John Bevan's parents operated a dairy in Newton, so he knew what he was given to drink aboard the aircraft carrier he served on in the Navy was not the real thing.

"We didn't have fresh milk; we had what they called recombined milk," Bevan said.

After graduating Newton High School, Bevan worked for the railroad in the mail department.

"Back then, they had the draft going," Bevan said. "...I decided I'd rather join the Navy."

Whether through the draft or enlistment, many of Bevan's friends also ended up in the military.

"I used to run around with a bunch of kids in the neighborhood and all but one went into the service," Bevan recalled. "The one who didn't, he had polio."

Bevan followed in his older brother's footsteps when he decided to join the Navy. Bevan's younger brother joined up several years later.

"We were all three in the Navy for a while," Bevan noted.

"Boot camp wasn't really that bad, but they do work you pretty hard to try to get you in shape," Bevan said.

Bevan served four years — from 1953 to 1957 — on the USS Philippine Sea.

"I wanted to joint the Seabees like my (older) brother, but I got put in the engineering department aboard ship," Bevan said.

The ship was an attack carrier with fighter planes, then was later converted to become an anti-submarine carrier with helicopters.

"The helicopters would hover over the ocean and drop sonar in the water so they could hear subs," Bevan explained.

Bevan's rank as Boiler Tech 1 meant his main duties were below deck as a boiler operator and repairman in the engineering department. In close quarters, he ensured the boilers heating water to 600 pounds of pressure stayed in service.

"I enjoyed that. It was pretty hot down there most of the time, but you learned to adjust to it," Bevan said. "They made you take salt tablets all the time because you were sweating."

Seasickness did not affect him much; in fact, Bevan felt sorry for the sailors on smaller ships like the destroyers who had it worse.

"One nice thing about a carrier — you don't bounce like a ball," Bevan said. "Sometimes we got close to a typhoon and then you could feel it pretty good."

Operating mainly out of the China Sea and the Indian Ocean, the USS Philippine Sea typically left port for nine months and then came back to the United States for three months. Bevan saw places like Pearl Harbor, Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Korea and Guam.

"Before I joined the Navy, I hadn't really been out of Kansas," Bevan said.

Bevan enlisted just after the Korean War ended and as the Vietnam War was beginning.

"I got to see a lot of people and a lot of countries," Bevan said. "Some of those countries made you thankful you lived in the United States, because in the Philippines, poverty was pretty bad. Hong Kong was the same way."

The 1,500 men aboard his ship were able go to sea for three weeks between resupplying from cargo ship and fuel tankers.

"The aircraft carrier was just like a city. We had doctors and dentists and everything else," Bevan said.

During his first year at sea, Bevan was tasked with KP duty, bringing up food from the freezers. The men were often served casseroles and chicken, but never got to eat steak, he recalled.

"It wasn't home cooking, but it was decent food," Bevan said. "You took what they gave you."

There were other differences in life — and death — on the carrier.

"If a pilot would crash when he landed, they'd bury him at sea and it's just like you see in the movies, with a flag-draped casket tipped over the side," Bevan recalled.

Looking back, Bevan said he was lucky to stay on the ship all four years of his enlistment.

"When I got out, they wanted me to go to nuclear power school in Vegas," Bevan said. "I didn't have any desire to do that."

Instead, Bevan returned to Kansas, intent on finding a career that would allow him to have a family life.

"I was guaranteed my job, when I got back, from the railroad, but in that four-year period they had taken the mail off the train, so I didn't have a job," Bevan said.

Since his father had sold the dairy by then, Bevan decided to take advantage of the GI Bill to attend Bethel College.

"I was going to go to Bethel for two years and then transfer to Wichita State, but I really liked a smaller college," Bevan said.

He eventually went to WSU for his master's degree in education. He began teaching elementary school in Newton and would serve as a principal for 26 years.

One of the best things about being in the Navy for Bevan was meeting others from across the country.

"I kept in contact with a few of them and then every year we have a reunion in Branson (Missouri)," Bevan noted.

Their numbers are dwindling as most of the men are in now their 80s.

Bevan said his years in the Navy were formative ones.

"It gives you a chance to mature and have more self-discipline than you normally would," Bevan said. "I enjoyed it. I think every young man should go through part of that. ...If I had to live my life over again, I'd probably do the same thing."