Archibald Kielly, a retired Air Force colonel and former diplomat, never graduated from high school, he told members of the Politically Incorrect Club at the University of North Georgia on Monday.
Kielly was urging the students to stay in school despite other pressures in life. He said his joining the Air Force was the best decision he ever made.
It led to completing a GED and earning a college degree in management from the University of Nebraska.
That led, he said, to an assignment in the Pentagon and later as a diplomat in Latin America.
Kielly is an adjunct professor of political science for UNG.
He served in Vietnam and El Salvador in Air Force intelligence. He said he was part of a group assigned to rescue downed pilots.
He termed Vietnam an “odd place — you did not know who was a friend and who was an enemy.”
Returning to the U.S., Kielly said, was harsh — and not like it is today. He said the planeload of servicemen was greeted by protesters who called them names and physically pushed them around and knocked them down.
The servicemen “cleaned house,” Kielly said, and were threatened with arrest. “Today, it’s a different environment.”
He also served in El Salvador, where he said his wife and he were targets of assassination four times.
When offered the diplomatic assignment, Kielly said he thought “I’d made the big time.”
The work took him all over Latin America numerous times, and he met Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile; Alfredo Stroessner, president of Paraguay from 1954-1989; and Manuel Noriega, military ruler of Panama who was deposed by the U.S.
Kielly served under President Bill Clinton, who he called “the most charming man.” Regardless of politics, he said, “You almost wanted to call President Clinton Bill” because of his charm.
He said he loves football, and he wanted to be a quarterback. However, he said, he did not have the skills — he was talking about life, not sports.
“I could be a great assistant, and I could do a lot of things to help our country,” he said.
Kielly noted the U.S. “had a helluva time to form a federal government” because the colonies were separate countries.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights, he said, were created “to protect us from a corrupt government.”
“We need to know our foundation,” Keilly urged the students. “We need to understand politics.”