Weatherford Democrat

October 12, 2012

A veteran's journey cut short

Sally Sexton

PARKER COUNTY — Larry Rhoads had his military path already marked as a teenager.

In 1964 at the age of 17, Rhoads, who had moved to Parker County in the second grade, persuaded his parents to sign him off to join the Navy.

“My dad was in the Navy and served in World War II, and they had the prettiest uniforms,” he said. “Those Navy dress blues looked good.”

The Poolville resident, born in Fort Worth, attended boot camp in San Diego. But a few months later, his military career would be over, due to a physical condition he had since birth.

“We had these duty belts that we wore, which were very tight, and when I put mine on, it would burn,” he said. “I had horrible cramps as a kid if I ran a long ways, but I never thought it was anything real serious.”

Troubled by nerves and other irritants, Rhoads found out through a random physical that he had an intestinal condition that restricted some of his movement and could cause debilitating pain at any point.

“Two months after boot camp, they sent me to the mainland and said I would need to have surgery or return home,” he said.

Terrified of the surgery and not knowing if the results would completely heal him for active duty, Rhoads received an honorable discharge.

“I was 17 years old and I was scared to death of major surgery,” he said. “They gave me an honorable discharge and said I was physically unable to do it.”

With a dad, son and grandson all serving in the military, Rhoads’ journey and what could have been still plagues him to this day.

“It really bothers me, even now, because I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do,” he said. “My heart was in a good spot, but my body just couldn’t follow.”

After his discharge, Rhoads went to work for Southern Airways, in Mineral Wells, as a certified aircraft mechanic. He suffered a ruptured disc in his back, and has been legally disabled since 1993.

Though his work and military careers may be over, Rhoads still contributes his time to the community and to his country, serving as a past commander of the American Legion, where he has been a member for 16 years, and as the current guardian and past commander of the Men’s Auxiliary of the VFW, when he had membership for six years.

An avid motorcycle rider, Rhoads uses his hobby as a way to contribute to others as well, participating annually in motorcycle toy runs to support children around the holidays, as well as helping out with Veteran’s Day Out in Granbury.

He has also helped the Poolville community, campaigning for a new POW-MIA flag to be flown in the center of town.

“I’m still a veteran, and I’m proud of what little time I spent in the military, but it still bothers me,” Rhoads said. “I love my country and I would do anything in the world for it.”