West Point vets share their stories

William B. Carroll

Retired Army Command Sgt. Major Chuck Bolling took a circuitous route to finally end up in West Point, including tours of duty in Korea and Vietnam, and a stint training soldiers from the United Arab Emirates in Fort Bliss, Texas. After relocating to the area after Hurricane Katrina, the 81 year old veteran said the town has grown on him, and he is happy to call the city his home.
Bolling’s journey started in the little community of Sprott, Alabama, on July 20, 1934. The eldest son of Charlie and Mary Bolling, Chuck said he was raised on a plantation, with his first job involving picking cotton.
“I guess you could say we were somewhat sharecroppers,” Bolling said. “They paid me $1 for a 100 lb sack of cotton.”
Bolling’s life journey also extended into Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania during his formative years.
“My mother and father separated when I was young, and I was raised by my uncle,” Bolling said. “He was a coal miner, which explains a lot of the moving around.”
Bolling, a 1952 graduate of Shawnee High School in Lima, Ohio, said his family was one of the primary factors that made him want to enlist in the Army. Bolling said he joined primarily to help take care of his five younger siblings.
“I needed a job at the time,” Bolling said. “To help out my mother and help feed my siblings. They (the Army) offered a good job and steady pay. I looked at it as three hots and a cot.”
He said his initial checks from the Army were $78 a month, he kept $23 and his mother received the rest, along with a match from the U.S. government.
Bolling entered active duty in January 1953 at Ashland, Kentucky and was then sent to Fort Meade, Maryland where he drew his initial issue of clothing.
“It was the first time I had a new pair of shoes in my life,” Bolling said. “I had so many clothes, I couldn’t carry them all.”
Bolling was then sent to basic training at Camp Chaffee, near Fort Smith, Arkansas, which was somewhat of an awakening for the young man.
“Training was rough, rough rough,” he said. “Basic training was a pistol. After that they sent me directly to Korea.”
Bolling said that in Korea, he was a gunner on a 8-inch howitzer, he also spent some time on the 105 millimeter howitzer. He said he was allowed to work on the large guns in part because he had a high school education.
“There were a lot of guys at the time who couldn’t even read and write, so they had to put those of us with an education on the howitzers,” he said.
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