Staff member looks back on a life dedicated to service
Jim Joy served in the Vietnam War.
Nov. 11, 2013
When Jim Joy finished high school, college wasn’t something his family could afford.
Joy, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said he came from a blue collar, working-class neighborhood. The majority of his high school’s graduating class did not attend college. Joy worked in a shirt factory.
But Joy said he realized that he was not happy with his occupation.
“Right or wrong, I realized that in some way or another I needed to do something different for me,” Joy said. “That was in 1963, and I enlisted in the Marine Corps.”
Joy enlisted before the Vietnam War, and he was well into boot camp at the time of John F. Kennedy's assassination.
Joy said he remembers the eerie tone that swept the entire nation.
“Everybody and everything suddenly became more alert,” Joy said, “There was a feeling that if there was someone out there in the world who was looking at attacking the United States, that might be the trigger.”
Joy was part of a Marine Missile Unit as a field radio operator in the Mojave Desert in California. The unit was on 24/7 alert for a year to be sent overseas.
Towards the end of the alert, in late 1964, Joy recalls being on a post one night and getting picked up by a Jeep and taken back to base. He was then transferred to a different battalion.
Joy said they were loaded into trucks that drove them to California where they were sent overseas on a ship to Vietnam with six other Marines and their equipment. The entire trip lasted 31 days.
“It was over three months before my parents knew where I was,” Joy said.
This was the first of the US Marine Corps units to be sent to Vietnam, Joy said. He spent 13 months at an airstrip in the mountains of Da Nang, Vietnam.
His assignment overseas was with an Air Defense System as a radio chief. Its job was to track any unidentified airplanes that may cause a threat. His unit never shot a missile.
Joy said he enjoyed his time spent overseas in Vietnam. This was partially due to the fact that any major fighting didn’t happen until after Joy returned to the United States.
“We were so early,” Joy said. “We weren’t even getting combat pay.”
Joy said his overall experience with the service was incredibly positive.
“The Marine Corps was extremely good to me,” Joy said. “The whole service is so small and so exclusive…that stays with you the rest of your life.”
Joy returned to the United States in late 1965. Upon returning to the California airbase, half his unit’s gear was stolen.
“We had not been back in the United States for five hours, and we had lost our cameras and tape recorders,” Joy said.
After his father died, Joy considered staying in the states instead of returning to the Marine Corps.
“In the military, and particular in the Marine Corps, officers are often treated much better than the ones who enlisted...and the only difference was that they had a bachlor's degree,” Joy said, “It really motivated me to think about going to school.”
Joy returned to school in 1966 at age 23. He completed his undergraduate degree in St. Joseph and then went on to do his graduate degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He received an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master's degree in counseling.
Following his schooling, Joy took a job at the Kansas City Police Department. He was then hired by MU as the Director of Parking and Transportation Services.
Joy said he is retiring from this position to dedicate the rest of his life to his hobbies, which include hunting, fishing and camping. He also has a fourteen-month-old grandson with whom he said he is looking forward to spending more time.