Richard's wife: Marcia DeWaele McKnight's side of the family:

Grandfather: Alfons DeWaele Army WWI

Father: Andrew DeWaele Army Air Corps WWII

Uncle: Floyd Becktrom Navy WWII

Brother: Paul DeWaele Army during Vietnam


Richard side of the family:

Grandfather: William Kinkennon Army


Williams's children:

Jack Kinkennon Navy

Lester Kinkennon Navy

Bill Kinkennon Navy

Earl Kinkennon Marine Corps, Guadalcanal

Mildred Kinkennon Andersen WAC, South Pacific

Harry Kinkennon Coast Guard, Army, in Air Force 20+ years


Father: Glenn McKnight Army WWII


Glenn's brothers and brother's in-law:

Earl McKnight Army

Raymond McKnight South

Dale McKnight Pacific

Neal Stump Navy Army

Buford Day Army Army


Glenn's male children:

Richard McKnight Air Force

Charles McKnight Army

Steve McKnight Army


Richard's children:

Sean Iowa National Guard and Army Reserves

Brian Marine Corps


Steve's children:

Angela McKnight Iowa Army National Guard

Frank McKnight Marines


I am Richard of the Liberty McKnights. I was born in Osceola in 1946, and went to school at Liberty #3. I think we received a good education in rural schools, although we had a pretty constant turnover of teachers. The school district didn't pay enough to keep men teachers, and in some years our teacher would be the wife of a local farmer. It was like a second job for them so they could afford to be there for two or three years. I remember Mrs Townsend who was there for several years. My sister's first teacher was Miss LaFollett. I don't know anything about her. She could have been real short or real tall, skinny or heavy. All I know was her name was LaFollett, which I thought was a nice name — sounded sort of French, and I was in love with her.

In the late 1950s, school consolidation was happening and many rural schools were being closed. Liberty #3 was one of the last rural schools in Clarke County Iowa to remain open and functioning. My parents foresaw what was happening, and to give me a head start, sent me to "town school" when I was in 7th grade. Liberty #3 didn't actually close until the next year.

I had many apprehensions about town school. I was a farm boy from a one-room school: All of a sudden I came to town in a school with more than one room, and had to change classes. I thought this was really scary and that very likely I'd get lost. I went to the old West Ward school, long since gone. As I remember it, there were four rooms upstairs and four downstairs. Being in the right room for the right class I imagined would be hard to do. Of course, it wasn't really that bad. My cousin Vernon came to my rescue. He lived in town, met the bus I rode, and showed me where I was to go. Some of the teachers we had known for years. Harley Cooper's wife, Marie, was a teacher there. She would help and talk to us rather than telling our parents if anything went wrong.

That group of 7th graders went through high school together. We went one year at the old high school and then spent three years attending the new high school. I graduated in 1964, and went to Iowa State Uniiiersity with John Blake, Bob Macey and a few of those guys. I majored in Industrial Engineering. It took me a little longer because I was a co-op student with John Deere, working at their plant in Moline, Illinois, during the summers and one winter quarter. Graduated from Iowa State in 1969.

I met my wife, Marcia, in 1967. There used to be several Deere plants in the quad-cities, but most of them were in Moline, Illinois, where Deere and Company originated. Marcia was from Moline. Her father worked at Deere's Plow and Planter works in downtown Moline. I worked at the Harvest Works in East Moline, building combines.

Marcia and I were married in 1969, the weekend after she graduated from Moline High School and I graduated from Iowa State. I worked at Alcoa (Aluminum Company of America) in Bettendorf, Iowa for a little over a year. There was still a military draft and Vietnam was very much on the minds of all young people. While I was in college, I had a student deferment which kept me from being drafted. Working for Alcoa Aluminum gave me a work deferment because I worked on the line that made skin sheets for airplanes. The company had a big lay-off in 1970, and there I was with a draft lottery number of 13. Considering there are 365 days in the year and there were 365 numbers, number 13 meant I could expect to be drafted right away. I got a job in Keosaqua for a few months at a plant that made baskets and things out of wire. I received my draft notice to report for induction into the Army in November. The Army was not my first choice. I happened to be walking through the mall at Southridge the weekend before I was to report. There was an Air Force recruiter, who told me, "If you don't want to go to the Army, come see me." We talked awhile and what he told me sounded good. He got me out of reporting for the Army, and by signing up then, in November, he arranged for me not to leave until February. We had a few extra months! Just after I signed up to go to the Air Force we found out Marcia was pregnant with our first child, Sean. I was 25 years old, and one of the oldest recruits in my flight at basic training.

