Skip to content

Archive for

30
Nov

SO1 Don Hammill US Navy (1942-1945)

Read the service reflections of US Navy Sailor:

hammil20serviceSO1 Don Hammill

US Navy

(1942-1945)

WHAT PERSUADED YOU TO JOIN THE NAVY?

Some of my boyhood friends had joined the Navy and some were going to join.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor my parents agreed that I should join.  I was very patriotic and intended to serve my country and fight the enemy.

BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER PATH IN THE SERVICE?

My journey began when I arrived at NTS, San Diego on 10 Jan 1942.  I spent 3 weeks in Boot Camp then I was assigned to Sonar School before being sent to the USS Crosby (DD 164) in February, 1942.  The Crosby patrolled the West Cost on Escort Duty until February, 1943.  We eventually entered the Mare Island Navy Yard for convesion to a high Speed Transport and were reclassified as APD-17, High Speed Destroyer Transport.  We cleared San Francisco on 27 February 1943 and sailed, by way of Pearl Harbor, Samoa, Vitu Levu Noumea and Espiritu Santo.  We practiced beach landings at Santo with James Roosevelt’s “Marine Raiders” in March of 1943.  We were cleared on 29 April for Guadalcanal as a Transport Screen and on 6 June 1943 we reported for escrot duty in the Solomon Islands.

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS?

We saw tremendous action on the USS Crosby with 17 Amphibious Landings.  We went through all of the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and all islands in between to the Phillipines, we finally secured after Corregedor and Manila.  We then went back to Ulithi in the Central Pacific to prepare for the Okinawa Operation.

I saw my first combat in June 1943 when 120 enemy plane came down slot to attack Guadalcanal and the fleet in channel between Tulagi and Guadalcanal.  American and New Zealand planes and surface ships shot down 94 Jap planes with a loss of 6 U.S. Planes and the recovery of 2 U.S. pilots.

The Crosby was one of the American surface ships in this battle.  We began island hopping from our forward bast at Tulagi and were eventually awarded 10 Battle Stars for the following Operations; Eastern New Guinea, New Georgia Group, Bismarck Archipelago, Treasure-Bougainville, Western New Guinea, Hollandi, Leyte, Luzon, Manila Bay and Okinawa Gunto.

Additionally, the Crosby was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for the following Operations: New Georgia Group, Bougainville Landings, Cape Gloucester, Leyte Gulf, Ormoc Bay Landing, Lingayen Landings and the Okinawa Operation.

My battle station was a gunner on the 20mm on flying bridge on the Crosby.  In November 1943 a low flying plane came in directly at the bridge of the Crosby.  I unloaded a full magazine on my 20mm and shot down the enemy plane. I also shot down a suicide plane in Lingayen Gulf as it was headed for the bridge. That was in January 1945.  My Shipmate, Albert Johnson, was an eyewitness to each of these actions.  Albert, who was stationed at a searchlight platfrom directly above me, was going to send me an affidavit on the incidents but regretfully he passed away before he was able to send it.  I do have a copy of it now, provided below.  His description depicts actions against the enemy that day:

“Statement regarding the participation of Don E. Hammill of Murray, Utah and Albert R. Johnson of Phoeniz, AZ in actions against the Japanese on November 17, 1943 while serving aboard the USS Crosby (APD 17):

I was a member of the crew of the USS Crosby (DD164/APD17) with the rate of SM2C and was a shipmate of Don E. Hammill, Sonarman 2nd Class on November 17, 1943.  On said date, at approximately 0800, our ship was landing troops in Operations off Bougainville Island in the Solomon Islands, when our ship came under attack by Japanese planes. We were at General Quarters and my Battle Station while landing troops was in Boat One of a Four Boat group where I was the communications between the mother ship and the USS Crosby.  Our four boats had left the Crosby when Japanese aircraft entered the landing area.  Boat one was 100 yards off the starboard bow of the Crosby when two planes dropped bombs on the Crosby, One bomb landed close aboard the bridge on the starboard side.  The plane bulled out of its bomb run, gained altitude and turned into a strafing run on the port side of the Crosby.  Sonarman Hammill’s 20mm gun on the flying bridge opened fire emptying a full magazine into the enemy plane, tracer fire could be clearly seen entering the engine and cockpit of the plane.  it appears that the 20mm fire hit the enemy pilot as the plane veered radically and plunged into the sea.  Sonorman Hammill’s 20mm machine gun was the only one that could have had the opportunity to get a first hit on the enemy plane.
Signed/Dated,
22 September 2003
Albert R. Johnson, Lt (USNR/Ret)”

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

My particular memories during 23 consecutive months in the South Pacific were when I was literally staring into the eyes of the enemy pilots while manning my 20mm gun.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU…AND WHY?

I didn’t have an individual person that had a particular impact on me personally but I never forgot the great strategy of Admiral Spruance in the “Miracle at Midway.”  We were all inspired by the Admiral’s actions since he, against all odds, stopped the Japanese fleet early in the war and the Battle of Midway early in 1942 prevented the enemy from occupying Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States.

DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULARLY FUNNY STORY FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?

When we were at Esperado, before being sent to Guadalcanal, and were training with the 4th Marine Raiders practicing landings with them. They were commanded by James Roosevelt.   While we were there, Roosevelt got word that the Army club at the base there had a nice big piano, but there wasn’t one in the Marines club.  Not having a piano, but wanted one, he organized a group of some of the larger Marines in the unit to go and “re-locate” that piano in the middle of the night and put it in the Marines club.  That was of course the subject of more than a few exchanges between the various service members but it was a lot of fun.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?

I was discharged in November of 1945.  I returned to Salt Lake, City and graduated from the University of Utah Law School in 1950 with a Juris Doctor degree and practiced law for 30 years.  I am now retired and Vice President of Membership and Development for the Utah Council of the Navy League of the United States.

HOW HAS SERVING IN THE NAVY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU NOW APPROACH YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?

I have always been proud of my service in the Navy and my family aboard the Crosby and my contact with the TWS Family and my Shipmates there.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?

After getting out of the service I can say that what I learned in the service was real discipline.  I was young and cocky when I started my time in the service and it wasn’t until after my first battle at Guadalcanal that I realized we were in a real war and other people were trying to kill us. Anyone who is currently serving should be proud and have respect for their seniors and those serving with them.  The reality is that war is harsh so they must train hard, learn their job well and execute their duties to the best of their ability. You should be proud to be in the greatest Navy in the world and do everything you can to be the very best Sailor you can be.  I salute everyone who has or is currently serving.

HOW HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU TO MAINTAIN A BOND WITH THE SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?

Becoming a member of TWS has been the most rewarding experience of my retirement years.  The ability to talk with all of my shipmates on TWS is great.  My daughter Jill literally saved my life by getting me into Huntsman Cancer Hospital for emergency surgery in 2009. It was after this surgery that a lot of shipmates on TWS kept me in their thoughts and prayers during a long, slow and painful recovery. I must give a hand salute to MCPO Ed Armstrong for keeping everyone on TWS updated regarding my condition and for calling me every day for more than a year to check on me. I would like to wish blessings on him and all my TWS shipmates and the United States of America.

28
Nov

Heroic Huey Pilot Receives Medal of Honor

The details of the heroism that will see Charles Kettles awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House come back clearly and quickly even five decades later.

Kettles finally receive the award from President Obama on July 18.

Kettles, 86, recalls the events of May 15, 1967: flying his UH-1 helicopter time after time after time into dizzying, withering fire to save the lives of dozens of soldiers ambushed by North Vietnamese troops in the Song Tau Cau river valley; nursing the shot-up, overloaded bird out of harm’s way with the final eight soldiers who’d been mistakenly left behind.

“With complete disregard for his own safety, ” the official narrative of that day reads. “Without gunship, artillery, or tactical aircraft support, the enemy concentrated all firepower on his lone aircraft… Without his courageous actions and superior flying skills, the last group of soldiers and his crew would never have made it off the battlefield.”

Kettles, born and bred and retired in Ypsilanti, Mich., remembers how he felt after he touched down nearly 50 years ago for the last time, finally safe, unrattled and hungry.

“I just walked away from the helicopter believing that’s what war is,” Kettles told USA TODAY. “It probably matched some of the movies I’d seen as a youngster. So be it. Let’s go have dinner.”

Kettles’ actions were documented and saluted long ago. He was awarded the second-highest award for bravery, the Distinguished Service Cross. And that, he thought, was that. Kettles completed another tour in Vietnam, retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel and opened an auto dealership with his brother.

