- Krista Allen
Eastman served country, still serving community
As we head into the season of giving thanks, it’s only fitting we take a moment to appreciate our veterans for our nation’s everyday privileges. For without their selflessness, courage, and bravery we could not have the lives we live today. In this month’s edition, we are featuring the life of Veteran Jay Eastman for his Naval service, and community work in the VFW Post 2399.
Jay was born in BigFork, Minnesota in 1946, where his father was a pastor. He remarks, “I was picked on because I was the preacher’s kid. Although my dad wasn’t a pacifist. I would come home crying because someone had beaten me up. He told me to go right back out there, which was good for me to stand up for myself.”
Jay’s father was a huge influence on him as a child into manhood. “He taught the Bible morally, and more ethically than most. He believed morals are something that you’re supposed to do, whereas ethics is something you do when no one is looking. He instilled those ethics in me growing up.”
When asked what made Eastman join the military his father’s imprint had a lot to do with that choice, and also because his father had intended to join the military as a chaplain during WWII, but was unable to due to absence of educational requirements. Jay enlisted upon graduation from St. Paul High School in 1964 during the Vietnam War. He was an Aviation Boatswain Mate. For many readers unfamiliar with the terminology,
Jay explains what this job entails. “The plane goes off on a catapult – that’s like a slingshot. It’s called a bridle. It comes up underneath the wings then the catapult builds up. It pulls up pressure because within 100 yards they have to go from zero to about 100 miles an hour. So they’re shot off the deck. It was our job to get them ready to go.”
As exciting as his military experience was, the most memorable time for him was when he came home from war. This was during the 1970s when our service members did not receive the love and respect they had deserved. Jay recalls several unpleasant experiences.
“I joined a VFW in Malden, Colorado. At my first meeting, two WWII veterans stood up and said ‘You don’t belong here. You weren’t in a real war.’ He remembered another instance where a young woman in the San Francisco airport threw red dye all over his white Navy uniform while speaking profanity.
This stigma also made it difficult for a vet to find a job because their service was considered disgraceful. Because of the hardships Jay was bitter towards his status for almost 30 years. However, this didn’t stop Eastman from living the American Dream. He came home, settled down, and had eight beautiful children. He found employment that was primarily police work, gang violence investigation, correctional officer, and security. He continued to do those genres of careers all through to retirement.
In 1989, Jay and his wife Anna got a “breath of fresh air” when they moved to Mineral Wells, Texas. His wife Anna describes our home state wonderfully. “When we talked about Texas, we actually really liked it. It was really nice to bring up your kids where they can go outside, ride their bike, roller skate, or do anything without you having to worry about it.”
Jay joined the Mineral Wells VFW Post 2399 in 1997. Jay was impressed by the total change of atmosphere. He wanted to become more involved in the changes they were making in the community. Eastman served as a senior vice-commander for several years and was willing to step down to junior vice-commander in hopes to promote younger generations into that leadership role. Jay also became a chaplain for the VFW as well as hosting several non-profit activities. For example, he has helped support public servants, teacher of the year, policeman of the year, paramedic the year, and so forth. He is still passionate about our youth, helping with nationally accredited programs like Backpack Buddies, Patriots Pen, and Voice of Discovery. His wife Anna also climbed the ladder to senior president to the Auxiliary Club and remained in that position for 10 years. They wanted to make a difference in going forward in life.
Jay says, “I’ve always had a passion for those who were hurt, both mentally and physically.” Anna added, “The VFW isn’t just beer, bingo and war stories. It’s comradery, community service, and family.”
When asked how long he plans on devoting himself to the VFW, his response was remarkable.
“Till the day I die I will be doing this. The military teaches you discipline that you then carry later into life. You have to continue to have a point in life, with goals to help everyone.”