My 12 or 14 weeks of basic training was at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB), followed by AIT (Advanced Individual Training) at Sheppard AFB, in Wichita Falls, Texas, to become a computer operator. After I graduated I was assigned to the Wichita Falls base, and I spent the next five or six years stationed in Texas working as a computer,operator. Once I got a permanent assignment, Marcia came to live with me. I came home and we rented a U-Haul trailer to move our belongings. Our accommodations weren't great. We had a little dinky apartment with two bedrooms and a bath. The landlord told us he would fix it up, and he did.

The landlord was also a contractor, and I worked for him along with my duties for the Air Force. It worked very well because for the Air Force I worked mostly late in the evening or all night. I had the days off. The shift before me was made up of civilians, and for three or four of those years I would come in at night after everybody was gone and work until the job was done. When work was done, I'd shut everything down and go home. I did that Monday through Friday.

It got to the point where we were really fast, and if the civilians before me worked a little overtime, I wouldn't have to go in at all. I could have the whole night to sleep. There were several advantages to working the night shift: we didn't have to report in for Commander's Call, and we didn't wear uniforms because there wasn't anybody to check up on us. The Computer Laboratory was always locked so if somebody wanted to come in late at night, they had to ring the door bell. That gave us time to put on our uniforms. We were like civilians, wore civilian clothes, ran the computer and at the end of the shift we went home. I don't think we went out to the base during daylight hours at all.

In those days computers were large pieces of equipment that took up most of a room. We kept military records, equipment records, records for the aircraft and also did payroll. That was my job. I ran payroll checks for 6,000 military men and 300 civilians. They don't do that any more. It is all changed.

So I worked full-time for the contractor and part-time for the Air Force. This routine worked fine for the first five years. The last year or so, running payrolls, we started working for the Reserve Units, too. Then I had to stay all night. I didn't get off early so then I had two jobs. The primary one was eight hours, the other five or six hours.

I had worked my way from nothing up to Staff Sergeant and was ready to become a Tech Sergeant when I had the opportunity to become an Air Force officer so I had to decide whether I wanted to be a Tech Sergeant or a 2nd Lieutenant. At the time it seemed like a hard decision. John Blake came down to visit us before I made my decision. We talked about it and John said he didn't think it was a hard decision at all. He said, "Follow the dollars," so I did.

I went to Officer Training School (OTS) in July, August, and September of 1976, at Lackland Air Force Base for 12 weeks, graduated from there on September 13, as a 2nd Lt. and was reassigned to Altus AFB in Oklahoma. I became an industrial engineering officer with the Civil Engineering Squadron there. After Altus, I was assigned to go to Genuany. This was an accompanied tour so we could take our wives and children. My family and I moved went to Hahn Air Base in Germany, in the Hunsruck Mountains, almost in France. By this time we had two boys, both born in Wichita Falls, Texas. Sean, who was born at the time Sean Connery was famous. Brian Keith was named after Brian Keith, the actor. One was so proud to be a Texan that is all he can remember, the other one doesn't really care much.

We all flew to Germany together. We were supposed to go on a commercial DC-10 but that was the week they shut down all the DC-10s because they were having engine cracks. Instead of the DC-10s, the group of people that were going on one DC-10 went on three C-141s, so we flew from the United States to Europe in a cargo plane. That wasn't great. There was only one window to look out. Fortunately it was late at night so almost everybody was asleep anyway. They set these planes up for the passengers to fly to Germany. All the seats faced the tail, which is really the safest way to fly. There was a "comfort pallet," which was a cargo pallet that had a couple of Port-a-johns on it and a rack of snack food. That was it! That was all the family had to eat until we got there. The luggage was on another pallet right in front of us in the back of the airplane. The inside wasn't
finished like commercial planes. It was bare skin which offered no protection from the cold and noise; but we got there.

Probably the most interesting thing was when we arrived at Rhine Main Air Base which was also the Airport. Most of Europe was that way. There were also Army people on the flight. By now I was a 1st Lt. and they knew, of course, we were coming. When we got off, we were met by a Tech Sergeant, who came up in a station wagon to pick us up — just us, Marcia and our two kids, I and our luggage. He saluted, had all our papers, put our luggage in the car and said, "You guys can get in here." We just got out of the airplane and into the car. I felt sorry for the Army guys because they were getting off the plane and being told, "Throw your duffle bag on here and get on the bus." I knew right then I'd made the right choice.

I overheard a conversation in which the one in charge asked a soldier, "What are you?" One answered, "I'm a barber." "Don't need any barbers. All we need are cooks and truck drivers. Which are you?" The guy said, "I'm a barber." He said, "You don't understand, boy. You are either a truck driver or a cook. Which are you?" The fellow said, "I guess I'm a cook."

