Randy and Linda Jack at his retirement from the Air National Guard in 2003. Supplied photo

NORWAY — When Randy Jack graduated from high school back in 1971, he knew he wanted to join the Navy. With a draft number of 17, he registered for service only to find out that a condition related to playing football made him ineligible. He was classified as 4F and stayed home in Oxford Hills, unsure what his career would be.

While pumping gas at Harold’s Motor Company in Oxford, Jack’s plan for military service was rekindled when a customer, Richard Varney, told him about a part-time weekend gig to earn extra money. That gig was with the Army Reserves. Recruited by Varney, Jack enlisted and was sworn in on April 30, 1974.

Jack became an instructor with the reserves. During his first year he taught field sanitation.

“How to pee and poop in the woods,” Jack said of his role. “How to do it cleanly and pick up after yourself.”

Joking aside, Jack had more serious responsibilities as well. He was in charge of gas drills, charging up a chamber with tear gas and making sure the new volunteers’ protective gear worked properly. His second instruction job was in weaponry, teaching recruits  rifle marksmanship, firing from various positions and properly maintaining weapons.

The Army Reserves took Jack all over the country for annual training, from West Point in New York to Fort Lewis, Washington.


When the military entered a period of downsizing in the mid-nineties, Jack had to retire from the Reserves. But he did not feel ready to leave. Instead, he jumped ship onto a different branch of service, joining the Air National Guard out of Bangor.

“That’s the 101st Air Refueling Wing,” Jack explained. “I was no longer a teacher there. I joined what they call Services Flight and I had to go to cooking school. They sent me to San Antonio to learn how to cook. So I got into the kitchen.”

“He went from being an expert marksman, to a cook,” Jack’s wife Linda chimed in.

Jack spent most of his service weekends in Bangor with some domestic travel. But after the War on Terrorism started in 2001 he was called up and sent to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia to supervise dining operations.

“It was the hottest place I’ve ever been,” recalled Jack. “They put us in air conditioned barracks and outside it was just a blast of hot air. It was 116 degrees in the shade. I worked the night shift in the dining hall, which wasn’t quite as bad. The cooks were what they call ‘third country nationals.’ And if they liked you, they’d make you their native meals. We’d all eat at three in the morning under an evening breeze. It was wonderful.”

Jack finally retired for good in 2003. But eventually he found himself drawn back into service, this time recruited by Linda whose family had been active with the American Legion Auxiliary since she was born.


Randy Jack, of Norway (left), is chaplain of the Ring-McKeen American Legion post 151 in West Paris, with his son Rusty. Rust served for 20 years with the U.S. Navy. Supplied photo

“I’m a 70-year member of the Legion,” Linda said. “I was doing Legion work and traveling, so I wanted him to go with me. Fourteen years later, Randy’s the chaplain for the West Paris post.”

Jack became chaplain about three years ago. He does opening and closing prayers at Legion services like Memorial Day and Veterans Day or funerals. He also calls on veterans in need to find out how the Legion can help them with home maintenance, driving to appointments and other assistance.

Providing support to fellow veterans through the Legion is a continuation of Jack’s 38 years of support while active in the Reserves. In some ways it is more tricky.

“For the Vietnam vets, they were treated so poorly when they came home, they don’t want anything to do with it,” said Linda. “I saw a big change during that era.

“In the Auxiliary, we want to support our veterans. It’s amazing, when you get veterans together they’re willing to talk. I’ve seen it. They have a common bond. Trying to get the younger generation, they need to talk to people, to have that bond. It’s veterans helping veterans.”

“A lot of them don’t open up,” agreed Jack. “They’ll only open up to certain ones of their own kind.”


He recalled a time after donating blood when a fellow veteran volunteering at the blood drive wanted to give Jack a Red Sox t-shirt. Being a die hard Patriots fan who doesn’t wear Red Sox swag, Jack tried to suggest he give the shirt to someone else. The interaction escalated to the point where the other veteran felt insulted, incubating a grudge until the next time they spoke. Rehashing the argument, the two had a breakthrough because of their shared experiences.

“He opened up to me,” Jack said. “And some of his stories would stand the hairs on the back of your neck up. But then he was ready to go out to eat. Now we’re best friends and he’ll tell the story of how over and over again. I loved it.”

“There are always funny stories,” Linda said. “But it’s also veterans helping veterans. There are other stories, too.”

“When you talk to certain people, there’s a feeling that comes over you that you can’t describe,” Jack said. “It’s real. You know, they know, and you’ve got this connection of support.

“I’ve been around the world. I’ve seen crazy things. I’ve met some really nice people.”

During active duty, Jack’s responsibilities were to support his fellow servicemen. And in retirement he continues his responsibility in support of his fellow veterans.

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