Editor's note: This is part of a weekly series published each Monday between Memorial Day and Veterans Day honoring local veterans.
GIRARD - When Thomas Archer of Girard was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1969, he started out as an artillery man, but his musical talents and background led to Archer becoming one of the last members of the Garry Owens Pipes and Drum Band.
Archer, who served from 1969 to 1971, started his basic training in June of 1969 at Fort Campbell, Ky., before advancing to individual artillery training at Fort. Sill, Okla., being trained on various tank weaponry.
U.S. Army veteran Tom Archer shows off some articles and photos from his service time, 1969 to 1971. He trained for the artillery, but used his music background to become a member of the Garry Owens Pipes and Drums Band, performing in Europe.
Tribune Chronicle / Bob Coupland
''We all were given our orders. The group I was with was going to Germany,'' Archer said.
In late September 1969, Archer arrived in Schweinfurt, Germany, an industrial city that had received heavy bombing during World War II, where he and others were on duty with the Seventh Calvary Unit 3rd Recon Squad.
''The city got hit a lot during World War II and was still being rebuilt when we were there,'' Archer recalled recently at his Girard home.
MILITARY: U.S. Army Sgt E5, (1969-1971) Seventh Calvary Unit 3rd Recon Squadron Headquarters Troop and Seventh U.S. Calvary Garry Owen Pipes and Drum Band
HONORS: Service medal letter of accommodation
OCCUPATION: Retired teacher and coach, Girard City Schools
FAMILY: wife, Jeanne; three children, Joshua, Emily and Sarah; five grandchildren
Archer said his orders were to go to Frankfort, Germany, with the Seventh Calvary and be part of the 23rd Replacement Battalion, when his musical background from high school and college soon became known to military officials, and Archer was selected into the pipes and drum band group, Seventh Calvary Garry Owen Pipes and Drum Band, thanks to help from fellow Ohioan Rich Rexrode of Akron, who already was serving with the Seventh Calvary and knew of Archer's musical talents.
Archer said he went from being trained in the artillery at St. Sill, learning on firing guns on the cannons, to being part of the band which created public relations for the U.S. Army in Germany.
He said the seven band members from all troops in the squadron practiced and played played a full schedule of performances for the military and German residents for 16 to 20 weeks through 1970. They performed at military ceremonies and German festivals, marched in parades and performed at tent festivals.
Archer played the bagpipes and took lessons at his own expense in Edinburgh, Scotland, during the winter. He said the instructor would often get mad at the Americans if they made a mistake when practicing.
"The key to all this is practice. You have to practice every day for about two years before you can say you know how to play the pipes," he said.
Archer said he left the military and the band in 1971, a year before the pipes and drums disbanded. Dennis Key was the last band sergeant.
And while he never saw combat during his service time, Archer expresses his admiration for fellow servicemen who did, recalling the band often would be with the medics on the field.
Archer recalled one of the members of the group, Terry Allen, who stayed another year in the military, died in Vietnam.
Archer comes from a military family. Archer's father, William, was an instructor at West Point during World War II. His father's brothers, Ray Archer, was a pilot in Italy during the war flying during combat, Bob Archer, a navigator on the B24 bomber over England which got shot down but he survived, and Preston Archer who was stationed in Arizona during World War II.
And after his active duty ended, Archer continued his military service with the reserves until 1975.
He returned to college under the GI Bill, graduating from the University of Akron as a health-physical education teacher and later received his master's degree in administration from Westminster College.
His days in the band are still recalled fondly, as he attends reunions, including one last year in Florida.