PROFILE OF A MUSEUM VOLUNTEER
David was born September 27, 1940, the fifth child of Hazel and John Ledford of Dos Palos, California. His siblings were twins, Maurice and Margaret, a sister Bara and an older brother Marvin, who drowned in a canal at the age of two. David grew up on the family’s 165 acre farm that was located seven miles north of Dos Palos. He attended Dos Palos Elementary and High School. After being recruited by a Merced recruiter, David was inducted into the United States Army in February of 1958, at the Fresno Induction Center. He received his basic training at Fort Ord, California, but prior to completion, David came down with pneumonia. This sidelined him, and it took a couple months, before he was able to return to duty and go through advanced training. David was assigned to B Company, 1st Airborne Battle Group, 502nd Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Jump school, which consisted of two weeks of ground training and one week of executing five parachute jumps, completed his training in late September of 1958.
During David’s time in Kentucky, his Regiment was involved in many night patrols. He was point man on one of the patrols in September 1959, when he stepped in a creek bed hole, turning his leg severely enough to tear the ligaments in his right knee. Immediate pain enveloped his entire leg, and he was unable to carry on with patrol. As there was no immediate swelling, the Cadre in charge thought David was not being exactly truthful, and told him to go approximately one half mile over to a main road where someone would eventually come by and pick him up. As David began moving toward the road, he realized this would not be an easy task for him. After struggling to maneuver down a dry creek bed, by pulling himself through all the invasive vines, his first night was spent in the creek bed. It took him another night and half a day to make it to the road. Upon arriving back in camp, the Cadre who had left him stranded, was shocked to see the shape he was in and admitted he thought David just wanted to get out of patrol duty. The incident required David to wear a full leg cast and was hospitalized for three months.
In February 1960, David received orders to go to Germany where he was assigned to K Troop, 3rd Recon Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. His Squadron alternated with two other Squadrons of the 2nd in patrolling and observing the Eastern borders of Germany and Czechoslovakia. David was stationed there long enough to complete his military enlistment.
Returning to civilian life, David went back to help with the family farm until it was sold in 1966. Being a bit restless after Army life, he joined a sky diving club in Fresno, where he completed 109 jumps to add to his 15 while in the military. For the next few years, David worked in Reforestation in Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
David then moved to Denver, Colorado to work as a bridge crane operator for a bridge and building fabrication company. While there, he met Teresa Zambrano, and after a short courtship, they were married in 1972. The couple made their home in the Denver area until the marriage ended in 1989. David then moved back to his valley roots in Mendota, California, where he has remained.
While visiting the Veterans Memorial Museum in the summer of 2010, Carlos Teniente, one of the museum’s docents, approached David to tell him the history of one of the displays he was admiring. The two got to talking about their own service, and discovered they were both in the same Platoon at Fort Campbell in 1958. David a rifleman E-4 Specialist 4th Class, and Carlos a radio technician, actually knew each other back then. It‘s a small world and David continued visiting the museum on a regular basis. Jesse Fabela, a long time museum docent, told David he might as well sign on as a volunteer if he enjoyed the museum so much. He decided that was a good idea, and began volunteering on October 29, 2010. David is a great addition to the museum team.