee native), and we knew we would get married in two years as soon as she graduated from high school.
Simultaneous college and marriage had not yet caught on in Dade City in 1955 so I set aside my thoughts of becoming the world’s best architect and considered other options.
This was the lull between Korea and Viet Nam but the draft was still in place. I knew I would be drafted if I did not go to college. It occurred to me that I should enlist in the Air Force and get stationed at MacDill AFB in Tampa. I could come to Dade City every weekend. That was a very good plan.
A couple of days after my 18th birthday I borrowed my sister’s car and drove to Tampa to enlist in the Air Force. All of the military recruiters were in the Post Office Building in downtown Tampa. The directory indicated that the Air Force recruiter was on the 3rd floor.
They had elevators and stairs. I opted for the stairs. The stairwell was wide with stairs going up all walls with two half flights between floors. I looked up and saw a man in khaki uniform leaning on a railing looking down at me. I started up the stairs and when I reached his landing he asked if he could help me. I told him I had come to enlist. He took me into his office and offered me a chair. I sat down and noticed pictures on the wall. There were planes, men in uniform and lots of ships. I said, “You’re Navy, aren’t you?” He gave an affirmative response and asked if that was a problem. I explained that I needed to enlist in the Air Force to get stationed at MacDill. I even included the compelling connection to my two year away nuptials. I also mentioned that I thought he was Air Force because of the khaki uniform. He said the Navy has khaki as well as the traditional blues and whites. He told me he knew the Air Force recruiter on the 3rd floor and he would not be able to assure me of a particular assignment at this point in my military career. Since I was in his office, he suggested I let him tell me about the Navy’s program then he would take me to the Air Force recruiter. I enlisted for four years. I never got to the 3rd floor.
Several days later Gloria and I were at Lake Iola in the afternoon. We were out at the float and Mrs. Fagan who ran the concession called me. She said my mother had called and I needed to return home. The Navy man was at my house. When we got to the house, Mother and the recruiter were on the front porch drinking lemonade. The recruiter said, “Mr. Hunnicutt, I really appreciate your interest in the Navy. We are not able to accept your application and I wanted to tell you in person rather than do it by phone.” No one had called me Mr. Hunnicutt before. I asked why I was not acceptable. He said I had indicated on my application that I am a conscientious objector. I assured him I was and asked why that was a problem. He said if I was unwilling to bear arms to protect the USA I would be of little use to the Navy or any branch of the military. I told him I would bear arms or an axe handle or anything to protect the USA and did not understand the problem. He asked what I meant when I said I am a conscientious objector. I said, “I am not argumentative. If I object to anything I conscientiously consider all sides of the issue then take a stand. I do not argue for argument’s sake.” He looked at me for several seconds then took my hand in both of his and shook it with vigor. He said, “Welcome to the Navy, Mr. Hunnicutt, Uncle Sam wants you!”
Postlude and disclaimer. . . .
Gloria and I were married in June 1957, one week after she graduated from Pasco High. We will celebrate our fifty-fifth anniversary in June and we are still living happily ever-after so far.
This might not appear to be a Lacoochee story since I was living in Dade City when it took place. The convictions and principles which caused me to be a “conscientious objector” were instilled during my youth and childhood in Lacoochee. I’m still a conscientious objector.