Honoring Veterans

Local resident James Mills, board member Bobbie Barnett and five WK&T employees worked to make America a better place

There are themes repeated among many veterans: the sense of camaraderie they found in the military, the sense of pride they found serving their country, and the sense of loss they feel for their fallen comrades. James Mills is no different.
The Melber, Kentucky, resident and veteran is among many around the region who nobly served their country and fostered a life of service to protect the ideals of the United States.

Between his time in the National Guard and U.S. Army and his work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mills dedicated more than 45 years of his life to serving his country. Mills retired as a lieutenant colonel.
“I really enjoyed my military life,” Mills says. “I don’t know that I’d change anything.”

James Mills

James Mills

A life of service

After signing up with the Tennessee National Guard while still in high school in 1964, Mills operated heavy equipment to help build roads near Fort Stewart, Georgia. A few years later, in 1968, Mills found himself on the streets of Memphis after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. Mills helped to quell the chaos on the streets and repair a city damaged by civil unrest.

“In the military, you learn about dealing with people,” says Mills. “You learn about teamwork and you learn to take care of people.”

While maintaining his civilian job as an electrician for the Illinois Central Railroad, Mills and his wife, Delene, raised two children: Tim and Paulette. Mills eventually enlisted full time in the U.S. Army. The family packed up and embarked for Germany, where Mills commanded a company in Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“My favorite time was Germany,” says Mills. “Since everything is so close over there, we were able to visit a lot of Europe.”

Returning stateside in 1984, Mills was stationed in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he worked in military intelligence. He spent time constructing buildings on base to house sensitive information, computer systems and intelligence gathering tools. He eventually became the leader of intelligence for the 35th Infantry Division. While stationed in Kansas, Mills had the privilege of swearing in his son, Tim, into the National Guard. Tim went on to serve 25 years and retired from full-time active duty in the U.S. Army in 2010.

After Mills retired from the U.S. Army in 1999, he went to work full time for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He managed the maintenance crews at Barkley Lock before retiring from that job in 2011.

Today, Mills often fills his time reading military history and spending time with his wife and family. Even with more than 45 years of service, Mills has trouble recalling anything bad about his time in the military.
“I always wanted to be a solider, and that dream came true for me,” says Mills.

Rick_Turnbow
Rick Turnbow, WK&T installer
Served six years in the U.S. Marines, primarily as a mechanic for Douglas A-4 Skyhawk jets. Earned the rank of sergeant before leaving the military.

Q1: What did you learn in the military that’s helped in your life?
“The military will teach you to actually see something through and be thorough. You’ll leave the service with a no-quit attitude.”

Q2: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
“It means the world to me. A lot people served our country, and a lot of people died for our country. That’s something we can never forget.”

Eric_Kennemore
Eric Kennemore, works in the WK&T warehouse
Served four years in air command and control for the U.S. Marines. Earned the rank of sergeant before leaving military.

Q1: What did you learn in the military that’s helped in your life?
“The military teaches you a strong work ethic and to take pride in what you do.”

Q2: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
“It means a lot to me. I’m glad they recognize those who served, and especially those who are still serving now. They sacrifice a lot, and it means something to me that people take pride in giving veterans a day to honor their service.”

Jonathan_Whisman
Jonathan Whisman, works in construction for WK&T
Served four years in the U.S. Army, working in communications. Earned the rank of sergeant before leaving military.

Q1: What did you learn in the military that’s helped in your life?
“Honestly, I wasn’t really the college type, so I probably wouldn’t have this job if it wasn’t for the military. The experience was invaluable for me. The job and life training is something you can’t get anywhere else. They help build your character — at the time, it was tough, but it really was awesome. I loved being a solider.”

Q2: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
“Everyone has a job to do, and for those in the military, it doesn’t matter what job it is. They’re going to get it done. It’s not an easy job, and it’s not for everybody. You put everything else before yourself. So for me, Veterans Day is about doing something to honor those who served and all those who sacrificed so much.”

Terry_Allmon
Terry Allmon, WK&T Yorkville central office technician
Served four years in the U.S. Army, working in communications. Earned the rank of Specialist 4th Class before leaving military.

Q1: What did you learn in the military that’s helped in your life?
“It kind of put me back on track from where I could have been if I hadn’t joined the military. It taught me about teamwork. It’s a tight-knit group, and everyone had each other’s back. You learn to look out for the other guy.”

Q2: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
“It means showing your respect to all the veterans out there, especially the ones killed in the line of duty.”

Bob_Werling
Bob Werling, WK&T outside plant engineer
Served 21 years in the U.S. Navy, primarily as a construction electrician. Earned the rank of chief petty officer before leaving military.

Q1: What did you learn in the military that’s helped in your life?
“I’ve been in 27 countries and all 50 states. I got to see the world in the military, and what I do now is because of the military. I’ve basically been doing this about 50 years. I just picked up working with fiber and everything else along the way.”

Q2: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
“It’s hard to say, because you think of all the guys who didn’t come home.”

Bobbie_Barnett
Bobbie Barnett, WK&T board member for 15 years
Served four years as an electrician in the U.S. Air Force. Earned the rank of airman first class before leaving the military.

Q1: What did you learn in the military that’s helped in your life?
“I really enjoyed it, and I met a lot of nice people. It was an experience that was well worth it. I played basketball on the base team and got to travel all over Europe. The military gave me the ability to get along with all different people in all the different phases of my life.”

Q2: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
“For me, it’s about honoring those who have served, especially those that gave their all. There are so many that fought and never came back to their families. In a way, it’s a sad day. And in a way, it’s a good day. You feel honored to have served your country.”