WARREN - While serving in the U.S. Army, Warren resident Darby Vaughn was among those soldiers stationed in Alaska when it officially became a state.
''It was a celebration when that happened. It was good to know that it had become a part of the United States,'' said Vaughn who at the time was stationed in Fairbanks, north of Anchorage.
''Knowing it became a state and I was on foreign soil before it officially became a state was something I was always proud to be part of,'' he said.
Tribune Chronicle / Bob Coupland
Darby Vaughn sits at the table of his Warren home looking at photos from his service in the U.S. Army.
Alaska was admitted as the 49th state of the U.S. on Jan. 3, 1959.
Vaughn, who later spent more than 35 years as a member of the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office, said he joined the army at age 19 after after he graduated from Warren G. Harding High School. He headed to Fort Knox, Ky., for basic training.
He soon learned the skill of a bricklayer engineer while at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and then was sent with the 18th Engineering Co. to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he was stationed at the Ladd Air Force Base, which became Fort Wainwright.
''While I was there, I was on the ski patrol and on the Honor Guard. As part of the Honor Guard, I was stationed there when they officially named the base Fort Wainwright,'' Vaughn said.
He did masonry and construction work in Alaska digging ditches, bridge work and constructing buildings. In his free time he went hunting and skiing and even played football.
''We were informed that if Russia were to attack the United States, we would only last 20 minutes because Russia is so close to Alaska. When it is really cold and icy, you can walk to Russia,'' Vaughn said.
The battle never came, but Vaughn said the soldiers prepared.
''Fairbanks was right there near the border, so we had to be ready if something were to happen,'' he said.
He said it was a memorable experience serving in Alaska but noted it time adjusting to having 24 hours of daylight in the summer and 24 hours of darkness in the winter.
''That 24 hours of darkness was a trip. I mean, it was dark and then just when you got used to 24 hours of darkness, you had to get ready for 24 hours of daylight. It's hard to sleep when it is all daylight and also when it is all dark. You really have to adjust yourself and try to make it the best way you can,'' Vaughn said.
He said it was also funny seeing all the stars in the sky all day.
Vaughn said Alaska is a beautiful country if one can stand the cold.
''It was once 65 degrees below zero. That was the coldest it got and we were not allowed to go outside,'' Vaughn said.
He said in the summer it did get warm, noting he remembers days in the 70s and 80s.
''When it got cold, Alaska had a different type of cold. It really sneaks up on you. In the United States, you walk outside and the cold hits you right then. In Alaska, it didn't feel cold right away,'' he said
After leaving Alaska, Vaughn went to be in the Army Reserves from 1962 to August 1965, often going to Columbus to attend monthly training sessions. Hew received his honorable discharge from Alaska in 1962
Vaughn said when he left the military he got married and had children and worked for Warren Sanitation Department, FW Woolworth, Thomas Steel and then Pendelton Company on Griswold Street in Warren.
''I worked for the federal government for two years, in the juvenile court for two years, and then worked for as a youth leader in the Cleveland Boys School and the Ohio Boys School in Solon,'' he said.
Vaughn came back to Warren when his mother became ill to take care of her, and soon worked for the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office. He worked in the detective and juvenile divisions as a deputy.
"I worked the last 10 to 15 years at the courthouses,'' he said, often being the person escorting prisoners to court.