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While peace-time veteran Jimmy Cotton didn’t see combat during his time in the army, he did see a lot of conflict.
Cotton, who was born and raised in Bardstown was in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1964.
He was stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Gordon, Ga., and Fort Knox.
During the time period he served in Georgia, racist perspectives toward African Americans where still abundant, and more so than in Kentucky during that time, Cotton said.
He said coming from Bardstown, he wasn’t used to being looked at as a “second-class citizen.” The attitudes toward African Americans were much worse in Georgia than in Kentucky he said.
“It was hard to keep your attitude,” Cotton said. “It’s hard to accept if you’re not used to it.”
Cotton said being a soldier facing those racist attitudes did make things easier though. He said it was better to do things in groups in order to avoid as much negative feedback.
“It was an experience that you never forget,” he said.
His time in the service wasn’t only negative though. Cotton said he made several friends while in the army.
“I had fond memories of different soldiers that were in our outfit,” he said. “I had a lot of hard feeling of how we were treated down there.”
Cotton talked about one friend he made who was a “bunk buddy” of his.
He said the man was from the south and raised with very negative views toward African Americans.
Cotton said he was surprised by how their friendship worked out.
“We got to be really good friends,” he said.
Cotton said he volunteered for the draft at age 24 so that he would be allowed to leave the country sooner to go to Liberia West Africa to help his brother.
He said he figured he would sign up to serve and get it out of the way.
Unfortunately, Cotton never did make it to Liberia.
Cotton, who was married when he entered the service, went to eight weeks of basic training and eight weeks of advanced training.
“That’s where they brainwash you,” he said.
Cotton worked as military police for a while then also worked with armor tanks. He said he even got to drive the tanks and was the crew chief.
Cotton was a sergeant in the second infantry division.
He didn’t see any combat but Cotton said while he was stationed at Fort Benning he was involved in the Cuban Crisis.
“Our unit got activated to police the area if need be,” he said.
After his service, Cotton was in the reserve for six years.
As a veteran, he said he is proud to have served.
“I was proud I was in the service to serve my country,” Cotton said.