That’s where the story would end, if not for William Vollano, an amateur historian who was interviewing veterans for the Veterans History Project. Vollano’s prodding led the Army to reopen Kettles’ case and determine that his actions merited the Medal of Honor. Coincidentally, the military is also reviewing the actions of hundreds more troops in the post-9/11 era to see if they, too, should receive upgrades of their service crosses and Silver Stars.

May 15, 1967

On that May morning in Vietnam, Maj. Kettles’ and several other helicopter pilots ferried about 80 soldiers from the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division to a landing zone near the Song Tra Cau River. The river, just eight or 10 feet above sea level, drifted past a 1,500-foot hill.

“Very steep, which set them up for an ambush,” Kettles recalls. “Which did happen.”

Hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers, dug into tunnels and bunkers, attacked the Americans with machine guns, mortars and recoilless rifles.

“Two or three hours after they were inserted, they had been mauled over and the battalion commander called for reinforcements,” Kettles says.

Kettles volunteered to fly in reinforcements and to retrieve the wounded and dead. As they swooped in to land, the North Vietnamese focused their fire on the helicopters. Soldiers were killed before they could leap from the aircraft, according to the official account of the fight.

Air Force jets dropped napalm on the machine gun positions overlooking the landing zone, but it had little effect. The attack continued, riddling the helicopters with bullets. Kettles refused to leave, however, until the fresh troops and supplies had been dropped off and the dead and wounded crowded aboard to be flown out.

Kettles ran the gantlet again, bringing more reinforcements amid mortar and machine gun fire that seriously wounded his gunner and tore into his helicopter. The crew from another helicopter reported to Kettles that fuel was pouring from his aircraft. Kettles wobbled back to the base.

“Kettles, by himself, without any guns and any crew, went back by himself,” said Roland Scheck, a crew member who had been injured on Kettles’ first trip to the landing zone that day. “Immediately, all the pilots and copilots in the company decided, ‘This is Medal of Honor material right there.'”

“I don’t know if there’s anyone who’s gotten an Medal of Honor who deserved it more,” he said. “There’s no better candidate as far as I’m concerned.”

The final run

At about 6 p.m., the infantry commander radioed for an immediate, emergency evacuation of 44 soldiers, including four from Kettles’ unit whose helicopter was destroyed at the river. Kettles volunteered to lead the flight of six evacuation helicopters, cobbled together from his and another unit.

“Chaotic,” Kettles says. “The troops simply went to the first helicopter available.”

Just one soldier scrambled into his helicopter. Told that all were safe and accounted for, Kettles signaled it was time to return to base.

“The artillery shut down, the gunships went back,” Kettles said. “No reason for them to stay anymore. The Air Force shut down. We climbed out to about 1,400 feet, a 180-degree turn back toward base camp and the hospital.”

That’s when word reached Kettles that eight soldiers had been left behind.

“They had been down in the river bed in a last ditch defensive effort before the helicopters loaded,” Kettles said. “I assured the commander I would go back in and pick them up.”

Kettles took control of the helicopter from the co-pilot and plummeted toward the stranded soldiers.

The North Vietnamese trained all their fire on Kettles. As he landed, a mortar round shattered the windshields and damaged the tail and main rotor blade. The eight soldiers piled on board, raked by rifle and machine-gun fire. Jammed beyond capacity, the helicopter “fishtailed” several times before Kettles took the controls again from his co-pilot. The only way out, Kettles recalls, was to skip along the ground, gaining enough speed to get the helicopter in the air.

“If not we were going to go down the road like a two-and-a-half ton truck with a rotor blade on it,” Kettles says.

After five or six tries, Kettles got off the ground. Just then, a second mortar round slammed into the tail.

“That caused the thing to lurch forward,” he says. “I don’t know if that helped much. I still had a clean panel, that is, the emergency panel. There weren’t any lights.

The helicopter was still doing what it was supposed to do even though it was, I guess, pretty badly (damaged). We got out of there.”

The Medal of Honor

Kettles acknowledges it was an extraordinary day, one that he thinks about but doesn’t dwell on. He and the other helicopter pilots and crew performed as they were trained, followed orders, completed their mission. Simple as that.

The Medal of Honor, he says, “belongs to them certainly as much as myself. I just happened to be the lead position where the decisions were mine, properly so.

“For them, unfortunately all they could do was follow. And they did. They did their jobs. They’re as deserving as I am certainly. That’s what it means to me.”

For dozens of soldiers, especially the last eight, Kettles’ decision kept their names from being  etched on the black granite wall of the Vietnam War memorial here in Washington with the 58,000 others who died in the war.

“The eight who got out of there who aren’t on that wall,” Kettles says. “That’s what matters.”

By Tom Vanden Brook and Gregory Korte, USA TODAY

25
Nov

Captain Roy Scheider, Jr U.S. Air Force (Served 1955-1958)

View the military history of actor:

roy-scheider-jawsCaptain Roy Scheider, Jr

U.S. Air Force

(Served 1955-1958)

Shadow Box: http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/profile/173651

Short Bio: Twenty years before actor Roy Scheider was chasing sharks in “Jaws,” as Police Chief Martin Brody, he was giving orders in the Air Force.
Scheider served as an active-duty Air Force Officer for three years in the mid-1950s and later was a Reservist, according to accounts of Scheider’s life.

23
Nov

Pfc Frank A. Plebanek US Army (1943-1945)

Read the service reflections of US Soldier

plebanek1Pfc Frank A. Plebanek

US Army

(1943-1945)

If you are a veteran or family of a veteran, join us today at http://sos.togetherweserved.org to share their stories.

WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?

Having just turned 18 years of age I knew I was eligible to be drafted, but didn’t know when that time would come. My buddy and I went to the Naval Recruiting office and told them we would

like to become pilots on an aircraft carrier. He arranged for us to go to Kansas City, MO for testing and physicals on Dec 31, 1942 and Jan. 1, 1943. We both passed the tests and physicals and were told to return home and that we would receive a letter within 30 days to report to Pensacola, Florida for induction into the US Navy.

We did receive a letter about three weeks later that informed us that enlistments for 18 year olds had been canceled and we could wait to be drafted and then transfer into Naval Aviation. We didn’t like that idea, so went to the Army Air Corp and then the US Marines and they told us the same thing. We had both quit our jobs and decided to go to the local draft board and tell them we wanted to enlist and would like to go out on the next draft call from our city.

We were told to report for induction on Mar 19, 1943.

BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?

I volunteered to be drafted March 1943. Trained with 78th Lightning Division, in D Co of 309th Regiment. I was trained in Use and Tactics of Heavy Water Cooled 30. Cal. Machine Gun.

I was sent as POR to England and Joined the 82nd Airborne Division about ten days before D-Day. I was being held as Reserve Status and assigned to 325th Glider Regiment. I was placed in E Co. in a Mortar Squad when the Unit was returned from combat in July of 1944.

I participated in Operation Market Garden as Second Gunner on 60mm Mortars. I was wounded on Oct 1, 1944 near Mook, Holland and sent to England to recuperate.

I was then returned to duty in Feb 1945 to rejoin my Unit which was near Schmidthof, Germany. I was assigned as a Gunner on a 30 Cal. Light Machine Gun.

While holding the West Bank of the Rhine river in Cologne, the CO said needed a jeep driver so I became his driver until the hostilities ceased in May of 1945.

We then were sent to Berlin, Germany for Occupational Duty until Nov of 1945, when I had acquired enough points to be able to return to the States to be demobilized on Dec 23, 1945, returning to my family about 6:30 p.m on Christmas Eve!

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?

We landed by glider in Holland and spent 8 days on the Front Line. I came so close to being killed so many times.

A German soldier had my head in his sights when he fired his rifle. If his aim would have been 2 inches higher he would have shot me right between the eyes. The bullet landed in the dirt, right in front of my nose and about 2 inches below the top of the dirt around my foxhole. The dirt the bullet kicked up filled my eyes and I was unable to see anything for over an hour, while I tried to clean the dirt from my eyes, with water from my canteen.

While trying to awaken a man to relieve me on guard duty one night, a sniper tried to shoot me while I was looking for the man in his hole. He must have fired three or four times at me until the firing woke another solier who fired back at the sniper. I believe the sniper was in the attic of the nearby farmhouse. He was just firing at the sounds I was making. I believe he was the same sniper that killed Verl Miller earlier that afternoon.

