KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --
In the early 40s, millions of men were drafted into the military, making up over half of the fighting force during World War II. In April of 1942, Anthony Grant became one of the millions when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After serving through two major wars and being stationed all over the world, he retired just over twenty years later in May of 1962.
At nearly 101 years old, his experiences are still fresh in his mind. Like many veterans, he has a story. Although his story is one that only a fraction of people can relate to, he’s found a way to let it inspire his lifestyle – and hopefully the lifestyle of others.
Like many, Grant was drafted as a Private. He worked as a quartermaster and was assigned to a quartermaster battalion at Ft. Dixon, New Jersey. In 1943, just over a year after being drafted, he was sent to Europe until the end of the war.
At the time, Grant’s duties covered many tasks that would now be the responsibility of a transportation unit.
“During World War II, the Army supplied trucks and so forth because transportation was not active until after the war,” he explained. “During the war we did the work of supply and transportation – providing trucks, picking up supplies, delivering to the front lines … That’s what I did throughout the war.”
As the war came to an end, the Army began to demobilize. Many draftees did their time and then returned back to their hometowns. Grant however, decided to continue serving.
“During the war years, mostly everyone was drafted and we were drafted for the duration of the war,” Grant said. “When the war was over it became the great demobilization … All the draftees wanted to return back home. So, to encourage people to remain in the Army, they offered a lot of incentives … Some of us fell for that,” he laughed. “I was one of them.”
Shortly after committing more time to the Army, the Korean War broke out.
Through the years and the nearly back-to-back wars, Grant had worked his way up through the ranks.
“I was one of those who went through all the ranks. I was drafted as a Private and I promoted along the way,” he said. “I was an E6 Sgt. then my commander recommended me to be a Warrant Officer, so I became a Warrant Officer.”
As the Korean War came and went, the Army once again began to face an inevitable downsize. Once again, Grant took the incentives – specifically, progression in rank.
“People were getting out and the Army needed 2nd Lts.,” he chuckled, “Another incentive … Well why remain a Warrant Officer if I can commission? I got a direct commission as 2nd Lt.; I followed the officer path until I retired.”
While his story thus far seems similar to that of many other veterans – being drafted, one war after another, and making the military a career – there’s one key difference. Grant is African American. He served through segregation.
Although all quartermaster units had the same equipment and same type of personnel, the units were separated based on race.
“During World War II the Army was segregated so I was in a segregated unit; it was very challenging,” he said. “However, I always make the distinction to people that the military was segregated but we were not discriminated against … There’s a difference.”
Despite the segregation, Grant always felt a sense of camaraderie and friendly competition.
“In many instances there would be about three quartermaster battalions in a certain area; one would be all black and the other two would be all white,” he explained, “We accepted it ... It was the norm.”
After several years of serving in a segregated Army, Grant was able to witness the end to it all; finally, his career, the Army and society were all progressing.
“I was in the Army when we integrated the units,” he recalled. “The executive order came out that segregation ended; separate units ended. Many men went from the black unit to the white unit and from the white unit to the black unit – we were on our way to being one Army.”
From that point on, as members came in, they were placed with units based solely on their job rather than their race.
After 20 years of experiences in the Army, Grant decided to retire and move on to new experiences. Just three months into the civilian life he landed a job for the Air Force, working services – the same type of work he did for the Army.
After 25 years with the Air Force, he decided to retire – again – and began traveling.
“I’m very inquisitive; I like seeing many geographical areas of the world,” Grant said. “When I found out that I could travel on Space Available with the Air Force, I decided this is just what I’m looking for.”
Grant has been traveling since 2008 and has been to countless places to include Japan, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Guam, Germany, Spain, and many other destinations.
His love of travel has been a passion for his entire life. From sailing around his native islands in the Caribbean to traveling abroad while in the Army and working for the Air Force, it's something he has always enjoyed.
“I wanted to see the world and I had a chance to see the world,” Grant said. “Within the last 10 years, this is my third visit to Okinawa. If my health holds, I may want to make another short trip to Rota, but this is my farewell trip to the Pacific.”
For someone who has lived fully – both years and experience wise – his take on life is quite simple.
“I’m not a worrier; I keep a positive mind all the time and I accept things as they are, not as I want them to be … I make the best of it,” Grant explained. “In my quiet moments, I feel blessed – I have more behind me in life than I have ahead; the few years that are ahead, I’m going to take advantage of them.”