2018-11-07 / Front Page

Drafted Veteran Reflects On Military Service

By Lillian Browne

Tom Coddington, of Andes, is a U.S. military veteran and recently retired from The Reporter as its longest serving Sports Editor. Lillian Browne/The Reporter Tom Coddington, of Andes, is a U.S. military veteran and recently retired from The Reporter as its longest serving Sports Editor. Lillian Browne/The Reporter ANDES - Drafted by the military in 1966 after dropping out of his fourth year at Hartwick College, Tom Coddington, or “Cod” as he is affectionately known, of Andes, reflected on his years spent in the Army in Bangkok, Thailand that helped shape his career as a sports writer for The Walton Reporter.

First stationed in Fort Dix, N.J. for basic training, he was then transferred to Monterrey, Calif., before being deployed to Thailand in 1968.

There, stationed on a military base, he developed a taste for Thai food and began to write about the soccer matches between the “Brits,” Germans, French, Portuguese and Americans for the local barracks newspaper called “The Bangkok Bolt.”

He never played the sport, he said. He was more of an astute observer rather than a participant; and, he said, he never took sides.

That seemed to be a startling disclosure, coming from a man who was drafted on the cusp of war and deployed to Thailand as the United States entered the Vietnam War.

He was a patriot and saw military service as his duty. He has no regrets, he said. He was always safe. Beside, he said, “I got my choice of MOS (military occupational specialty).”

Cod’s choice was communications, not interpretation; and, he said, though he was close to the “war zone” he was never in harm’s way or caused another person harm.

“The military is what it is and does what it does,” Cod said when asked about the political climate of that era. “We knew what we were doing.”

On pass days, he and others left the base and explored the countryside. “It was just beautiful,” he said wistfully. “It rained every day at 4 o’clock.”

He “picked” up the language, he said, “so I could help myself out.” The Thai culture was vastly different from what he was accustomed to in the United States. He got first-hand experience with how people from other countries view Americans and its military presence in their homelands.

The Thailand he experienced was one of dirt-floors and shanties; delicious food and beautiful scenery, and incredibly kind and generous people.

“They were happy we were there,” he said, slightly distracted in memory. He was not unhappy at being there, he said.

Though he was scheduled to be in Thailand for two years, his tour was cut short and he returned to military service in Maryland, where he was honorably discharged.

He had no desire to re-enlist, he said, and promptly returned to finishing his college degree in political science.

Those that know Cod, know his passion for politics and the Democratic party.

What most people don’t know about Cod, however, is that he used to be a Republican.

He got mad at New York State Governor George Pataki, a Republican, and promptly left the GOP and enrolled in the Democratic Party.

Back in those days, he said, the two parties were a little closer. He cannot tolerate the “bashing” of candidates that is happening today. Politics, he said, never used to be like they are now. It’s distasteful, he said. “Partisan politics can go too far. And they have.”

Though he had a degree in political science, he did not become a politician - at least not in those days. Instead, he became a substitute teacher fresh out of college. He taught a variety of subjects at various Delaware County schools.

Franklin Central School was his favorite. There he taught high school math and English. He was somewhat less enthusiastic about his teaching duties at Margaretville and South Kortright Central schools, where he said he felt like he was more of a baby sitter than a teacher.

While he was substitute teaching, he picked up a few writing assignments during the summer months, writing about baseball and soccer. Soon after, he was hired as a general assignment reporter with The Walton Reporter working for Al Peake and John D. Clark.

Military service and reporting, he said, have something in common. “You just never know what is going to happen next.”

After 46 adventurous years with The Reporter as Sports Editor, Cod has retired.

Cod is a veteran of foreign war and a long-time member of the James D. Calhoun American Legion Post #200 in Andes.

Veterans Day is an official public holiday, observed annually on Nov. 11, that honors military veterans - those who served in the United States Armed Forces.

Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day which honors those who died while in military service.

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