Tony Yeldell called Del Rio, Texas, home, but his step-father was in the Air Force and the family lived in Arizona, California, New Jersey, South Dakota, and England. As a Boy Scout, he began considering attending a military school, and movies introduced West Point to him. He then thought about enlisting, but based on high ASVAB scores, the recruiter steered him towards becoming an officer. He was able to secure a competitive nomination to West Point through a congressman in New Jersey, and entered the Academy with the Class of ’79. During his time at West Point, he was active in the Contemporary Affairs Seminar and the Gospel Choir, and was an Equal Opportunity Representative as a Firstie (senior). He branched Air Defense Artillery to be stationed near his grandmother, and his first post was Ft. Hood, Texas. After seven years on Active Duty, he transferred to the Reserves and switched branches to Engineer, which he felt was more marketable in the civilian world. For a period, he worked in warehouse operations for the Health Department in the State of Ohio before returning to duty as a full-time Reservist. He retired as a Colonel in 2004. His son followed in his footsteps and graduated from West Point in 2017.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his West Point experiences, and serving on Active Duty and in the Reserves. He highlights issues involving race relations at the Military Academy, including incidents as both a Plebe and as an upperclassman. One night, he awoke to find a cross made out of a coat-hanger burning in his room. He describes how his son became interested in attending West Point, and analyzes the differences between his time at the Academy and his son’s. Finally, he reflects on how African-Americans held each other accountable at West Point.