Price of Freedom: Jerry Wheat of Wetumpka
81-year-old Jerry Wheat of Wetumpka served his county as a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. He knows the Price of Freedom.
He joined the Air Force in 1958, when he was right out of high school. He trained to be an aircraft mechanic.
He did three tours overseas, first in Saudi Arabia. Then Vietnam in 1966.
“The work was not so hard, but if you’ve never been in combat before, you don’t know what to expect,” he said.
When he came home to the States, it wouldn’t be long before he was went back to Southeast Asia. This time in Thailand flying missions over enemy lines.
This would be where Wheat earned his air medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying missions over enemy territory.
Wheat spent 20 years in the Air Force, then spent 20 more years working for the Department of Defense.
Over the years, he developed some health issues, including prostate cancer, underwent six bypass surgeries and kidney disease, what he now believes is a result of Agent Orange, the chemical sprayed along the field in war so the enemy couldn’t be contained.
Yet he is not bitter.
“It makes you feel like maybe they were doing something initially they didn’t know caused this or would cause this,” he said.
He’s been declared a 100% disabled veteran.
The retired master sergeant says while there may be some things he would change here and there, much of it would stay the same.
“To me, of all the military branches I think the Air Force is the best branch of the service, because I was in it, of course. After being in there 20 years, I think I would do it all over again.”