All this week, we're honoring military veterans by sharing their stories of service. Today, we hear from Army Veteran Michael F. Richmond of Claremont, New Hampshire. When he was in the Army in the 1980s, he witnessed history in the making in Berlin. But the Army wasn't his plan "A" or even plan "B."
I had originally gone to college to study astrophysics, but it didn’t work out for me, so I switched to something that was much better, which was history. Strange as it may sound, I had a love for Russian history, because I didn’t know anything about it. At the time, I’m going, “Well, they could use someone who knows about Russian history and Soviet studies and Russian language in the Army.” And that’s why I joined.
I was a cryptologic linguist. We decoded and intercepted voice traffic coming from what was then the Soviet Union.
I actually met Vladimir Putin once at a checkpoint. I was there with the United States Military Liaison and a Soviet military liaison and Col. Putin of the KGB was actually there. I didn’t shake hands with him or speak to him but they told me who he was. He was a bigwig with the KGB at that point in time.
I remember the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was actually in Berlin. They had called me in because they weren’t sure what was going to happen. We were also very concerned about—“Okay, there’s going to be a lot of people at the gates. What happens if they start shooting?”
It’s just an awesome thing, watching the construction machines coming in and tearing down pieces of the wall. It was like—for years and years. I actually joined the service during the Reagan era. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” And watching it come down…it wasn’t Mr. Gorbachev tearing it down. It was people on both sides breaking it down, smashing it down, getting through that wall. It was the most awesome thing I’d ever seen. If asked to do it again, I absolutely would.