A "crazy" 18-year-old who volunteered to be a paratrooper grows up to be a military skeptic.
CHASSAHOWITZKA - In three years during the Korean War, Bill Shaw made 36 parachute jumps. He still fondly recalls the men he served alongside.
"They were ex-prizefighters, con men, Chicago thugs and Mexicans and Greeks," Shaw said. "The one thing they all had in common was that they all knew how to fight and took training very seriously. I felt very comfortable with them."
Shaw joined the Army at age 18, one year out of high school in St. Petersburg.
"It just seemed like the patriotic thing to do," he said.
One day, when a call for volunteers for airborne was issued, Shaw stepped forward.
"I was 18 and a little crazy," said Shaw, now 72.
After a three-week course in parachute assaults at Fort Benning, Ga., Shaw and his fellow paratroopers were stationed in Japan. Their job was to be ready to mount a parachute assault at any time.
His first jump was to drop in behind North Korean lines to rescue prisoners of war.
"We got some of them out," Shaw said.
From the base in Japan, Shaw's unit moved quickly to quell trouble spots.
"We would go back and forth when the infantry got in trouble," he said, "either pulling out tanks, laying or clearing barbed wire, or just hit and make a big contribution.
"Then we would march out. It was so cold there, we threw our rifles away and just marched.
"It was an interesting time to be 18 years old and crazy."
Shaw served in the Korean War from 1950 to '53. After the war, Shaw earned a pharmacy degree from the University of Florida. He owned four pharmacies before he retired to Citrus County in 1989 with his wife, Jane. They own a spiritual yoga retreat, Spirit of the Springs, near Chassahowitzka. And he went back to work at the pharmacy in Citrus Memorial Hospital in Inverness.
Now, 50 years later, Shaw has a different view of war.
"At 18, I was a good citizen and I thought the thing to do was listen to the federal government and back your country. It was appropriate to kill and destroy," he said.
"But as I became older, I came to believe that's not the way to solve things. Fifty years later, we're still there (in Korea)."
Shaw says that he's still proud to have served in the military, but that he has strong antiwar feelings.
"I don't believe in killing and wars," he said. "I'm not as proud as I once was. I'm proud to have done my duty, but don't like organizations that keep regurgitating war and medals."