'I was 22 and tougher than a boot'

Castle Rock veteran recalls proudest moment in service

Nick Puckett
npuckett@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/16/20

Bill Colgin Sr. is getting tired of staying home all the time. The 81-year-old U.S. Army veteran from Wyoming, now living in Castle Rock, loves people. Always willing to lend a story to a stranger, …

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'I was 22 and tougher than a boot'

Castle Rock veteran recalls proudest moment in service

Posted

Bill Colgin Sr. is getting tired of staying home all the time.

The 81-year-old U.S. Army veteran from Wyoming, now living in Castle Rock, loves people. Always willing to lend a story to a stranger, Colgin looks forward to being able to share a beer among friends again.

Colgin spent Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at his home near Metzler Ranch, surrounded by photos of his children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends — his greatest trophies from more than eight decades of life. Colgin simply listened to a playing of the national anthem. In the middle of a pandemic, with a disease particularly dangerous for older populations, it was the only way he could celebrate.

“Can you believe that?” Colgin said and chuckled. “I've just been so patriotic my whole life.”

Veterans across the country celebrated Veterans Day differently than in years past. The Douglas County Veterans Association held its annual Veterans Day celebration online Nov. 7 due to public health protocols. The annual breakfast at the Castle Rock Fraternal Order of Eagles veterans headquarters downtown was canceled as well.

Colgin served in active duty from 1961-63, a U.S. Army mortar specialist during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Colgin married his high school sweetheart, JoAnn, on Nov. 25, 1961. At 22, with one semester at Casper College under his belt, he didn't want anything to do with the military. One month later, Colgin received a draft notice. In 1961, the Soviet Union had just erected the Berlin Wall. The Army drafted 118,000 men in 1961, according to the Selective Service System website.

When called to serve, Colgin said, he never thought twice.

Colgin's proudest moment in service came during America's most existential one. Colgin was shipped to Florida in October 1962, stationed on a ship off the coast between the U.S. and Cuba. Planes flew overhead 24 hours a day. Colgin was a mortar specialist. He recalled sending mortar rounds, dozens a minute, one after the other toward enemy ships. His photo ended up on the front page of the Army Times.

“I was proud to be there,” Colgin said. “I was proud to be doing something for the country.”

Colgin said he wasn't scared for one moment.

“I was 22 and tougher than a boot,” Colgin said. “Ready to fight.”

In the middle of an interview Nov. 12, Colgin paused for a moment. Several seconds passed. He grinned. He remembered the sound of planes droning overhead constantly, the 72-hour sleepless periods, loading mortar rounds as fast as possible.

“Those were probably my proudest moments,” he said.

Colgin has two sons, Bill Jr. and Mark, and seven grandchildren. His wife, JoAnn, died in 2017 at 76. They were married 55 years. He misses her every day.

Colgin's grandson, Alex, from Castle Rock, now serves in the U.S. Air Force. Alex is stationed currently in Del Rio, Texas.

“I tell him many, many times, 'Alex, I'm so proud of you,'” Colgin said. “I told him, when he left, I said, 'Be a good airman.'”

When he was drafted in 1961, Colgin told himself the same thing — just be a good soldier.

“I was,” Colgin said, “and he is.”

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