On a later occasion, as I looked around the corner of a fireplace protruding from the rear of a house, a German stood there with a flame thrower about 25 feet from me. He immediately fired the flame thrower and as the ball of flame was coming toward me, I dodged around the corner of the house and dove into an empty foxhole.

One of our Sergeants, along with five other men and I were trying to recover the mortar we had lost the day before, when we’d been attacked and didn’t have time to bring it with us. We were proceeding in single file as we were walking along the dirt road and the man (Closen), directly in front of me, was hit with machine pistol fire from a German gunner. Closen was riddled across his lower chest and fell forward to the ground and squirmed his way into the hedgerow trying to take more cover. He only got about half way into the hedges when he stopped, lying perfectly still. We all knew that he was killed in action. He had been through Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy without being injured and it seemed such a shame that he had to die in Holland.

Late afternoon on the third day, while Payne and I were in our foxhole, the Germans made a small counter-attack with a half-track and a few troops following it. We heard it coming, but couldn’t see it, and when it came into view, the gunner on top, with a machine gun, opened fire at Payne and I. We dropped to the bottom of our foxhole, without being hit. The gunner kept us pinned down, until some of our troops fired a bazooka round at it. It was hit in the radiator and backed away toward their own lines. When all the firing stopped we raised up out of our hole and found that all the dirt around our foxhole had been scooped away by the machine gunners bullets.

Another day, while it was raining, I tried to have a cigarette, but couldn’t keep it lit. I decided to go into a small shed about 30 yards away. As I entered the shed I found it dry inside, so sat down and had a cigarette and candy bar. It wasn’t long before a few guys decided to join me in theshed for a smoke. When the fifth man arrived, I thought to myself, ‘this is not good, too many people in one spot. I explained this to the men in the shed. When the sixth man arrived, I decided to leave and mentioned that they should too. Then four of them left and there was only one man in the shed. The Germans had spotted all the men gathering at the shed and probably had it zeroed in for their mortars. Before the last man left, a mortar round landed about five feet from the shed and blew it all apart. They then placed machine gun fire on the spot where the shed had been. The last man didn’t make it out and was killed.

On another occasion, I was digging a foxhole and had it about knee deep, when I noticed some leaves move near my hole while I was standing in it. I immediately dropped into the hole as a mortar shell exploded not two feet from me. I wasn’t wounded as all the fragments went over me. I couldn’t hear anything for about two hours, until my hearing returned from the concussion of the blast.

After we lost the mortar I was assigned to be first gunner on a light machine gun. One time, a German machine gunner was returning my fire but he couldn’t lower his fire enough to hit me. I was concentrating on firing my own weapon and didn’t realize how close I’d come to being hit until I discovered the severed leaves he’d shot from the trees about six inches above my head.

I was really ticked off at the Germans for shelling our bivouac area. Our Company was pulled off the line to go to the rear to get some R & R for two days. My Buddy and I dug a slit trench to sleep in or take cover if we were shelled. We covered it with logs and dirt because it was raining. We’d left just enough room to get into and out of the hole. While we slept, at about 10:30 p.m. we were shelled and an artillery shell exploded in the tree just above us and the entire top of the tree trapped us in the slit trench. We were both wounded in the lower legs and were trapped inside until the medics could remove the tree and help us from the slit trench. It just didn’t seem right that I was wounded while in a two foot deep slit trench, below ground level and protected by dirt and logs over 2/3rds of the hole. Of course if it hadn’t been for the logs and dirt over our bodies, we both may both have been killed. We were taken by ambulance to a field hospital in Nijmegen in the morning. Then the next day to a hospital in Brussels. The next day I was airlifted back to England in a C-47 ambulance plane. After being airlifted back to England, I spent about four months in the hospital before being returned to my Unit, which had already moved into Germany near Aachen.

WHICH, OF THE DUTY STATIONS OR LOCATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED OR DEPLOYED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?

Berlin, Germany, the 82nd Airborne Division was assigned as occupational duty forces, after the German forces surrendered. It was nice to know we wouldn’t have to do any more fighting on this side of the world. We didn’t know if we would be sent to help the Pacific forces invade Japan. Seeing Berlin almost completely demolished from the bombing and shelling, was an awesome sight. Being the CO’s jeep driver we had to travel in the British and French zones. Trying to get around we sometimes had to travel 3 or 4 miles to find routes to get to where we wanted to go that was only a mile away. Our Company was quartered in Mariendorf, which is a small section of the southern area of Berlin. We were due south from the Brandenberg Gate and the Templehof Airport. Spandau was west of downtown Berlin.

A group of about 10 from our company, a Lieutenant, myself and 8 others were assigned to assist the British, in Spandau, to help get all the DP’s (Displaced Persons) and German Soldiers back to their home locations. This took about six weeks before all the holding pens were emptied. I met many British soldiers and German girls (typists) while doing the sorting of thousands of German soldiers and civilians.

I think we spent more time in Berlin than any of the places we were stationed and while in combat. We were constantly moving from one place to another through England, Holland, France, Belgium and Germany. Seemed we were constantly going back and forth from France to Germany.

As troops were being sent back to the US to be demobilized, we were given points to accumulate, the men with the highest number of points were being sent home first. My number group was called about the middle of November and we left Berlin, returned to France and left Marseille to go through the Mediterranean, past Gibraltar and on to New York.

So to me, my whole oversees adventure was to leave Boston, land in England, go to Holland, go to Belgium, return to England (in hospital), back to France, then to Germany, back to France, back to Germany, back to France, back to Germany, back to France, then leave France to go by ship to New York. I was able to visit all the Capitals, London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

I was in the hospital near Whitney, England when I learned that my Unit was called to duty to help halt the German counter-attack in Dec. 1944 at the Huertgen Forest. I regretted that I was not able to be with my Unit when it really needed the most able bodied men. They had advanced on into Germany by the time I was able to return to duty.

WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?

I was awarded the Bronze Star for service during the Rhineland Campaign in Feb. 1944. I was unaware that I’d received the medal until Sept 1963.

OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

Earned the following Medals and awards:

European,African, Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one invasion spear- head and four campaign stars
Army of Occupation WW II Medal
Presidential Unit Citation Badge
Combat Infantryman Badge
American Campaign Medal
Victory WW II Medal
Good Conduct Medal
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart Medal
French Fouragere Lanyard
Belgian Fouragere Lanyard
Netherlands Orange Lanyard

All equally important to me.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

While training in the States with the 78th Div, I had training on driving and maintaining motor vehicles. I had no idea that I would eventually become a driver.

Later I was with E Company, of the 325 Glider Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. When the Company Commander needed a driver they looked through the records of all the company personnel and found that I had been qualified as a driver. We were in Cologne, Germany, holding the west bank of the Rhine, while they were clearing out the Ruhr Pocket which they had encircled on the east bank. My CO asked me if I would like to be relieved from being a gunner on the 30. Cal Light Machine gun and become his regular Jeep Driver. Without too much consideration, I agreed and continued as his driver until I was sent home on points.

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?

On the eve of my 21st. birthday we had a Company party while we were occupying Berlin. I was the CO’s jeep driver at the time. I went to the Company party with intentions of drinking enough until I passed out. After we had dinner I took 7 double shots of Cognac, a wine glass full of Gin, a bottle of Champagne and 3 and a half glasses of beer. All this in about a 4 hour period.

My buddy Tom Graves from Service Company hauled me up three flights of stairs and put me to bed. I was supposed to take the CO to Regimental HQ at 9AM. I never got up after three times being awakened and told to go get my jeep. They had someone bring the jeep to the Company area and finally got me up so I could drive him to HQ.

The Captain got in the jeep and asked me if I thought I could make it. I told him I thought I could. When we got to the corner and I had to make a right turn, I almost fell out of the jeep. He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me back. When I had to make a left turn I fell over into his lap and he helped me straighten out again. We made it to HQ and I stayed in the jeep and slept until he came out about two hours later.

I felt much better after getting more sleep, and we made it back to our Company area with no further incidents. He then told me to get my Assistant Driver to take over the driving duties until the next day. I was lucky not to have been written up. It was certainly a milestone birthday to remember.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?

I was a Automobile Service Station Manager for about 20 years. I then operated my own Service Station for 5 years. I finally gave up my lease during the first gas shortage because the government was telling me how much gas I could sell and how much money I could make. It all became too much because I had to cut my operating hours and couldn’t make enough money to support my family.

I then went to work for another dealer for about five years as an Auto Mechanic. Then gave that up and started working at General Dynamics as a Maintenance Mechanic, then transferred to Machine Tool Rebuilder.

After 12 and a half years I retired from there in Jan 1990. Still retired after 21 years.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?

