Army Vet and Wife Found Adventure in Coast Guard

Coast Guard Auxiliary (U.S. Coast Guard)
Coast Guard Auxiliary (U.S. Coast Guard)

He was on the path to becoming a teacher, but the military draft in 1948 changed Loren Baber's life.

But instead of returning to teaching 40 years after he got back from the Korean War, Baber, 85, took on a new endeavor when he and his wife joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

After graduating from high school in Nebraska in 1948, he enrolled in Wayne State Teachers' College, hoping to be a coach.

As he was preparing to leave for school, his plans changed on July 20, when President Truman enacted a peacetime draft.

"I was a college boy, which made me Class 1-A. I was to be called up in 30 days," he said. Baber explained that in those days, "farm boys" were classified as 4-F and were often the last to go, as they needed to stay home and tend to the family business.

As soon as he knew he was getting called up, he went to the recruiting office so he could chose his branch, as opposed to be assigned to one.

The Air Force quota was full, so he joined the Army at 18 years old.

He qualified for Officer Candidate School and headed to Kansas for his training.

"Because of the draft, they had more people than beds so I had to wait a little while to get in," he said. He left candidate school after having completed the Infantry Advanced Leader Course.

In June 1950, the Korean War began and he received orders to go to California, which meant he was headed to Korea.

He arrived in November and spent Christmas Eve on a ship off the coast of Incheon, near Seoul getting ready to go ashore.

"The captain came over the loudspeaker and called our craft back," Baber said. "Seoul had fallen."

He was discharged in 1952 and set up shop in Iowa as a photographer.

In 1968, he married Virginia and purchased an insurance business before they started a family.

Fifteen years later, after everyone was grown they signed onto the Coast Guard Auxiliary using their own boat for over a decade for search-and-rescue work and to patrol.

"It became a career we really loved," he said.

They spent about a year qualifying to use their own boat, and soon they were cruising the California Delta as an official government vessel.

"Once we signed on for our weekend patrols, the boat became the property of the Coast Guard and we were at their beck and call," said Virginia.

They spent their weekends on their 32-foot boat with two crew members helping stranded boaters and assisting with search-and-rescue operations.

"I was brought up doing service for others," Virginia, 73, said. "My mother always told me, 'you have two hands; one is to help yourself, one is to help someone else.'"

They retired from the Coast Guard Auxiliary in 1995 and moved to Tucson, selling the boat before they left.

Although Loren speaks excitedly of his time in the Army and they both miss their days of patrolling the water, they've both taken on different types of volunteer work, continuing to help others as they've done their whole lives.

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