Gerald Eldridge Sr. is a 20-year veteran. He served in two branches of the military in two major ways.
He started off in the army, joining right after graduating from Dumbar High School.
"The economy was so bad and I was from a large family. I thought it was good to go and get some kind of income coming in to help my family," said Eldridge.
So he went from the streets of East Baltimore to the gunfire in Korea. "In Korea, I found out it wasn’t what I expected it to be," explained Eldridge. "Everything was fine at first where my unit was at was at a top of a mountain, so high up it took me half a day to get up to the top of a mountain. That’s how far up!"
They were so high up on the mountain, they didn't have any water. He explained how he got in trouble by one of his lieutenants by using the water to brush his teeth.
It was fine for a little while, until he got into combat.
"Early one night we was under attack by the North Koreans," said Eldridge. "My lieutenant told me to open fire. Open up, open up, open up with fire. And I did such and when I opened up with fire. I seen nothing but flares coming toward me."
He was injured and had shrapnel all over his body. He spent weeks in the hospital and then it was back to the front line. The next big attack was on Thanksgiving. He said they were enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner but had Chinese for dessert.
"It was a terrible time watching the Chinese take over. All you could hear was horns blowing and whistles and they was coming from everywhere," said Eldridge.
Luckily, he was able to get away. He served three years in the Army. Then he tried to get out but "jobs were almost impossible. Places where I went to apply for jobs, jobs in management and I didn’t want no two cent job. I wanted a job making a dollar at least."
It was around that time, he met his wife. To help support his growing family, he went back into the military. The plan was army again but an Air Force Officer made it more enticing for him to switch.
"Did you have enough of that rain and guard duty and all that kind of stuff, you right about all that and he said in the Air Force you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to stand in the rain and eat of a piece of tin. He said they have dining halls to eat our. I said yeah you right. So I signed up for the Air Force," said Eldridge.
He stayed in the Air Force for 17 years, one of those years he spent in Vietnam. He didn't go into much detail of his time there but he said, "I survived and I’m back here in the states."
He moved back to East Baltimore, raised five children and has the medals to look back on from his service. "Now I'm retired. Period."