March 2023

Quincy McKinney

I would first like to express my gratitude and appreciation to Mr. McKinney for kindly sharing his story.

Quincy McKinney Sr enlisted into the Army on September 16, 1989.

He served for 24 years and fought in Iraq 2005-2006 and Kosovo 2012.

On August 27th, 2014, he retired from the Army and flew back home.

Read the rest of Mr. McKinney's story below:

It is amazing how someone you've never met can touch your life. You have truly touched mine and I hope through sharing your story, you can touch many others.

Thank you, Maria

Mr. McKinney,

What do you remember about the day you enlisted?

"The day I joined the Army was a sort of day, of not expecting anything, but anticipating my dissertation. I woke up early in the morning at the hotel where we stayed the night in East Orange, NJ. The recruiter arrived to take me to the airport, I thought I was getting on a plane for the first time; however, I was getting on a bus to my end destination, Ft Dix, NJ. A long ride south. Once I arrived, I saw the sign say, “Welcome to Ft Dix” “Home of the Ultimate Weapon.” I knew my life would change. What did I get myself into?"

Why did you enlist? Why did you choose the army?

"I enlisted because I had no direction, I needed stability, my life wasn’t roses. I chose the Army because that was the only branch I thought about. My mother was married to a man in the Army, he so happened to be stationed at Ft, Dix as a drill instructor years ago."

What was a basic day of training like?

"My first day of basic did not began until day three or four days later. I was in what they call the reception battalion, being issued uniforms and other items, getting haircuts. The day of our drill sergeant’s arrival, I was terrified out of my mind. These big and some small men in their dress green uniforms, yelling at the top of their lungs at us. Screaming and hollering telling us to do stuff of which, I’m not sure what they were saying. All I know was that I was to stay out of their way and keep my head down. We were instructed to march in a row of four towards, God knows where.

We had to grab our bags, whatever we brought with us to basic as well as the duffle bags we were issued at the reception battalion, it had all our uniforms and boots, and other items. Everything was heavy, not sure how long it would take us to march to our destination, I prayed the whole time, please let this be over soon, I’m tired and hunger.

As we marched the drill sergeants did not let up. Yelling at us and make some soldiers who were falling out of formation do push-ups and rolling around in the grass. One of the soldiers did not pack his personal items very well, it was falling out of his bag. The Drill Sergeants were yelling at him, and all his stuff was strewn all over the place, he was running around trying to pick up his stuff the drill sergeants were chasing and yelling at him. I was laughing inside as we marched to our new home."

What was it like adjusting to military life?

"I recall having get up early in the morning before the sun rose to do PT (physical training). After a while, things were easier. When you were given orders, you had to follow them, without exception. Do not walk on the grass unless you’re doing PT on it. Changing to the Army lingo is something as well. Understanding the acronyms, everything seemed like another language, like Police-call, DFAC, ACS, S1 shop, HMWVV 5-Ton, LMTV, Med Cell, HQ, MWR, CIF, TDY and CON-EX."

How did you stay in touch with family and friends at home?

"We had a call center at the MWR (morale, welfare, and recreation) building. The time zones were hours apart, so I had to call around 11 o’clock at night to talk with my family back in New Jersey."

Can you describe how you felt coming home from combat?

"The moment we landed in Wisconsin, there was a soldier waiting at the foot of the stairs of the plane asking for our weapons, my thought was that they were going to inspect them and give them back, however, I never saw my weapon again, felt unsafe. To be honest, I felt sad, because once I arrived at Newark airport, I saw families greeting their returning family members, there was no one to greet me, except for my father-in-law."

Is there someone you served with that you remember fondly?

"My one friend I keep in contact with almost weekly. I’m at his house at least once a month. We served together in the same unit for many years. He retired from the Army years prior to me retiring."

What are some fun things you and your friends did together when you were deployed?

"We mainly joked around. A couple of my friends took my chair out of my office and hid it somewhere in one of the tents. I searched for a week for the chair, I was so mad."

Can you describe your favorite moment from your deployment?

"I remember there was these two soldiers in the latrine (restroom/showers). One soldier wanted his haircut, so he had his buddy began cutting his hair, what they did not know was the current coming from the outlet was DC not AC current, which caused the clippers burned out. The soldier’s hair was half cut by the time that happened. (This was in Kuwait).

The first week in Iraq, another soldier and I were walking to the hospital, a of sudden we heard a loud explosion, not know where it came from, we ran to the bunkers near us. We were looking out and noticed everyone else was walking around like nothing happened. What we did not know was it a controlled detonation from outside the wire. We looked at each a laughed then began to walk to the hospital."

Did you ever get caught breaking any rules? Did you ever get away with something you weren't supposed to do?

"In basic training on a Sunday, it was like downtime for us. We had drill sergeants that were just watching us until our regular drill sergeants returned. My battle buddy and I were talking to some female recruits, which was against the rules. The Drill Sergeant ran over to us and yelled for us to drop (in the pushup position). The female recruit began to walk away, the drill sergeant ran over to her and the other female recruits because they were doing the same thing. Once the Drill Sergeants went over to them, we ran back to the barracks hoping not to get caught. Everyone in the Company had to come outside to formation, after all the craziness, it was hilarious. We were outside for half of the day, doing pushups and other dirt drills."

What were your first few months out of service like?

"I began to search for a job once I retired from the service. I was hired as an LPN for the Department of Veteran Affairs September 7th , 2014. One of the best moves I ever made, being with my fellow service members."

Is there anything you wish civilians understood about military service?

"We are service member 24 hours per day 7 days per week until we leave service. I would not trade being in the Army for anything. I loved and I miss it. Working at the VA keeps me close."

Thank you for reading my story.

Quincy McKinney Sr.

Enlisted into the army on September 16, 1989 ~ Served in Iraq 2005-2006 and Kosovo in 2012

3/4/20235 min read