82nd Airborne Division Association
325 th Glider Infantry Association
American Airborne Association
Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Disabled American Veterans
Combat Infantryman’s Association

Derived no specific benefits from any of them.
Went to reunions of the 325th and the 82nd.

I am mentioned in the following three books:
‘LET’S GO’ by Wayne Pierce 1997- The story of the men of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment.
‘GLIDE TO GLORY’ by Jerry Richlak, Sr.-Unedited personal stories of Airborne Glidermen of WWII.
‘ALL AMERICAN ALL THE WAY’ By Phil Nordyke-The Combat History of The 82nd Airborne Division in World War II.

HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?

Personally experiencing the daily life of a Soldier gave me a greater base of knowledge of how to deal with problems, organize and determine what’s truly important. I developed the realization that I had to rely on my own resourcefulness to succeed. I had to literally grow up in the trenches.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?

Stay with the rules and behave. Do your job.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?

I have found lost friends after 50 years. It’s another vehicle to document history of service.

21
Nov

Veterans work to honor fallen soldiers “lost in the mist of history”

From our archives. The story of our team of volunteers that work tirelessly to make sure that our fallen are not forgotten.

don-skinner3On Feb. 24, 1968, Don Skinner was in charge of maintaining bombing radars in Vietnam when his unit came under attack. The Air Force sergeant was critically wounded, spending three months in a Saigon hospital, before being air-lifted to the States where he says he spent nine more months at a hospital “being put back together.”

Three of his comrades were killed during that assault, and overall, 19 members from Skinner’s unit lost their lives during the war.

But the memories of those 19 men – and hundred of others spanning different wars – live on, thanks to Skinner’s efforts. Today, the 83-year-old sits in front of a computer at his Aiken, S.C. home working on remembrance profiles for fallen soldiers. The retired veteran is one of more than 200 volunteers who work around the clock building the Roll of Honor on TogetherWeServed.com, an online war memorial that claims 1.5 million members and has more than 100,000 pages honoring fallen service members.

For Skinner, who has personally completed more than 850 profiles, it’s about putting stories to names, bringing those killed in action from “obscurity back to reality.”

“They are now honored and remembered,” Skinner said. “These people are no longer forgotten or lost in the mist of history.”

Erasing that mist is not always an easy task. For example, there’s a dearth of information for many Korean War and World War II veterans, whose numbers are dwindling. Volunteers rely heavily on battle history archives, gravesite information and public records to glean information, but they often must track down surviving family members to fill in the holes.

elliottOne of those working to fill the gaps is Carl “Krusty” Elliott. During the Vietnam War, the Army staff sergeant worked at Walter Reed hospital, where he says the wounded soldiers “left a lasting impression” on him.

The 67-year-old Elliott, who has built more than 2,000 online memorials from his Rochester, New Hampshire home, says it was especially gratifying to complete the profile of 1st Lt. Verne Kelley, a 10-year Army veteran who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1969. Kelley grew up not far from Elliott’s hometown and was friends with his older brothers.

Diane Short, a Navy veteran who oversees operations and management of the website’s memorial teams, says the site hopes to complete unfinished profiles by year’s end but the task is daunting. The online memorial includes almost 48,000 fallen soldiers in the Army alone and TWS has completed about 65 percent of those remembrance profiles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe veterans who add photos, medals and remembrances to the online memorials are giving an emotional lift to families of the fallen. Just ask Debra Booth, whose 23-year-old son Marine Lt. Joshua Booth was killed in Iraq in 2006 — just five weeks after deployment. She hadn’t seen any photos of her son in Iraq until she stumbled upon three images of Josh posted on Together We Served.

“What an amazing surprise that day,” said Booth, who added that she has since corresponded with Josh’s captain in Haditha and hopes to connect with more men who served with her son.

Josh left behind a daughter Grace, who is now 8 years old. Debra Booth says Grace recently asked Santa Claus to bring her pictures of her daddy. Thanks to the images posted to Together We Served, that wish was granted. “It’s an amazing gift,” Booth said of the online memorial.

Building the remembrance profiles is a healing process for the volunteer veterans, according to Short.

“A lot of these guys are dealing with PTSD,” Short said. “It is their way of getting into their head and dealing with their memories and putting pen to paper honoring those who they lost.”

denny3Denny Eister, a 69-year old Vietnam War veteran who lives in Destin, Florida, says he suffers from PTSD and repressed his war memories for nearly four decades. One day, his kids uncovered some medals in his desk drawer and he says it triggered a renewed interest to track down his fellow soldiers. Eister, who works part time as an insurance agent, has since built nearly 1,000 remembrance profiles.

“You develop a bond that’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced combat in military,” Eister said. “It’s an honor to do it for the guys who didn’t come home.”

Eister said through his work he was able to track down his company commander at the time, Walter Dillard, who retired as a Colonel and now lives in Virginia. “We still communicate to this day,” he said.

bobbeIndeed, Together We Served has become a coveted social network for veterans. Barbara (Bobbe) Stuvengen served in the Navy in World War II as a WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). A few years ago, when the 89-year-old Wisconsin resident lost her husband (also a sailor) to Alzheimer’s disease, she credits the website for “preserving my sanity during some very stressful times.”

“It’s just kind of a way to keep in touch with the outside world,” said Stuvengen, who communicates regularly with other members. “It means a lot to me to have TWS to go into. … I begin to feel like they’re my family.”

As for Skinner, 65 years after enlisting in the Air Force, he is still devoting his time to serving his country. The author of several military books, he continues digging into databases, scouring archives and phoning families to piece together the lives of fallen service members. More than four decades after making it through that deadly assault in Vietnam, Skinner is battling cancer – but his doctors have declared him healthy and he remains focused on his work.

“I guess I’m a survivor in more ways than one,” he says.

By Stephen Smith CBS News

18
Nov

S1c Don Rickles US Navy (Served 1944-1946)

View the military service of funny man:

ricklesS1c Don Rickles

US Navy

(Served 1944-1946)

View his Service Profile on TogetherWeServed.com at http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/338953

Short Bio: His ship departed Norfolk, Virginia 10 November 1944 transited the Panama Canal and arrived at Manus Province, in Papua New Guinea on 13 December to escort two squadrons of motor torpedo boats to Hollandia, New Guinea. She then sailed on convoy duty to Leyte Gulf, Phillipines, arriving 1 January 1945.

He has said of one deployment, “It was so hot and humid, the crew rotted.”

16
Nov

LtCol James L. Volkmar U.S. Marine Corps (Ret) (Served 1963-1984)

Read the service reflections of U.S Marine:

profile2LtCol James L. Volkmar

U.S. Marine Corps (Ret)

(1963-1984)

Shadow Box: http://marines.togetherweserved.com/profile/36338

If you served, join us today at http://togetherweserved.com to tell your story.

WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?

I was in college and was dumped by this little blond cheerleader. Crushed me. Caused me to drink heavily one night and break out the literature that I had pilfered from the post office. Suddenly, I could see myself returning from Marine boot camp in dress blues and profiling forthe benefit of the cheerleader, causing her heart to throb at the possibility I would give her as second chance. In addition I saw the last guy I had a fight with cowering at the thought I would seek vengeance and thrash him within an inch of his life.

This Walter Mitty episode was compounded by my picture appearing in the paper as I proved to the policeman that I was of legal age following a recent raid at a nearby night spot. I knew this would probably cause me trouble at the small religious college I attended. Like all students attending, I had signed a pledge that I would not drink, dance or smoke while in attendance. I would like to say that my moral conscience came into play and I wanted to do the right thing but as a pre-med student I had discovered I was far better at playing Doctor than studying to become one.

Truth be told I was really bummed about the little blond cheerleader. Filled with new resolve from the alcohol and my mind’s eye picture of the steely eyed sartorially splendid killer Marine I was to become. I called the recruiter listed on the brochure the very next day. Alas as I went to search for a picture of the little blonde cheerleader my tears over the years had washed away the image. But to give you some idea, I have posted here a picture of my lifelong heart throb that could have been her twin had Ann-Margret’s hair been a bit more blonde!

WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?

Boot camp in San Diego! A Hollywood Marine, fitting given my predilection for the drama of my planned triumphant return to woo the little blond cheerleader and crush my high school nemesis. It should be noted that half way through boot camp, I received a letter from the little blondcheerleader indicating that she was getting married to a friend of mine and wanted me to know she was proud I was serving my country. I was crushed. There was no real reason for me to be in boot camp any longer since my triumphant return was in ashes.

