ATLANTA, TX -- Gordon Pynes only planned to stay in the Army a couple of years after college ROTC. But the Berlin Crisis, followed by the Cuban Missile Crisis, helped motivate Gordon to stay on.
His career included crucial duty at war as an intelligence officer, analyzing troop movements by the North Vietnamese enemy along their main supply route to the south -- the Ho Chi Minh Trail -- in 1968, earning a Bronze Star and the Meritorious Service Medal, among others.
"Just worked hard and did a pretty fair job," Gordon says modestly.
"I was very involved with the B-52 strikes, briefing generals who then were deciding where these strikes would go, who would get them," he further explained. "I was responsible for a lot of bombs being dropped in certain places, based on the information I had.
"Having any kind of role in killing a person, that's hard," Gordon added. "But if you're going to be a soldier, that's something you have to accept. I did my job."
But in doing so, Gordon watched the U.S. mismanage the war.
"I got to see the big picture from Washington to Saigon and back. It was very distressing. It became evident that we weren't going to finish the thing and win the thing they way we were going about it. We had too many rules that handcuffed us.
"The way to fight a war is to go with all you got. We went part way and look at how many people we lost," Gordon said. "But I think we were right to defend South Vietnam."
Gordon rose to lieutenant colonel and retired after 20 years. He took lessons learned in the Army, like organization, discipline, and overcoming adversity into his next career as a coach. His last 20 years in coaching were in Atlanta, Texas.
"We won the first state championship of any kind for Atlanta," Gordon says of his 1989 track team.
He and the AHS trackers went on to win four more state championships. And he took the Rabbits to a state championship football game in 1994.
“We've had so many good kids, good athletes. And that makes you a whole lot better coach,” Gordon said with a wry grin.
And here’s a tip from the ol’ Army officer to all you youth and high school coaches: Camouflage hard work with fun.