As another year nears a close, once again I say I cannot believe how quickly time flies… And, as the old saying goes, the older you get the faster it goes! I would like to take this time to say a very heartfelt “Thank You“ to everyone I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with this past year. Words cannot describe how appreciative I am of their support, not only of me but also for the museum and our veterans!
I would also like to say “Thank You,” and explain how very special each and every one of our volunteers is to the museum; we honestly could not do it without you. I would like to introduce you to one of those special volunteers who also happens to be a very special Veteran. Meet MSgt (R) William “Bill” Schueler.
I knew the first time I met Bill that we would become fast friends, and turns out we had a lot more in common than I could imagine. We are both retired from the Air Force, we both retired as Master Sergeants and we had the same job! Although I enlisted eleven years after Bill retired, we were “kindred souls” right off. What impressed me the most about Bill Schueler was the answer he gave me when I asked him why he joined the military. It certainly wasn’t any standard answer I had ever heard.
“I joined the USAF because of my sense of gratitude and patriotism due to my upbringing. My parents were immigrants who arrived in the USA very early in the 1900’s, coming from the area of Odessa, Russia. They were considered German/Russians due to their families migrating to Russia in the late 1700s to early 1800s from Germany. They settled into various farming colonies set up around Odessa at the invitation of the Russian Czar. The Czar wanted to develop the area around Odessa into farms and invited experienced German farmers to migrate to Russia. They were offered various incentives to migrate. Many German/Russians migrated to the US in the late 1800s due to the Czar not living up to their agreements. My earliest known relative, my great uncle Matthias Schueler, served in the Spanish American War in 1898, and eventually settled in North Dakota, where I grew up. My parents always felt blessed to be able to become citizens of the United States. My older brother who served in WWII was also a great influence on my decision.”
In his over 20-year career in the AF, he was stationed all over the world, including Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines. After the Vietnam War, Bill and his lovely wife Nellie (Sides) decided to settle in Athens. They opened S&S Motors, Inc., and had a long-haul trucking business before retiring. After retiring, Bill became active in various service organizations which include the Vietnam Veterans of America, American Veterans, the American Legion, and of course the Alabama Veterans’ Museum.
He says he feels it is important to preserve military history. “I served with many of these men and women in the military and dealt with them on a daily basis in their businesses. I was very surprised to learn the heroism of these men and women, since most of them never discussed anything more than they served their country and were proud to do so. It is very heartwarming to hear their stories!”
If you would like to hear more of the story, come on down to the Alabama Veterans’ Museum; you will be amazed at what you might learn!
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans' Museum