I tried to explain the mistake that had been made to my Drill Instructors. Candidly, they were less than sympathetic.

While in boot camp I went to an interview for Marines who would volunteer for Sea Duty. This time and without the benefit of alcohol, I saw myself in Dress Blues (all sea going Marines were issued them), cutlass in hand up in the riggings of an American ship of war. After all my life I had envisioned for myself was over. I think the Marine Staff Sergeant conducting the interview liked the fact I had some college and I had the presence of mind not to relate my real reasons for volunteering. I was accepted and after Sea School at MCRD San Diego I was assigned to be an Admiral’s Orderly in Commander Carrier Division One stationed at Coronado. Out of boot camp I carried an 03 MOS.

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?

As an enlisted Marine I did a WestPac tour on the staff of Rear Admiral E.C. Outlaw or as those of us serving as his orderlies referred to him “the bandit of the South China Sea.” Admiral Outlaw earned a Navy Cross for his actions as a pilot in World War II.

His Chief of Staff was a Captain Swanson who I spent most of the time serving as I was the junior Marine of the six of us in the detachment. Captain Swanson had the voice of God and a real sense of humor. One day he sent me to the ships store to get him a bottle of Vitalis hair oil. The ships store was out and when I returned and informed him of same he said he didn’t care he wanted it so find him a bottle. After an extensive search I finally resorted to paging on the 1MC anyone aboard who had a bottle of Vitalis hair oil to report to the Admiral’s bridge immediately. A sailor showed up with three quarters of a bottle that I gave him two bucks for. Captain Swanson accepted it as being the only bottle on board and I was out two bucks.Â

As to Combat operation the pilots flew out daily bombing North Vietnam. I quickly became convinced that if you wanted to return you flew the propeller driven SPADS as I watched them come back with six of their twelve cylinders blown apart, gushing oil but still flying. The A4 and Phantoms could take a round in the wing somewhere and not return. As you can see by my citation from the Admiral that I was a major factor in winning the air war. LOL!

Years later as a 2ndLt., I would take part in combat operations of a much more personal nature. The most memorable was when the company Hotel 2/26 was set in along the river at Ga NoiIsland when we were attacked by NVA in a battle that raged for several hours. We had Spooky (Douglas AC-47D,) often referred to as “Puff the Magic Dragon,” sending down from the sky a wall of solid red tracers blowing the hell out of banana trees. As Spooky finished firing in front of my platoon’s perimeter, Lt. Tom Turner came up on the net requesting that he do the same for his platoon’s perimeter. I can remember that when the first round in front of Tom’s position hit, I said to my radio operator, “that was close”. Just then Turner came up in highly emotional tones shouting “Check Fire”, “Check Fire.” Seems Spooky had shot right down the line of Tom’s platoon, but the “Gods of War” were watching out for those Marines as there was only one Marine with what amounted to a flesh wound. Turner was really miffed though cause two bullets had gone through his pack and blew apart his last can of Turkey Loaf. He also had a round go through his last clean skivvy shirt. One bullet but when you unfolded it you had six holes in the shirt. I think he still tells the story that he was wearing the shirt at the time.

WHICH, OF THE DUTY STATIONS OR LOCATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED OR DEPLOYED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?

As the Commanding Officer of Marine Security Guard Detachment Company “A” -Europe, I had the responsibility to travel to every country in Europe at least once every six months. I had one of my watch standers, who had come from an African Embassy, tell me late one night that I didn’t have to worry about him as he would never do anything to get in trouble. I was struck by his sincerity. He was assigned to Helsinki, Finland, which as any Marine will tell you who has been there it is about as close to Heaven as mortal man can get. Anyway as I questioned him further he said that after his last tour this was Heaven and to emphasize his belief he shared these immortal words with me. “Sir, I got to tell you some of the girls here are not just beautiful but they would suck the chrome off a trailer hitch just to practice their English.”

However, my fondest memories of a duty station are reserved for my stint as the OIC of the Northern Training area on Okinawa. I spent a year living in a tar paper shack surround by thousands of acres of jungle and roads so bad that it took 2.5 hours to get to Camp Hansen where I would occasionally go so that I could flush a commode and watch water swirl. It was here that I had to tell Sgt. Jones he could not bite the heads off of snakes during his class on Jungle survival after his third bout with some strange illness.

We had a Marine from one of the infantry companies collapse while out on patrol and we had to swim a river to get to him. He was unconscious so we put him on a stretcher and raced him to an LZ before the bad weather closed in and so the Medevac bird would not tarry. The LZ was about three miles from where we started and I swear it was uphill the entire way. Well that is not exactly true as once I was headed down this very steep incline only to hear Jones shout, “Captain, get off the trail”. As I made a prodigious leap to the side the unconscious Marine on his stretcher went hurtling past me bouncing to the bottom. A rather chagrined Sgt. Jones explained how the stretcher bearers in front had tripped. We did get him to the helicopter in time and they got him to the hospital with only minor cuts and bruises, not related to the strangulated hernia he received when he was dropped on the trail.

Then there is the time one of the Marines on patrol was bitten by a poisonous snake and after five or six really terrible painful days the snake died. I have attached this picture of where my little Floyd called home prior to his untimely demise.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

The day I checked into Second Recon Battalion, coming from my stint as the XO of the Marine Detachment on the USS Hornet. An assignment I got due to a profile from wounds suffered in Vietnam. Anyway I was there for the Apollo Twelve pick up and stayed until they decommissioned the Hornet. As I was walking to the Battalion HQTRS, as a really squared away 1stLt, I saw this elderly gentleman coming toward me whom I assumed to be the Battalion Commander based on the ribbons on his blouse but as the sun was in my eyes I couldn’t really see his rank. So I saluted and in my best parade ground voice rendered a “Good Morning, Sir”! As he returned my salute and passed me I recognized the 2ndLt bars on Howard V. Lovingood. A true recon legend, Howard was to become my best friend and my mentor for everything leadership and recon related.

I was the Casualty Assistance Officer for the Beirut bombing and called on a Marine I called that was in pretty sad shape from parts of a building falling on him. He was in and out (mostly out) of lucidity. I saw on his record that he had been in 2nd Recon and I asked if he knew a Captain Lovingood? It was like a window opened in his mind and the nurses said that he continued to improve from that point. I was at Howard retirement after spending 45 years in the Marine Corps.

WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?

Most of my time in combat was spent trying to get the buttons on my utility’s replaced with velcro so that I could get lower to the ground. Despite my best efforts I was awarded one, not for valor but I guess slow reflexes.

OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

My Scuba and Marine Gold Jump wings. I was fortunate that while a Lt and in Second Recon Battalion, I spend six month going through some tough training. It began in the Army Ranger School. Then to Scuba School or more precisely Navy Underwater Swimmer School in Key West, Florida. Having lost 30 pounds in Ranger School, I would lay in my rack at night and whimper until the Seals and UDT guys got a hold of me the next morning to further torture me, then back my battalion for two weeks and was sent to Army Airborne School.

I can remember years later when in Second Force Recon and pinning on my Gold Jump Wings thinking, “If only that little blond cheerleader could see me now!”

WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

Col Howard V. Lovingood for the reasons previously cited.

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?

I came back from Vietnam the Medevac route. It isn’t that path that I recommend. I was tripping along on Ga Noi Island when some fool tried to kill me. Ruined my day. Actually, I and my radio operator, were felled by some explosive device that picked me up and launched me nearly ten feet in the air giving me a chance to perfect my one and a half gainer diving form. I like to think back and reflect on my panther like reflexes that let me shield my radio operator with my body as I bore the brunt of damage from the shrapnel but as the Corpsman pointed out it could have been that I was just closer to the explosion.

In any case the left side of my body got a healthy peppering of shrapnel and my face might have escaped but when the blast went off I turned to see what it was. A mistake, as a piece of shrapnel slid up my cheek into my left eyelid and a piece transited up the very center of my nose splitting it roughly in half. I submit it is to my credit that after hitting the ground I told the others not to come to my aid for fear there were other such devices around and I struggled up and limped back to my radio man who was standing rather rigidly upright but clutching his neck with blood streaming between his fingers. I laid him down and by then the corpsman was there and took over the triage.

I sat down and called the knucklehead who got himself and three others pinned down by a thirty caliber machine gun, that we were delayed. About five or ten minutes later, as the corpsman finished with my radioman and turned his attention to me, the four pinned down individuals came wandering into our position. Seems their desperate requests for help and their certainty of near death may have been a bit over dramatized. Our rescue was complete! Of course the circumstance was such that I would never receive my Navy Cross for heroism as I had earlier envisioned. In any case the Corpsman was on me about a Medevac for my radio operator, I started that process.

