Timothy McVeigh Known as Dedicated Soldier, Solitary Loner
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ For Timothy James McVeigh, the Persian Gulf War was the chance of a lifetime.
A devoted soldier whose dream was to join the Green Berets, McVeigh worked longer and harder than his Army buddies, winning quick promotions and a Bronze Star for service on a Bradley fighting vehicle along the Kuwaiti border in 1991.
``The Army really liked Tim McVeigh. And Tim McVeigh really liked the Army,″ said Sheffield Anderson, a Florida corrections officer who served with McVeigh during the war. ``He was real career-oriented at the time. He was a real good soldier.″
Then the dream died for McVeigh, the 27-year-old man accused of carrying out the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building April 19.
In April 1991, soon after he returned from the Persian Gulf, McVeigh dropped out of training for the Green Berets after psychological testing showed him to be unfit.
McVeigh took an early discharge in December 1991, nearly four years after he enlisted, and began drifting from job to job, still carrying himself like a soldier, with his parade-ground bearing and bristly military haircut.
By early 1992, acquaintances said, McVeigh believed the government was conspiring to disarm and enslave the American people _ a belief shared by thousands of gun-control opponents and members of paramilitary groups.
McVeigh’s military comrades recalled his distrust of the government and obsession with guns. They said the Army was the central focus of his life and he kept to himself in the barracks, reading stacks of Soldier of Fortune magazine and others about guns and ammunition.
McVeigh didn’t smoke or drink and rarely socialized in the Army. He was awkward around women and seemed to have few interests outside the military.
``He wasn’t a big spender. He saved his money,″ Anderson said, adding that McVeigh charged interest when he loaned money.
Growing up in Pendleton, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo, McVeigh was known as an outgoing child. But friends and classmates said he become more of a loner around 16, when his parents divorced.
McVeigh carried his solitary lifestyle with him when he enlisted in the Army on May 24, 1988.
``He was hard to get to know,″ Anderson said.
Anderson served in the same company with McVeigh at Fort Benning, Ga. _ a unit that also included another suspect in the bombing, Terry Lynn Nichols. Nichols, 40, enlisted in the Army on the same day as McVeigh.
McVeigh rose quickly through the enlisted ranks. He was promoted to sergeant while serving in the Persian Gulf.
There is no firm evidence that McVeigh belonged to any paramilitary right-wing or survivalist organizations. There is considerable evidence that he agreed with their viewpoints.
He attended meetings of some groups and expressed their ideas in conversations with friends. Like Nichols, McVeigh traded weapons in areas of the country where paramilitary groups enjoy considerable support.
McVeigh also wrote letters to newspapers, complaining of crime, taxes and political corruption.
In one letter, he warned: ``Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that. But it might.″