This part of Lynn Steverson’s story begins in 1945. I have to leave out a lot, but by 1945 he was doing much of the farm work. His dad had finished the larger house he was building for the growing family with the help of several relatives. Ike, the fourth Steverson boy was born that year but that didn’t complete the family. Marshal, Maxine and Christine (Cricket) were yet to come. The farm had grown larger with more work animals and more equipment. Lynn had secured a horse and a saddle and was able to ride his horse to Bonifay on Tuesday and Thursday nights to the picture show. This was a sin to his daddy, but since Lynn was doing a man’s work, his Dad never forbade him to engage in this sinful behavior. He didn’t know about his chewing a little tobacco on the sly. Since Lynn was working along side of his Dad and Uncle Dewey for the same pay at the sawmill when farm work allowed, I suppose his Dad reasoned that he was old enough to make his own choices.
When Steverson turned 15 in 1946, he had missed so much school because of farm work that he made the decision to drop out of school at the Christmas break and farm full time. It was not unusual at all for farm children to drop out of school to help with farm work in that day and time.
Ever since Lynn had seen news stories about servicemen returning from WWII in 1945, he had determined that he would join the Army. He turned 17 in April of 1948, and made plans to enlist after the crops were laid by in July. His Dad offered to deed him 80 acres of land if he’d stay home and continue farming, but he declined and “more or less mislead Mama into signing consent papers so I could join the Army without waiting until I turned 18. The Peacetime draft had started, so I would have been drafted, anyway,” said Steverson. Nineteen-forty-eight ended with him joining the army and his dad trading two mules for a tractor.
He said, “I really wanted to join the Air Force, but it was only accepting high school graduates and I was way short of that.”I was processed at the main recruiting station in Panama City along with a number of boys who had just graduated from Holmes County High, boys “I would have graduated with had I not dropped out. They all went to the Air Force.”
“As I Look back,” he said, “ being forced into the Army was the best thing for me. Several of those flyboys stayed in the Air Force for a career but I did better in the Army than any one of them. None came close to achieving the rank I did in the Army. ...”
Shortly after he went into the Army he started working toward a high school GED. “I had a long way to go. I had credit for passing the 9th grade, but I had poor grades and struggled because of low attendance. Then the Korean War interrupted my effort for 2 years, but in 1953,I passed the GED test on my first try. The Army provided classes and extension courses to prepare one for the GED test. By 1957, I thought I was ready for Officers Training School. I applied and was selected for Officers Candidate School. I entered OCS in Ft Benning, Ga. Sept of 1957 and was commissioned a 2nd. Lieutenant on April 18, 1958. Then the Army started pushing me to get a college degree.”
“Every military installation has one or more university branches located on it. The branches are structured for night school and the Army pays 75% of the tuition and adjusts your duty hours so that you can attend classes. It was not mandatory that you get a college degree, but if you didn’t work toward one, that has a negative effect on your chances of promotion. Also the Army had a policy that if one got a certain amount of college credits, he could compete for selection to attend a university full time to finish a degree.”
He saw some combat in Korea in the 2nd Infantry Division and then was assigned a job to the rear. In Vietnam, “I was not so lucky. I was with an Infantry Battalion. I had my share of combat and close calls and there were times I thought I might never see my family again. I was awarded the Silver Star for valor in combat plus two Bronze Stars for Combat Operations. During my second tour, I was safely behind a desk in Saigon.”
He got this cushy assignment because of his Masters Degree from the University of Kansas where he had gone to escape being sent back for a second tour of Vietnam, hoping that the war would be over by the time he finished his degree.But it was not. He wound up with another desk job and not at the front.
His last four years of duty was as Commander of the Army Ranger Camp at Eglin Air Force Base training Army Rangers for future wars. The camp contained all the functions and responsibilities of a large military installation, just on a smaller scale: family housing and other welfare functions for dependents, a small medical facility, a fleet of vehicles, a PX convenience store. He stayed on that job 4 years, longer than any other had held that position. He was awarded his second Legion of Merit, the second highest military award given for non-combat service.
Lynn Steverson retired with 31 years of service a highly decorated soldier rising from a farm boy high school drop-out to a highly decorated U.S. Army officer. He returned home to Holmes County as physically fit as he was following basic training. He proudly wore his original uniform displaying his many medals on public occasions. His wife Linda preceded him in death. Three sons, Tim, Tony and Mike survive him.