I had thought that my left eye was gone from the shrapnel but the Corpsman assured me that it was there just swollen shut from shrapnel in my eyelid and eyebrow. As I was in the process of calling for the Medevac every time I would bend forward to read the map for coordinates, I bled profusely on it. Mostly I had just a red smear covering the spot where we were located. Like all good grunts I had my towel around my neck and I could see what appeared to be mud on both sides of my nose and I kept scrubbing and trying to wipe the mud off my nose. As the Corpsman caught sight of my efforts he shouted at me as to what I was doing and I responded that I was getting the mud off my nose. He grabbed my hand and said for me to stop “that’s not mud, that is your nose!? ”

Above is the photo of what it looked like prior to the BOOM!

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?

I retired from the Marine Corps while serving as the Executive Assistant to the Vice Admiral who headed the Logistic Directorate of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While in that job I was requested by the Commandant of the Marine Corps to be the Casualty Assistance Officer for the Beirut Bombing.Shortly before my assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff I had been the Regional Marine Officer for Europe and it was felt my familiarity with the area would be of benefit. The Admiral agreed to my temporary assignment and I went off to Europe to deal with the all aspects of the casualties from that incident.

Dealing with the return of the remains of 241 Marines and the wounded set me on a path of questioning my humanity. So when I returned as my younger brother worked for Apple Computer he asked if I wanted to interview for a job at Apple. I agreed simply because I thought the experience would be good for me sometime in the future. Apple, for a corporation, was a wild and wooly place at that time and if they liked you they wanted to hire you. They liked me! Apple offered me a job at what at the time I thought was an obscene amount of money, my standards have since changed. I took the job and that led to a second career in technology. Pictured is the North American Sales Group at Apple in 1985. My hair is longer!

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?

Marine Corps League
Together We Served
Force Recon Association
I enjoy the camaraderie!

HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?

Challenge and more importantly “meeting the challenge” is the key.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?

Fully enjoy the military opportunity but plan for what follows. For as one of my Commanding Officers once told me “it is not a life’s work” eventually they ask you to leave. Plan for that day.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?

I have located two individual that were in the same boot camp platoon with me way, way back when. The years fall away when something like that happens and as fate would have it the best thing that ever happened was that little blond cheerleader dumping me because it was a catalyst to my life’s best experiences.

As you can see from the attached picture the good times were just beginning.

14
Nov

Profile in Courage: Col James Kasler

James Helms Kasler was born on May 2, 1926 in South Bend, Indiana and following 30-years of distinguished military service, retired as a U.S. Air Force Colonel. Three times he went off to war and three times returned home. During his career, he is the only person to be awarded three Air Force Crosses. He also was awarded two Silver Stars, Legion of Merit, nine Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Purple Hearts, eleven Air Medals and Bronze Star with V for valor. Setting aside recipients of the Medal of Honor, he is the 10th most decorated serviceman in U.S. history. For some, he is known as Indiana’s Sgt. Alvin York, the famous hero of World War I.

Shortly after graduating from Shortridge High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force in May 1944. He spent his two-year enlistment flying combat missions over Japan as a B-29 Superfortress tail gunner.

Following the war, Kasler attended Butler University in Indianapolis for three years before entering the U.S. Air Force pilot training program in January 1950 and received his wings on March 24, 1951 at Williams AFB, Arizona. Following a brief assignment to Presque Isle, Maine, in November 1951 he was sent to Korea and assigned to the 335th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Group.

Flying the F-86 Sabrejet, Kasler was credited with his first aerial victory on April 1, 1952, downing one MiG-15 near Wongsong-dong and damaging a second east of Sinuiju. He shot down another MiG near Okkang-dong on April 21. Action picked up in May, and he was credited with four more MiG-15s – one on the 4th, two on the 15th. It was on April 25 when he got his 6th in MiG Alley.

He and his wingman, 1st Lt. Albert Smiley, caught several MiGs just as they were returning to their Communist air base. Kasler got behind the lead MiG, chasing it for about 50 miles on the deck, refusing flight commander Phil “Casey” Colman’s request to call it a day. On the MiGs tail, Kasler opened up, and his gunfire tore it apart. Its canopy gone, its pilot engulfed in fire, the MiG arched down in a flaming trail before it splattered in the mud flats just below. Kasler pulled back on the stick mightily, to avoid sharing his victim’s fate. He cleared and called triumphantly to Colman, “Casey, I’m an ace.”

MiGs were routinely piloted by Chinese and Soviet pilots and a U.S. intelligence officer later informed Kasler that the three MiGs he and Smiley killed were the only ones recorded that day.

The officer had another bit of information: One of those three planes had been piloted by the son of Mao Zedong, father of the Chinese revolution and principal founder of the People’s Republic of China.

Kasler returned to the United States in July 1952 and during the next 11 years served in Canada, Turner AFB, Georgia, Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, and Breitburg Air Base, Germany, flying a variety of jet fighters. In 1963 he received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nebraska.

In February 1966 he went to Tahkli Air Base, Thailand as the operations officer for the 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 355th Wing. While mission were flying daily over both South and North Vietnam, Hanoi was at that time off-limits to U.S. warplanes. Fearing a wider conflict, Robert McNamara, secretary of defense during the Kennedy and Johnson presidential administrations, drew a 50-mile circle around it and a 30-mile ring around the principal harbor.

That restriction was eliminated in June 1966 as American defense chiefs were slowly escalating the war, and had recently decided to broaden the bombing of North Vietnam to include industrial targets like the Hanoi POL (petroleum, oil, & lubricant) facility.

On June 21, Kasler learned of the impending strike and began to select pilots, draw up the precise navigation plans, and studying Hanoi’s formidable aerial defenses. North Vietnam had the strongest anti-aircraft defenses in history: over 7,000 AA guns of 37mm or larger, and batteries of radar-controlled SAM’s ringing Hanoi.

By midnight on the 28th, their plans were complete, down to detailed route charts, folded accordion-style. Minutes before the 0830 mission briefing, Kasler was invited to lead the mission, much to his surprise, and to the discomfort of Col. Holt, who otherwise would have led the large raid. The briefing focused on weather (clear) and winds (light and variable) – both perfect for fighter operations. Both wings, the 355th and the 388th, would approach the target from the south, to minimize the chances of a bomb ending up in the city of Hanoi. Each Republic F-105 Thunderchief carried eight 750-pound bombs.

Kasler rolled down the runway and lifted off at 235 knots. Airborne, he headed north for the rendezvous with the aerial tankers. They refueled uneventfully and were three minutes ahead of schedule. Kasler led the Thuds in a circle to kill the 180 seconds. Twenty minutes later, they were over the Red River and Kasler began to lose altitude, until they were 300 feet off the ground, at the base of “Thud Ridge,” the landmark mountain range that ran east-west across North Vietnam’s mid-section.

As they dropped tanks, they could see smoke rising up from the POL tanks, already hit by Navy jets. Flak blossomed all around them, even at 300 feet. The NVA gunners must have had their 85mm and 100mm pieces at zero elevation. Amidst the smoke from the target and puffs of anti-aircraft fire, Kasler called for afterburners and went into his bomb run. Big fat oil tanks filled his view; he dropped his bombs and rolled away to the right. Turning back, he saw the fuel tanks erupting into huge billowing fireballs, thousands of feet high.

His flight crossed the Red River and the flak gunners switched to fighter-bombers behind him. Flying west, looking for targets of opportunity, he found a convoy of twenty-five trucks. The Thuds blasted them with 20mm cannon fire, destroying at least half of them. He glanced back at Hanoi, now 35 miles behind. A pillar of black smoke towered up, over six miles high.

The Hanoi POL strike was very successful. Over 90 percent of the facility was destroyed and the Vietnamese abandoned it altogether.

On August 8, 1966, on his 91st combat mission, he was leading the formation when his wingman, Fred Flom was shot down. Kasler dropped down and flew low-level cover while awaiting the arrival of a combat rescue patrol. Running low on fuel with just enough to return to base, he instead hooked up with a KC-135 midair refueler and return to look for Flom.

Kasler’s F-105 was also shot down over North Vietnam that same day and captured by the North Vietnamese. He was a POW until 4 March 1973. So began six years and seven months of imprisonment by an enemy who knew exactly who he was and why to hate him.

