VETERANS SPOTLIGHT: Keith and Reta Baxley found jobs, and love in the military
Reta and Keith Baxley met while they were both in the U.S. Air Force in the mid-1970s. They were stationed at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, near Cape Canaveral.
To the dismay of her parents, Reta, originally from New York, followed her two older brothers into the military when she was 21 years old. They joined the Navy; she picked the Air Force.
Reta was an E-4, and an air conditioning/refrigeration specialist where she was the only female. It was called Second Mobile Combat Communications Group, or 2-MOB. Her job was to keep the air conditioning for computers in mobile units working. Although Reta was never deployed overseas, they played war games to stay prepared, just in case.
Keith served in the Air Force from 1967-1989 in communication and computer operations. He was first stationed in Turkey for a remote tour from 1967-1969. He did a short, three-week stint in Vietnam in 1973, then was sent to Thailand twice. The first time was 1973-1974, then he was immediately sent back 1974-1976.
After Thailand Keith was stationed in Florida, where he met Reta through mutual friends.
Reta decided to leave the military after she had children. She was not content to just sit home, so Reta started a support group for wives of MOB.
The young couple were married in Florida before Keith was sent overseas to England in 1979. They lived off base in Syresham, a small village, where their two daughters were born. Reta was thrilled to be covered by England's National Health Service (the public health system) while they were there.
Keith was sent back to the United States in 1982, where he was stationed in southern Illinois until he retired in 1989.
Unlike many retirees who move south, the Baxleys moved north to Carlton, Minn., because Keith is originally from Floodwood. He has been involved with the Honor Guard for the last six years and Reta is active in the Carlton VFW Auxiliary.
Both veterans strongly believe young people benefit from serving in the military because it helps them grow up and have a strong work ethic.
"The biggest mistake the government made was doing away with the draft," said Keith. "The country would be in better shape."
Then he shared a common saying: "If the military wanted you to have a wife they would issue you one.
"They issued me a good model," the quiet man said with a grin, causing his wife of 40 years to smile in return.