‘Luck of the draw’ sent veteran to Panama

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Veteran Billie Micco was drafted while he was in his third year of college and he never went back to finish. Instead, he came back to the reservation and worked for the tribe.

BRIGHTON — Veteran Billie Micco was born and raised in on the Brighton Reservation in Glades County, at least as far as he knows, but he said they didn’t keep very good records around here back then. He went to the old Okeechobee High School, and his name is on the side walk.

“Well, it was there last time I looked,” he laughed. Their graduating class was the largest one the school had ever had, he said. There were 64 students that year.

“I graduated in 1962 and goofed around for a while before going to college,” he said.

He went to Oklahoma to go to college and was drafted while he was there. “I stayed away as long as I could,” he laughed. “They caught up with me.” It was 1968, and he had about a year left to finish up before he would have graduated, he said. He never went back though. “They were drafting everybody by then,” he said.

He did his basic training in Fort Gordan, Ga., and then went to South Carolina for Advanced Infantry Training. When he got on that airplane, it was the first time he had ever stepped foot on one he said. “Since I was in the infantry, they told us to get ready because we were going to Vietnam. All the foot soldiers went there.”

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Veteran Billie Micco and his mother wait for the bus to take him off to boot camp.

But he didn’t go there after all. “I guess luck of the draw, they sent me down south to Panama.” He was on guard duty. “It was more like an R and R for me,” he said. One thing he remembers about Panama was that they did jungle school there and his unit got to help with that.

When he got out of the Army, he came home to Okeechobee and got a job with the Seminole Tribe. He worked for them for 38 years. He worked for the water department at the water treatment plant for many years. Then he went to the health department and became a transporter, he said. He would take patients to and from the doctor. In 2013, he decided it was time to retire. “I probably should have made it to 40 years, but I didn’t,” he said. “Thirty-eight years is a long time.”

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Veteran Billie Micco was drafted while he was in his third year of college and he never went back to finish. Instead, he came back to the reservation and worked for the tribe.

Mr. Micco believes his time in the service taught him discipline and responsibility, and he believes it would be good for young people to have to spend some time serving their country now.

Mr. Micco is a member of the Otter Clan and has two sisters, who also live on the reservation. He and his wife Mary Jo have been married for 47 years. There is not much Mr. Micco enjoys more than watching his grandchildren play sports and spending time with friends at the senior center on the Brighton Reservation.

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