Oddly, it was Kasler’s notoriety that saved his life, but it also exposed him to unspeakable torture. His captors gloated. They singled him out. They almost immediately put Kasler on television, so they couldn’t kill him without losing face, but they were particularly eager to force a confession or any capitulation, so great would have been its propaganda value.

It was testimony to the ferocity of the air war that another of Kasler’s closest friends, Lewis Shattuck, was shot down and rescued on Aug 1st and was shot down again, and this time captured, on Aug 11th. And that his friend John Brodak went down Aug 14th.

That’s three buddies down within 35 days of one another and serving as POWs from 1966 until 1973.

At one point, during the fall of 1967, Kasler’s captors took his clothes and his mosquito net. For three days, they denied him food and water and they beat his back and buttocks with a truck fan belt, every hour on the hour, 6 a.m. until 10 or 11 p.m.

He was tortured repeatedly by his Communist captors, in an effort to get him to cooperate with their propaganda claims. In the early years, the prisoners were kept in isolation and rarely let out of their cells. The Vietnamese used isolation, sleep deprivation, starvation, as well as physical pain to try to break Kasler down. His worst session came in June 1968:

“The Vietnamese were attempting to force me to meet a delegation and appear before TV cameras on the occasion of the supposed 30000th American airplane ever North Vietnam. I couldn’t say the things they were trying to force me to say. I was tortured for six weeks. I went through the ropes and irons ten times. I was denied sleep for five days and during three of these was beaten every hour on the hour with a fan belt. During the entire period I was on a starvation diet. I was very sick during this period. I had contacted osteomyelitis in early 1967 and had a massive bone infection in my right leg.

“They would wrap my leg before each torture session so I wouldn’t get pus or blood all over the floor of the interrogation room. During this time they beat my face to a pulp. I couldn’t get my teeth apart for five days. My ear drum was ruptured, one of my ribs broken and the pin in my right leg was broken loose and driven up into my hip.”

“I lay in agony for six months until I was given an operation in January of 1969.”
[Excerpted from pownetwork.org]

Kasler shared the infamous Room 7 of the “Hanoi Hilton” with other great heroes like Robinson Risner, James Stockdale, Bud Day, John McCain, Larry Guarino, and Jeremiah Denton. He never cooperated with the North Vietnamese and survived to return home in March, 1973, after six and one-half years in captivity.

For seven long years, his wife Martha, daughter Suzanne and twins Jim and Nanette awaited Kasler’s return from Vietnam. It came, joyfully and tearfully, on March 8, 1973 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

The twins were 12 when their father left for Vietnam. They were 19 when the family was reunited. Kasler momentarily mistook his son Jim for Suzanne’s husband, John Morris.

The confusion was understandable but short-lived. It is testimony to Kasler’s enormous strength, and that of Martha and the kids, that normalcy was incredibly, and almost immediately, restored.

In July 1974 Kasler was assigned as vice commander of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho and remained in that capacity until his retirement as aColonel on 1 May 1975, in spite of him being in line for an Air Wing command and a brigadier general’s star.

He spent the last 39 years of his life as a resident of Momence, an Illinois-Indiana border town where he owned South Shore Golf Course and had interests in banking and real estate, served on a number of boards and received a variety of civic and service awards.

He died on April 24, 2014, at the age of 87, in West Palm Beach, Florida. One obituary read, he joined what Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg called ‘our honored dead.’

Kasler’s former cell-mates at Hanoi Hilton, Lewis Shattuck and John Brodak, were in Indianapolis for the May 16, 2014 memorial service at Crown Hill Cemetery that saluted Kasler in death. It was a grim, gray day, but the rain eased and the sky brightened a bit for the F-15 Eagle flyover, when there was a lump in every throat and a tear in almost every eye. Kasler was more than a hero. He was a husband to Martha for 65 years, a father and grandfather.

At his funeral, John Brodak, his voice flush with feeling, said, ‘The colonel was my mentor and my hero, the most courageous man I’ve ever known. He was a fierce warriors and a patriot and I’m proud he called me his friend.’

Brodak is a retired Air Force colonel who flew with Kasler. And for 15 months of the six and a half years both were North Vietnamese prisoners of war, he was Kasler’s cellmate at ‘The Zoo’ and the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton.’

Kasler’s happiest occupation was Grandpa. His six grandchildren served as greeters at his Crown Hill memorial celebration. Each spoke.

One, Ashley Hurley, recalled grandpa’s infectious sense of humor and how, when she was little, he would get down on the floor with her and laugh and laugh.

James Kasler was nicknamed “Stoneface” by his Air Force peers, testimony to his toughness, his seriousness of purpose and his mission commitment. But men like Brodak and Shattuck, his wife Martha, kids and grandkids

11
Nov

Together We Served Launches “Save Our Stories” Campaign To Preserve Legacies of Military Veterans

This Veterans Day, Military Heritage Website Embarks on Special Mission to Save Our Veterans’ Stories

screenThis Veterans Day, Together We Served (TWS) – the leading online military heritage organization, with over 1.6 million U.S. military veteran service profiles, is sending a heartfelt S.O.S. to all family members of living military veterans. Together We Served’s “Save Our Veterans’ Stories” initiative is an unprecedented national campaign inviting family members to gather their veteran’s service history, memories, photographs, and memorabilia and preserve these for posterity on TogetherWeServed.org.

Each day, more than two thousand WWII, Korean War, Cold War and Vietnam War era veterans pass away, often taking their stories with them. Together We Served is in a race against time to help capture the service history and memories of these aging former servicemen and women before it is too late.

With the help of a fully illustrated guide, creating a veteran’s military service page on TogetherWeServed.org has been designed to be an easy and rewarding experience. Once completed, each veteran’s service page contains his or her photo in uniform, entire service history, plus all medals, badges, insignia and sosphotographs presented in a unique, “shadow box” format which can be printed, framed, and shared via a personal web-link. Also included, is a self-interview called “Service Reflections” which helps veterans recall the people and events that shaped their lives forever.

“The legacy of the men and women who served our country are some of our most precious national resources,” said Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam veteran, HM2 Donald Ballard, USN.  “Together We Served is providing a great service to our veterans, their families, and our nation by providing a convenient place to capture these stories. This is living history that must be preserved.”

“The stories that we’ve collected never cease to amaze me,” said TWS’s Chief Administrator and Navy veteran, Diane Short. “I’ve helped several veterans complete their military service page and some of the photos and memories we have saved are truly heartwarming.”

Together We Served also provides a unique opportunity for family members to bond with their veteran on a different, more emotional basis. “My children often asked me about my time in the service, and I never quite knew where to start,” said Vietnam Veteran and twice Silver Star recipient, LtCol Mike Christy, USA Ret. “My military service page on Together We Served not only made it easy for me to record what I did in the military, but it also gave me peace of mind knowing that my story will be read by my grandchildren and future generations long after I’m gone. I was a combat veteran — being able to open up in this way after so many years of bottling up memories has been a truly cathartic experience.”

To assist family members and veterans with any questions, Together We Served operates an online help desk on its website, manned entirely by disabled veterans, that is available seven days a week.

If you have a military veteran in your life, please go to TogetherWeServed.org today and join this important national campaign to Save Our Veterans’ Stories.

For further information contact:

Diane Short
Email: admin@togetherweserved.com
Phone: 888-398-3262

ABOUT TOGETHER WE SERVED

Run by veterans for veterans, Together We Served (TWS) is the largest exclusively military resource for U.S. military veterans to reconnect with those they served with and create a lasting legacy of their military service. Launched in 2003 as a military heritage website for connecting U.S. Marines, Together We Served has expanded to five websites, serving veterans of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard. Together We Served is free to join, and aims to capture the service stories of more than 5 million veterans over the next five years. www.togetherweserved.org

Video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fXlpfQBUoI

9
Nov

ET2 Max McHatton U.S. Coast Guard (1974-1978)

Read the service reflections of US Coast Guardsman:

profile1ET2 Max McHatton

U.S. Coast Guard

(Served 1974-1978)

Shadow Box:http://coastguard.togetherweserved.com/profile/1295

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?

When I was young, I lived in the Northern Sacramento Valley, near the Sacramento River. When the Sacramento River flooded the entire area; the Coast guard sent H-52 helicopters to rescue people. That greatly impressed me. My Grandfather served as an electricians mate in the Navy in WW I. Two of my uncles served in WW II; and one was a Navy fighter pilot. He was my Hero. I anted to b a Navy fighter pilot too. But at 6′ 3″, I was told I was too tall to be a fighter pilot. My father served in the Army in Korea, in a special unit, that required him to work with all other branches of military, including NATO forces.

