Richard Wityk graduated from Bryan High School. At 19 years of age, he enlisted in the Air Force. He did this because at the time, 1966, it was either enlist or be drafted and Mr. Wityk’s father, an ex-military man himself, let Richard know in no uncertain terms that it was better to enlist than be drafted. Mr. Wityk listened and ended up exploring his options and finding out that the Air Force was a better fit for him given his mechanical inclinations and a construction background. “It was the best fit for me,” Mr. Wityk said. “I didn’t want to do the Army or Marines and I didn’t like boats.”
After that, Mr. Wityk headed to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to complete his basic training. After finishing basic and attending a tech school for je fighters in Texas, he was stationed in Columbus, Ohio and then Alpena, Michigan. He eventually became Crew Chief. This meant that if the planes were on the ground, he was in charge of them.
After his four years, he declined to reenlist and was honorably discharged in 1970. “To do it over again,” Mr. Wityk said. “I’d have reenlisted and made a career out of it.” He believes and has told countless young people that he believes a military career is really hard to compete with. “You go in when you’re 18, serve for 20 years and come out at 38 with full retirement and able to do pretty much whatever you want with your life.”
Mr. Wityk now resides in Stryker with his wife. He has three children, Jonathan, Chris, and Ariana; and five granchildren; Chris jr., Morgan, Loren, Aaliyah, and Vanessa. He has also been active in the Stryker American Legion for fifteen years, and in the last eight, has served as Post Commander.
Being a Post Commander, he interacts with a lot of veterans on a regular basis. So, when asked what Veteran’s Day meant to him, he had to take a minute. “It means an awful lot,” he said. “I can’t really put it into words. It gives me an opportunity to gather with veterans, to experience that camaraderie.” He stopped for a little while to put his words in order, but he finished with this. “It lets us pay honor and respect to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and have served their country. All veterans are soldiers, but the heroes are the ones who didn’t come home alive.”
Thank you, Mr. Wityk, for sitting down and allowing us to see this day from your perspective. Veteran’s Day certainly is an opportunity, for all of us, to reflect on how lucky we are that we have brave individuals willing to risk it all to protect not only us, but our country and all it stands for. Thank you to all veterans, today and every other, as you use each one to protect the next, and, for that, we can never give enough thanks.