The majority of people never serve in the armed forces.
But Joseph Buckland did it all.
Buckland served in not just one, but four branches of the armed services and fought in three wars during more than two decades of duty.
"It wasn't easy," Buckland said with a laugh. "It took me three wars and 23 1/2 years."
Buckland's extraordinary service, which earned him a mention in the cartoon featureRipley's Believe It Or Not,was honored this weekend at Columbia County's Red, White & Blue Veterans Celebration.
Sgt. Joseph D. L. Buckland was once featured in Believe It or Not for having served in all four branches of the service.
Buckland, from Beckley, W.Va., was midway through his senior year in high school and four days shy of his 18th birthday when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
"I wanted to run down and join right then, but my parents had more sense than I did and talked me out of it," he said.
After graduation, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, was at Parris Island, S.C., living in a tent and knee-high sand by June 2, 1942, and soon was sent into wartime duty as a rear gunner on a B-25 bomber. He flew more than 50 missions, most of them at tree-top level protecting beaches for invading fleets. Those missions earned him five Air Medals and a Distinguished Flying Cross.
Buckland, now 79 and living with his wife, Linda, in Jensen's Wymberly in Martinez, left the Marines after the war and trained at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Miami. The newlywed Buckland, seeking stability for his family, followed the lead of a Marine Corps friend who joined the Navy.
Buckland spent nearly seven months as a station-keeper, training weekend warriors as a flight engineer in active duty reserves. His base was closed and he was discharged in early 1953.
Months later, Buckland again turned to the military - this time the Air Force. "They had the latest equipment and the best assignments," he said. Yet even as a flight engineer, radar operator and gunner with multi-engine airplane training, the Air Force wouldn't put him on active duty.
Joseph Buckland holds a photo of himself during World War II. A
painting of B-25s in flight, the plane in which he was a tail gunner, adorns the wall. Mr. Buckland served in four branches of the military.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
But the Army would. So he transferred.
Buckland went straight to the diminishing fighting in the Korean War, where his unit helped build Fort Casey in Seoul, South Korea.
"I knew I was not going to like it, but I did it for my family and for the retirement coming up," Buckland said. "If I had known (I would get sent straight to Korea), I never would have done it."
After returning to Fort Benning, Ga., then transferring to California as a an Army maintenance supervisor, Buckland received new orders in 1966: Vietnam.
By the time he received orders for a second tour of duty to Vietnam in 1969, then-Sgt. First Class Buckland had finally had enough. He said he had already spent too much time away from his family, and asked to sign his retirement papers.
"I never planned to make all four branches," he said. "I don't know how I survived it all, but I did. I just did what I had to do because I had to do it."
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