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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

It was Christmas of 1974, and we would be leaving Korea in 1975 to go to our next assignment. My mom and dad had come for an extended visit to the Orient. Scott and I went with them to Hong Kong and Tai Wan while a young couple from the South Post chapel came to stay with our children. We had a great time, and so did they. The four of us came back to Seoul, and then they went on to Thailand and Japan. After another week of travel, they came back to Seoul. A couple of days before Mom and Dad’s departure from Seoul to go back to the United States, an unexpected proposition came tumbling out of Dad’s mouth.

“Scott, I need you to come back to Denver after this assignment. I really need your help. I want to bring you into the company so that it can remain in the family.” By this time, Dad had bought out his two original partners, and was running the company solo.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Scott was thinking aloud. “I don’t know anything about the steel business.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Dad replied, “My plan is to move you, as an observer, from one department to the other, and take some classes on the basics of steel. That way you’ll have a broad understanding of how to run the business. And I’m going to be there helping you as you learn.”

“Can I think about it?” Scott asked.

“No, I need an answer now.” Dad was adamant. “If you aren’t going to come, I’m going to put the business up for sale. I wanted both you and Al (my sister’s second husband) to take it over, but he’s not interested.”

“Can’t I just have a little time to think about it?” Scott was feeling pressured.

“Why wouldn’t you want to do this? It’s a great opportunity,” Dad argued.

Then Mom spoke up and took a stand against the tactics Dad was using, “Sam, you are pressuring him, and I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. Let him think it over before he makes a commitment.” I could tell Dad was miffed, but after thinking about it for a while, he finally came to the same conclusion. “Okay, but can you let me know within the next month or so?”

“I surely will,” Scott promised.

After a month or so of batting it around, and with me in favor of it, Scott sat down and wrote a letter to Dad saying, “Okay, I will retire at Lowry in Denver on June 1, 1975. Then I will start working at Metal Fabricators.” Of course, this meant he was throwing away his chance to become a chief.

However, an exciting opportunity was about to put the plan on hold.

We were both ecstatic.

The promotion lists had come out, and Scott was on the list for chief master sergeant, which had been his lifelong goal. He wrote Dad a letter explaining, “I am to be promoted to chief, and this will require an additional eighteen months in service past the twenty years, before I can retire. So I’m hoping that you can hold on for that short length of time.”

“No. I need you right away. I can’t wait that long,” was Dad’s terse response.

We were dumbstruck.

To turn down chief was unheard of. No one in his right mind would do such a thing, and it was a huge financial risk. Scott’s retirement pay for the rest of his life would be much less. On the other hand, we believed Dad’s pleas for “needing help” and his logic to “keep the business in the family.” Scott was in a difficult situation – poor guy.

After considerable discussion, and me applying undue pressure (I wanted him to run my dad’s company), Scott and I made the decision to turn down the promotion, and leave the military. We hoped this choice would keep us within the good graces of the family, and I figured we could look forward to financial and status gain. Even when Scott explained to his co-workers that he had a great opportunity awaiting him, they were still unbelieving and shocked that he could make this decision.

We returned to Denver in May of 1975. He worked at Lowry Air Force Base doing various jobs until June 1, and was then officially retired from the United States Air Force.


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