Army LogoBill Lipton           

Specialist 5, U.S. Army





A friend once asked me why being a veteran is such a big deal. After all, it was “only” two years.  I pointed out that many were in the service for the rest of their lives, and others still suffer from physical and emotional wounds.  While my experience in the Army was good, it was still two years of my life, when my peers were advancing in their careers, and enjoying the prime of their lives.  While I was extremely fortunate, others were not.  Until the pandemic, I was a volunteer at The Breakfast At St. Andrew’s, where I saw that many of our homeless clients are veterans, irreparably hurt by their service.  

I was drawn to the American Legion by its selfless dedication to helping veterans in all ways, such as supporting government actions to improve services and providing direct aid to those who need it.  History shows that veterans are too soon forgotten, so the public must be constantly reminded of our service and needs.

My service was reluctant, but I felt it was necessary.  I graduated from Tufts University with a degree in physics, in 1967, and then started graduate school, at Brown University, that fall, intending to earn a Ph.D. in physics.  That dream evaporated when graduate school deferments were canceled, in 1968.  Perhaps foolishly, I enlisted in the Army OCS program, to avoid the uncertainty of waiting to be drafted.  I married in 1968, just before entering the Army.

During Basic Combat Training and Combat Engineer training, at Fort Leonard Wood, MO, I soon found that I was not meant to be an officer, and was extremely fortunate in getting into atomic demolitions munitions, serving the rest of my time in a tedious but safe assignment at Fort Belvoir, VA. 

While serving, I applied to the Harvard University, School of Public Health, and was admitted, starting in the fall of 1970.  It was a struggle, but I finally earned a doctorate in radiological health.

My first job was at Argonne National Laboratory, near Chicago, as a health physicist, starting in 1975.  My wife and I lived in Naperville, IL, in the western suburbs.  The best part of our lives was adopting two children from Korea, who arrived at the ages of 6 months and 6 years, in 1979 and 1981. 

With layoffs likely, we moved to Michigan, where I started with Detroit Edison, as a radiological engineer, at the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant, in 1982.  Although initially reluctant to move, we have grown to love Ann Arbor.

Professionally, I earned credentials as a Certified Health Physicist and a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager.  Despite long hours at work, I was able to serve as president of the Pioneer High School PTSO, as well as to participate in professional societies.

I retired from Detroit Edison, now DTE, in 2008, and have enjoyed retirement life, especially before the pandemic.  I volunteered with the Breakfast at St. Andrew’s and continue to serve on its governing board.

While a member of the American Legion since the 1980s, I did not participate until Dave Draper encouraged me to join Post 46. I am grateful to Dave for reaching out to me.