Marion County councilman’s Army experience teaches life lessons
MARION, S.C. -- Lt. Col. Milton W. Troy II is heading toward his sixth term on the Marion County Council. His service in his hometown of Mullins is part of a journey that came full circle, starting with his path through segregated schools to S.C. State University and onto retiring from the U.S. Army.
“I was 22 years old as a platoon leader, and you have 30 men that you’re responsible for and a budget,” he said. “Where would you do that in civilian life?”
Troy entered active duty on May 28, 1962, and retired in December 1983.
“I entered on active duty the day I graduated from college,” he said. “I was on the Senior ROTC commissioned as second lieutenant.”
Troy said employment was limited back in the days of the draft, and he felt it would be better to go into active duty. After his three-year obligation, he said, it was a good idea to remain.
Troy started his career with the 82nd Airborne Division.
“I was there for a tour, then I was detailed to the U.S. Department of State for 16 months, and 12 of those were spent in Vietnam,” he said. “It seems that our President John F. Kennedy had promised the Vietnamese that they were going to assist them with building their country, and they were going to do all of this with civilians, but they didn’t have enough civilians that were willing to volunteer or do the work.”
Troy was one of five medical service corps officers who went to Vietnam and was essentially a civilian worker. That was in 1964.
“It wasn’t many Americans in Vietnam at that time,” he said. “We didn’t have American military maneuver units for combat. It was primarily of advisers. I was a kid and adventurous, so it didn’t seem like it was that bad around me until I got back to the states.”
Troy returned to the 82nd Airborne Division as a company commander for 18 months and then took advanced training at Fort Sam Houston. From there he worked a short period at Valley Forge General Hospital, where he experienced a few obstacles because of race.
“We ran into some situations up there I had to get out of,” he said.
He went on to spend what he called two beautiful years in Yokohama, Japan, as chief of personnel for military and civilians at the 106th General Hospital.
“Then I went back to Vietnam,” he said. “It wasn’t that bad because of my job. I wasn’t going through the jungle searching for the Viet Cong, but anywhere you were in Vietnam, you were subject to attack.”
Troy’s responsibility was determining the medical personnel requirements in the country during a time of withdrawal.
“My job was to determine the exact number of nurses, doctors and personnel that would be required to support the troops remaining,” he said. “It was very interesting. A lot of my time was also spent on equal opportunity and race relations.”
Troy returned to the United States and was stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to continue race relations assistance with the program. He remained in Washington, D.C., for a short assignment with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
“I was personnel officer for the Navy, Air Force, and Army along with Veterans Affairs civilians and Department of Army civilians in a joint-service operation that made it very interesting,” he said.
Troy later went to Fort Jackson as a state adviser. It was during that tour that he got to visit areas in his home state that he had never been before.
“I got to see that South Carolina had changed,” he said. “When I left South Carolina in 1962, I had no intentions of coming back to this place to live because of the experience I had growing up under the Jim Crow laws.”
Troy said he got to see another South Carolina before he returned to finish his career in Fort Sam Houston, reviewing medical plans for units in the central part of the United States along with plans for the Army fitness program.
“Then I came back to Mullins,” he said. “It was the best experience in the world, but I also understand it’s not for everybody. The military was a godsend for me. It afforded me an opportunity to be somebody, because the era I was growing up in, it was extremely difficult for a black man to be somebody.”
Troy said the military had regulations that could help him advance fairly.
His return home to Mullins was inspired by his desire to have his three sons raised around relatives.
“I wanted my sons to know their roots,” he said. “It’s mainly for my kids to know who they are and where they come from.”
Troy spent much of his time going to school, earning two associate degrees in business technology along with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
“I ran a business for a minute, then a job came open at Green Sea Floyds High School for an ROTC instructor, and I did that for 11 years,” he said.
Troy later took on a cause that he maintains today, and that’s supporting minority teachers and students in public education by establishing the Friends and Alumni Association of Palmetto High School.
“I feel education is paramount,” he said. “It’s a nonprofit organization designed primarily to send minority kids to higher education.”
Every year the group supports more than a dozen students with scholarships.
“It’s a way to improve our community overall,” he said. “The first scholarship was given in 1985.”
Troy said the group supports students in programs across the board for better employment.
His concern for veterans is mental health and promoting support.
“Every day is Veterans Day for me,” he said. “Hopefully, looking at the freedoms that we have in this country and recognizing if not for the veterans, we wouldn’t have the freedoms that we enjoy, and that is what Veterans Day is all about.”
Troy’s support and influence have resulted in having nephews advance in the military and his oldest son reaching the rank of captain in the U.S. Navy.
“I’m proud of all of our young brothers and sisters,” he said. “I feel real good and proud of all of them. Opportunities are much better today.”