By Derek Maul
Peter Schmitt is pleased to be included in The Bridges 2013 veterans calendar, but he makes sure people understand the role he played.
“I signed up with my brother,” he said. “My mother told me I had to go to keep him out of trouble.”
The brothers were separated after boot camp and Peter found himself outside Los Angeles as a radar operator.
Schmitt spoke with a self-deprecating yet refreshing candor about his three-year Army tour. He respects the service but the spit-and-polish culture never matched his personality. “They sent me to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) in Korea,” he said. “I selected for honor guard but when I found out about all the polish and the ironing I got myself another cush job, waiting tables in the generals’ mess hall. My other jobs were filling sandbags and Jeep commander.”
Schmitt jokes that his superiors only made him corporal because no one else was available. “My Battalion Commander called me in and said, ‘I hate to do this to you, Pete, but I’ve got to make you corporal.’”
Looking back, Schmitt recognizes the value of uniformed service. “I can see where it shapes you into what your parents didn’t,” he said. “I’d recommend it. I’m sorry they got rid of the draft.”
After discharge, Schmitt settled in Chicago where he worked a number of jobs before settling into trucking.
“I ended up buying a tractor and working for a trucking company,” he said. “From there I bought tractors, hauling trailers cross country. I was also general manager of a warehouse. Finally I tied in with an outfit that wanted freight delivered to New York over the weekend, 52 weeks out of the year. I’d wear out a truck every two years.” In the mid 90’s, Schmitt moved to Florida with his wife, Donna. They returned to Chicago briefly, but decided The Bridges is the best venue where he can care for his wife.
“The Chicago weather was killing me!” Schmitt said