Gary D. McMillan
U. S. Navy
Aviation Electrical Technician , VA196, USS Enterprise
Audio Samples

A resident now of Henderson, Texas, Gary was born in Lubbock, Texas to Leon Clayton McMillan, an oilfield worker, and his wife, Elizabeth, as the youngest of three brothers and a sister. He soon learned that an oilfield family often moves to follow the work, in their case, first to Farmington, New Mexico, where Gary lived until the 7th grade. They next spent six to eight months in Columbia, South America, returned to Farmington, then lived five years in Tehran, Iran, where he graduated from Tehran American school. Returning to the States he enrolled at Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas, but soon, when he "had enough of school" he followed his older brother into the U.S. Navy. In January of 1972 he began a nearly year-long cruise off the coast of Vietnam, aboard the USS Enterprise, as an aviation electrician. "We stayed out 100-day line periods sometimes. It was seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. You just worked; that's all you had to do. In your off time, we had TV in the bunk area or you go up and run the flight deck between flights or go to the gym." When the Enterprise aviators were flying sorties over Vietnam, Gary often worked 12-hour days, longer if needed. "If it lasted for 32 hours, you worked 32 hours straight. Just slept between flights," he recalls. Gary retired from the Navy and moved his family to East Texas. He took welding at Panola College in Carthage, but spent much of his career with the U.S. Postal Service in Jacksonville, then in Henderson. He is grateful for his military experience: "It taught us discipline and how to interact with all different types of people around the world, all different types of people in your squadron. You were like a big family, so it taught you to respect people. You got good work ethics. You had to be there. You had to work. It was just something I used all through my civilian life afterwards."