Veteran addresses misconceptions about Cold War

Roland Evans Walters talks about the contributions veterans made during the Cold War that were secretive until now
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 3:12 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - When the Cold War is mentioned, many people might respond by saying, “That wasn’t really a war at all.”

WDBJ7 met Cold War veteran Roland Evans Walters Jr. If you ask him what his response would be to those who believe it ‘wasn’t really a war: ” We were not in harm’s way but we were able to keep harm from coming,” explained Walters. “I felt like it was a pretty important part. For eleven months a friend of mine was tortured, unspeakable things that they did to him to try to find more information about what they were doing, so those things happen during the Cold War that you don’t hear about.”

Walters joined the Navy in 1961 and served through 1966. At 78 years old, his swagger and his memory are sharp as ever. It was an honor to sit in his living room sifting through memories from his time in the service. But it’s difficult to tell Walter’s side of the story without first mentioning his father.

His father, also named Roland, was a World War II veteran in the Navy. With nearly 7,000 ships on D-Day, his father was aboard the USS Bates off Normandy. “My dad was there; he was one of the first ships that started taking enemy fire. He was in the bows of the ship as a plumber.”

While his father was participating in Operation Neptune and trying to stay alive, Walters was born and never actually met his father until he was four years old. “My mother dressed me. She made a perfect Navy uniform for me to meet my father when he first came home. Only she didn’t realize what my father said after was ‘that’s the last thing I wanted to see my son in because I’ve been around sailors for four years’”, said Walters.

Little did he know, Walters would grow up and join naval forces just like his hero. Except his job would be in communications with high security during the Cold War. “We’d create a pack of cards and the Air Force would fly them over to the sixth fleet to the Mediterranean and they would use these cards in their IBM machines on board to be able to communicate and change our cards quickly.”

As an E5, Walters was honorably discharged from the Navy and went on to be successful in the civilian world. Eventually he graduated from Penn State University and became a licensed counselor. Over the years, he worked at Penn State, Radford University, Ferrum College, and Wytheville Community College.

Now that he’s retired you can find him building and collecting model cars.

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