GENOA – Jim Kush said he’s not a musician. He can’t read music.
But three or four times a year, he sings the national anthem at Genoa-Kingston sporting events. That, he said, is how much he loves his country.
“I tell you, it is an extreme honor to be able to sing in front of the Genoa-Kingston crowd,” Kush said. “As I said, I’m not a musician, but I sure as hell love my country. And that’s what comes out when I’m singing that.”
The 83-year-old Vietnam-era U.S. Navy veteran served from October 1961 until February 1965. He served at U.S. Naval Air Station Chase Field in Beeville, Texas.
He worked in maintenance, running the logbooks and keeping track of the time on the airplanes.
I tell you, it is an extreme honor to be able to sing in front of the Genoa-Kingston crowd. As I said, I’m not a musician, but I sure as hell love my country. And that’s what comes out when I’m singing that.”— Jim Kush
Kush said he was scheduled to get out in October 1964, but after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964, the Navy extended everybody indefinitely as tensions in Vietnam began to escalate.
He also was stationed in Beeville during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kush said he remembers walking after work one night among the planes, equipped with heat-seeking missiles, as the crisis between the Soviet Union and U.S. escalated.
“Because we pretty much had an eight-hour-a-day job, it was kind of – yeah, we were a little tentative,” Kush said. “I walked on the line one night, and as I walked by each plane, the sidewinder missiles followed my body movement because they are heat-seeking. That kind of put it into context for me: ‘This is real.’ ”
Kush said the planes were ready to fly into action if need be from Beeville, an hour north of Corpus Christi, to Cuba.
“At that time, all of our planes were armed with machine guns and sidewinder missiles,” Kush said. “That was a precaution if they were needed. They could fly to Cuba, but they couldn’t fly back. They’d have to land in Florida and refuel. Fortunately for us that never happened.”
After serving, Kush returned to Genoa. He had lived there since he was 3 years old after his parents moved from Chicago. He graduated from Genoa-Kingston in 1960, spent a year at Northern Illinois University and decided he wanted to enlist.
At the time, he said, most 21-year-olds were being drafted anyway. So he decided to follow in the footsteps of his brother Ed and enlist in Navy Air.
Genoa-Kingston athletic director Phil Jerbi said Kush beams with pride when talking about Genoa athletes. He also beams with pride, Jerbi said, when he talks about the military.
“Even when he’s not singing, he’s standing in the front row, head up high, hand on chest,” Jerbi said. “He’s a rare breed. He bleeds orange and blue. People like him are generational.”
He returned home and worked at Automatic Electric for 36 years as a purchasing agent. He’s been married to his wife Gloria for 55 years. He has three grown daughters who all went to Genoa-Kingston schools.
In fact, when his daughters started playing volleyball, that’s how he became involved with Cogs athletics. He’s handled the scorebook at home matches for 33 years. He did the girls basketball book for 30 years, stopping during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He also works as a spotter during football games.
“They carried on and graduated, and I stayed,” Kush said of his daughters.
He stayed and has been a staple at the scorers’ table.
That Genoa-Kingston pride reached a high last fall, when Kush said he got to experience the best day of his life – the day the Genoa-Kingston volleyball team won the Class 2A state championship.
“It was a dream come true,” Kush said. “It was the best day ever. When I said that, my wife was standing nearby. You’ve got to realize, I’ve been married for 55 years now. You can kind of get away with this. She said, ‘How about our wedding?’ I said, ‘Well...’”
Kush said he planned on stepping away from the sport after last season. But three of the team’s players – Alivia Keegan, Alayna Pierce and Hannah Langton – persuaded him to stay on for one more year. Kush said he’s going to step down at the end of this season.
“We had just won the state championship, I said to the girls, boy, what a way to go out,” Kush said. “I’ve kept score for 32 years, and now I have a state championship ring. And the three girls, they said, ‘Mr. Kush, you can’t leave yet. Next year is our senior year.’ I said, ‘Do you know how many times I’ve heard that?’ But I came back for them.”