Marcia's grandfather and grandmother came to the United States from Belgium either just before or just after WWI. While we were in Europe, Marcia's mother and father came to visit. We actually went to where Dad's parents had lived in Belgium. It was in 1979 or 1980 We could drive anywhere in Belgium at that time. The only problem was if we went too far, we had to buy gas on the economy. It probably cost as much as it does here now — $2 or $3 a gallon, which we thought was terrible, so we didn't go too far. Being in the military we were eligible for ration cards for gas. We paid 35c a gallon and they gave us tickets to buy gasoline. We had a 1976 Buick, a big honkin' car. It was as big as a European truck.

We lived in Germany for three years. We lived on the Economy which was great. Our apartment was the upstairs of a house. The landowner lived downstairs. He was a truck driver for Felke Furniture and drove all over Europe. He thought our car was the greatest thing in the world because his whole family of five could get in it at the same time. His car was just a little car that only three could ride in at once.

We drove to Belgium and Marcia got to see where her family had come from. Her dad could understand some of the Flemish language they spoke. Her cousin, Carla, would interpret for the rest of us. Carla's father, Andre, asked Marcia's dad if we wanted to go to see Aunt Victoria, his mother's sister. Marcia's Dad thought she had passed away and so he said, "You mean the grave plot." "No." Aunt Victoria was 92, still alive. She had been a nun and lived in a cloister. While we were visiting, she asked Carla to go to her closet and get out her photo album. She pulled out pictures of Marcia and her brother when they were little. It seemed really strange. We just met this lady and here she was showing us family pictures.

It took all of our gas to get where we were going, so when we left to return to Germany, we had to "fill up" on their economy. Richard said, "We need to change some of our deutschmarks into francs, so we can buy gas." Carla asked, "How many francs do you need?" "Let's see, our tank hold about 25 gallons. That would be about 120 liters so we will need 200 francs." She said, "What?! That's a bus." And I guess it was for them.

We went to park it in a parking ramp on a trip to Trier in France. We went all the way to the top and every time we went around a curve we had to jockey it because it was so big, and then we couldn't find a place big enough to park, so had to park in a bus place. I remember studying Trier in high school history under Miss Nelson. We also went to Paris a few times.

Once Marcia got sick and we went to the "American" hospital, which really wasn't American at all. It was just a hospital theAmericans set up when they occupied the place years before. The doctor who examined her said we had to take out Marcia's gall bladder and I said, "Well, I didn't think so. We are going back to Germany tomorrow so just give her something to ease the pain." The guy had an earring in his ear, and I wasn't about to let him operate on my wife in Paris!

When we were in Europe, we had one of the first video recorders that used VHS tape,. We went to East Berlin while it was still a divided city. The Russians had to keep the border open to allow people in. We rode a troop train from West Germany to Berlin. There was East and West Berlin, the West was all free and modern, East Berlin was the Communist side. We had to travel at night on the train because they didn't like anyone looking at the countryside. I am sure it was because it was really poor. We had to stop every once in awhile so they could inspect the train. They looked under the train with mirrors on wheels so they could see if anyone was riding the rails. There were Russian guards. At one stop, a Russian woman was coming out of a building, at night, putting on her clothes, and said, "Get that train out of here!" So we went on.

Marcia remembers, "When we were in Berlin, we somehow lost our passports. We went to the zoo and took a subway. I was carrying the bag that had the batteries for the video recorder, along with our passports and flag orders, special orders we were required to have to cross into East Germany. We had a bunch of kids with us, they were acting up and I became distracted. When we exited the subway, Richard took the recorder and I forgot the bag. We were walking around, and when he asked me for the bag, I realized it was on the subway. The most important things were our flag orders and our passports. We went to an official who said, 'You'll never find them because passports are very valuable. People will sell those for several thousand dollars to somebody in East Berlin so they will be able to get out."

"We figured it was a lost cause. They had to create another set of flag orders and passports. We asked them to look and sure enough they were found, just before we were ready to leave. In one short day we got new flag orders, new passports, all pictures taken — everything that normally takes months they did in a few hours. We had to go across town to get the new passports. When we came back they had found the original ones. We could have either one, and we took the old ones. It taught us the importance of passports. We didn't realize how valuable they were to people who are trapped.

"I still remember the feeling from passing from one side of the wall to the other. The sky was a beautiful blue on the western side but the other side, even though the sky was still blue, it felt gray. There is no way to describe it, but it was depressing — the difference was like the difference between night and day. On the east side there was a little park area between the sidewalk and the wall. It was a dirt space covered with mines, razor tape, and broken glass so no one could crawl over the wall."

