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Reading and learning paid off for Patriots Landing veteran

Retired Chief Warrant Officer John Coucoules believes that reading and learning as much as one can are vital to being successful. Photo credit: Patriots Landing

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John Coucoules' life has been one of ups and downs, but throughout it all he has persevered by reading and learning as much as he could.

Born in Savannah, Georgia in 1927, he currently resides at Patriots Landing.

He related how at the age of five he moved a chair to reach the high shelf on which his police officer father put his holster and gun.

"I took them down and then buried them outside in the yard," he said. Coucoules added that he did this knowing if his father didn't have his service revolver he couldn't go to work.

The next day when his father could not find his gear, he deduced that his son had something to do with it.

"Where is the gun?" he asked.

Young Coucoules told his father where it was buried, and he told him that he did it because he wanted his father to stay home with him.

But staying at home ended during the Great Depression. Two years later, Coucoules' parents placed him and his brothers in Savannah's St. Joseph's Orphanage.  

"I was there not because I was parentless; I was there so my brothers and I could eat," he explained.

"My parents made a lot of sacrifices to make sure that I and my brothers were in a good and safe home, no matter where they were."

Coucoules said that he was well cared for, and that he learned farming skills and received an education. One of the jobs he had was to take care of the 1,500 books in the orphanage's library.  He took advantage of this opportunity and read all of them.

"I wanted to know how the world worked," he continued, "so I read."

At the age of 12 he was moved to another orphanage which doubled as a military high school. Along with the discipline, his education continued - to include a desire to play the clarinet in the Army band.

Graduating at 16, he wanted to enlist; however, he needed his mother's permission to do so.

"My mother adamantly denied me this wish; so the recruiter managed to send me to North Carolina State College," he explained.

Coucoules then intentionally failed a class which led to him being placed on active duty in 1945.

Unfortunately, he would not be playing the clarinet in the Army band.

"The higher-ups knew that my father and grandfather had been police officers, so they thought that is where I should serve," Coucoules continued.

He then served from 1945 until 1952 in France, Germany and Austria. He later served in Korea in 1959 and in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. Coucoules retired from the Army in 1970 as a chief warrant officer. During his long career he served in the infantry, the military police and in the Criminal Investigation Division (CID).

But his desire to learn remained. He earned a BA from Central Washington University and a MA from Pacific Lutheran University.

"I always surrounded myself with others who gave and deserved respect," he explained, "and I once declined a promotion to become an officer because I would rather be ‘boots on the ground' and helping others."

After leaving the Army, Coucoules worked for the Air Force in the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and taught a number of classes on law and order.

"Learn as much as you can," he concluded. "You'll never know when you'll need it. Never believe everything you hear; find the missing pieces of the truth."

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