Richard resumes: We went to Checkpoint Charlie and all those places that aren't there anymore. People don't remember when Germany was divided They don't remember when there was a big concrete wall. I remember taking the kids over there and they spit on the wall — that was a big thing because it was all covered with graffiti on the western side. The other side was completely barren. We took the kids to Paris once, went to the Black Forest and other places.

I left the family in Germany while I came back to the States for about 12 weeks to go through Air Command and Staff College, in Montgomery, Alabama. While there, I made Captain. It was at the time when the t.v. show "Dallas" was on. I remember we watched it on t.v. in Europe, but it was six or seven weeks behind. In the States, I saw who shot J.R. That was the big story. When I went back I knew who shot J.R. but I couldn't tell anybody because they wanted to wait and "see" it six weeks later.

We returned to the States in 1982, and for 18 months I went to AFIT (Air Force Institute of Technology) a certified graduate school, at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. I earned a Masters degree in Engineering Management. I lived with Les and Deb Van Heeswyk, now of Osceola, for a few weeks until we could find a house to rent.

When we left Wright Patterson, we were assigned to MAC Headquarters at Scott Air Base just outside of St. Louis, Illinois. I worked in the Military Airlift Command, These were the guys that directed the C-5s and 141s around the world. I was a facilities estimator for 1 1/2 years before I was reassigned to the Base level of Scott AFB to work in the civil engineering office, A year later, I was sent to Korea on a one year remote tour. As a remote tour, I couldn't take my family. I left them in base housing at Scott AFB so their housing needs would be taken care of.

I was at Kunsan Air Base, Korea, which is the southernmost part of Korea you can visit and still be in Korea. It is right on the Yellow Sea. "If I stood on my bed, looked way out over the mud flats, I could see the Yellow Sea." The housing in Korea was great. I had a little apartment in a new dormitory. It had a small kitchen, living room, bedroom and bath. It was a brand new building and a brand new apartment. For $5 a week, this Korean lady washed my dishes, cleaned the apartment, washed clothes, made the bed and polished my shoes every day.

My job was to design, inspect, and accept the buildings built by a contractor. It was a bit of a fluke that I was there for 15 months. It was supposed to be just a one-year tour, but our commander said nobody was to leave until there was a replacement for them. There were two or three possibilities but guys would retire, or get out of the service to avoid going to Korea. So it was 13 or 14 months before they identified a replacement for me, then I had to wait until his current tour was over.

At that time, there were still occasional hostilities between North and South Korea. We were assigned to the 8th Tack Fighting Wing. Our job was to maintain our F-16 aircraft and to prepare the runways and air fields to fly those F-16s against North Korea. While I was there, I went to Manilla in the Philippines for a week or two for additional training. When I left Korea, I met Marcia at Hickham Air base in Hawaii. We were there for ten days of vacation.

I got there a little earlier than Marcia. She flew in, and I picked her up. We stayed at an Army base where they had small apartments. I told them I wanted to be near the ocean so I could hear the waves. That is what we got. We were about 100 yards from the ocean. There was a retaining wall that the waves hit all day and all night. Marcia remarked that Richard had enough after about five minutes.

We returned to Scott, picked up the family and moved to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, near the capital city of Dover. We were stationed at Dover for five or six years until I retired in 1991. I was in the service from 1971 to 1991, a little over 20years. While I was in Korea, I was selected to be promoted to Major, and was promoted at Dover Air Force Base. My assignment there was Chief of Civil Engineering operations, the best and most enjoyable job I ever had. We spent many weekends visiting Washington D.C. , which was only an hour away. Both boys attended school at Dover. One graduated from Ceaser Rodney High School at Dover. The other came back and graduated here in Osceola, from Clarke Community School.

After retiring from the Air Force, we returned to Clarke County, built a home and I became the County Engineer for Clarke County. In the spring of 2004, I left Clarke to become the County Engineer for Decatur County.

Both of our boys have been in the service. Brian was in the Marine Corps. He tore his Achilles tendon and was medically discharged. Sean spent some time in the Navy, then in the Army National Guard, completing his service in a hospital unit in the Army reserves. He continues supporting the Army Reserves and his former hospital unit as a contractor to the DoD. He manages a computer lab with video teleconferencing capabilities, used to support continuing education to Army medical personnel. He also personally instructs soldiers in EMS practical skills, small arms marksmanship, and wheeled vehicle drivers' training.

We also have two grandsons, Andrew William and Sam Houston, and two granddaughters Carrie Ann and Sylvia Rose.


Masters degree in Engineering Management at ART (Air Force Institute of Technology)




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Last Revised June 8, 2015