Of all of the military units he served with; he held the US Coast Guard in the highest regard. I rejected multiple offers of an appointment to West Point; as I did not want to be an infantry officer in Vietnam.I applied, and made the list of approximately 10,000 qualified candidate, for the Coast Guard Academy; but my SAT scores were not in the top 300; so I was not selected. I wanted a technical education, as I enjoyed studying electricity in 4H and physics. None of the scholarships I was offered were for engineering schools. So I chose to join the Coast Guard, with a guaranteed ET school.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?

I really enjoyed ET schools. I was in the top 1% of my class. I chose Radar as my career path; partly because it was the longest, and arguably the most difficult school; and partly because of my fighter pilot uncle’s advice. Soon after starting my assignment to the Rush,
I was the only Radar ET. It was very challenging; and I love a challenge. In the Coast Guard, As a Radar Technician, I learned very marketable skills.

Throughout my four years on active duty, with the exception of in Alaska and the Aleutians, civilians, including those we rescued, treated us very disrespectfully. On my last rescue mission, the Captain of the commercial fishing vessel, after we suppressed the fire, and towed him to the station and inspected his vessel, spat on us and called us baby killers. I was angry, and decided not to risk my life again, for people that despised me.

While still on active duty, I was offered many jobs; including an offer from Raytheon; after I installed the first SPS-67V, and figured out how to make it operate correctly. However, I chose to work for the Federal Aviation Administration, as a Radar and Automation Specialist. I loved working on Radars and Mainframe ATC Computers. It was the Coast Guard that provided me the opportunity, training and experience, that paved the way for my job in the FAA. I considered Coast Guard Reserves, and was offered OCS. However, the FAA would not allow me to be a reservist, as my job was critical.

IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.

While I was on the RUSH, we performed Fisheries Law Enforcement, Multiple SAR missions, Fire Fighting and enforced Maritime Salvage Law. When a Soviet Fishing Trawler ran aground while illegally fishing, and refused to allow an American tug or the Coast Guard to salvage the vessel, the RUSH was calledupon for a show of force.

On one ALPAT, the Soviets had a submarine dog us, in an attempt to prevent us from catching the Soviet Fishing Fleet illegally fishing. Multiple times, we detected the sub, went to condition AS1, and engaged the sub, driving it off.

When we engaged one Soviet fishing fleet, we observed one trawler that was not fishing, and had an unusually high number of antennas. Captain Gannaway decided to board that trawler. Each time we attempted to maneuver alongside it, the Soviets would react by having one or more trawlers change course, requiring us to change course, to yield the right of way. Several times, one of the trawlers even cut loose it’s net, to allow it to maneuver. The Soviets were determined that we would not board that trawler that appeared to be gathering electronic intelligence.

After many hours of playing the Soviets cat and mouse game, Captain Gannaway ordered the the RUSH to GQ, fired up the turbines and at high speed maneuvered the ship into position to board the suspicious trawler. The Soviets weren’t happy with us and even threatened the boarding team. A 1911 aimed at the face of the belligerent Russian calmed him down.

A memorable mission was when we received orders to aid the Storis in fighting a fire in an Aleut village. We made turns to arrive on scene as soon as possible. It was dark when we arrived on scene, and the Storis was already there. The bay was full of debris, and the dock was ablaze. We launched both 25′ mlb’s, equipped with pumps, to suppress the fire on the dock, and to clear a path for the ship to dock. The 25’s were supplying water to the underside of the dock, as the ship suppressed the fires on top of the dock. Once we were in position to tie up to the dock, Damage Control Teams deployed to fight the fires. The fires had already destroyed a power-plant a cannery and multiple warehouses; and were threatening the only remaining power-plant. It was winter, and bitterly cold, so loss of the power-plant would be life threatening to the residents. Eventually, most of the RUSH’s crew were involved in putting out, and keeping out the fires. We fought all night, and saved the village. We and the Storis saved many lives together. The residents were very grateful.

While I was on the RUSH, we also rescued two US fishing vessels in distress, one Japanese long-liner and one ditched aircraft.

I saw some big waves, high winds and sub zero temperatures. I also saw amazing wildlife. In one very bad storm, with 60′ waves, 90 10 120 knot winds, and -50 degree temp; we rescued the Sea Hawk. We lost most of our antennas in that storm. I was aloft, rigging a replacement long-wire antenna, when the top-rail of the forward port yardarm broke at one end, with me attached. That scared the crap out of me. The event later gave me material for an “A” on an English paper in college.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

My fondest memories from my time in the Coast Guard, were from the Rush, and at Station Depot Bay; when serving as the ET for Station Yaquina Bay, Yaquina Head Lighthouse and Station Depot Bay.

There are two high points in my memories on the Rush. The first was when Captain Gannaway invited me to dine with him, and discuss what I needed to get the SPS-67V working correctly. He had me sit in the XO’s chair, and the XO was seated next to me, on the other side. I was an ET3. I don’t think the XO liked that. The second was when my Chief, SCPO House made breakfast to order for me in the Chief’s Mess. Wow!

The least favorite experience was when they needed a crewman for a 44 MLB, in Yaquina Bay, to rescue a commercial fishing boat that was on fire and sinking. I was thrilled to be directly involved with a successful rescue. That is, until after we tied the boat up at the pier, and were performing a safety inspection. The skipper spit on me and called me a “Baby killer”.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

I rescued the beer, when fighting an industrial fire on one of the Aleutian Islands. Both the Rush and the Storris took part in the firefighting. It’s a long story. The CO of the RUSH, Captain Ted Gannaway was a great man and a great Skipper. If you look inthe dictionary for Salty Dog; you will see his photo.

Saving lives was a great feeling. In Alaska, we were welcome, respected and appreciated; unlike in the lower 48.

My last rescue was out of Yaquina Bay Station, Newport, Oregon. We rescued a commercial fishing vessel that was on fire. We put out the fire, pumped out the water and towed the vessel to the station. When inspecting the vessel; we discovered the only fire extinguisher was not used, as it was empty; and there were no flotation devices on the vessel. When we informed the vessel’s captain, he got outraged, started cussing at us, spitting on us and calling us “Baby killer”. I wanted to take him out; but the wise Chief Boatswain’s Mate put his hand on my chest and shook his head. I walked away.

That incident made up my mind to leave my beloved Coast Guard. I didn’t want to continue to risk my life for people that seemed to hold me in contempt.

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? 

Saving lives was very rewarding. I am proud of the Meritorious Unit Citation with O device, we were rewarded when I was on the RUSH. A brand new Surf Rescue Survival Suit with my name on it, was presented to me at Depot Bay Station. It was a high honor; especially considering that I was just the ET that never went on a mission with them. But they were very thankful to me; because before me, they had only handheld radios that were operational. I spent many long hours, in all weather, repairing or replacing all of the electronics on both of their 44′ MLB’s. I only wore the suit once, but I was very proud and honored to wear it.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

Meritorious Unit Citation with O device and Brand new Surf Rescue Survival Suit with my name on it.

The ribbon for lives saved under perilous conditions. The Surf Rescue Suit for appreciation and respect.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

Captain Ted Gannaway. He was the pinnacle of Commanding Officers. He loved his ship, his crew, and his missions. If Webster’s was going to include Salty Dog in it’s dictionary; it would have Captain Gannaway’s photograph.

Senior Chief William House was one of the finest human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. He was a true Southern gentleman. He was ethical and honorable. He cared greatly for the men under his charge.

PLEASE RECOUNT THE NAMES OF FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH, AT WHICH LOCATION, AND WHAT YOU REMEMBER MOST ABOUT THEM. INDICATE THOSE YOU ARE ALREADY IN TOUCH WITH AND THOSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE CONTACT WITH.

I am now old and in-firmed. My memory is not as it once was. I remember all of the faces of those I served with. I even remember voices and mannerisms, but I don’t remember all of the names.

Of the names I do remember, the ones I remember were Robert J. Hughes, Eugene Gonzales, Brian Barbaris, Kevin Beldin, Kevin Johnson, William House, Juan Gonzales, Jeff Trimmer, Doug Schaepe, Chief Garcia,

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?

I worked as a Radar, Automation and communications Specialist for 15 years. I then went into management. I now have multiple work related disabilities, and work part time as an Administrator and Safety Officer for the FAA. I am also the Squadron Safety Officer, and Assistant Aerospace Education Officer for the US Air Force Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?

American Legion, Patriot Guard Riders and Yakima Warrior Association.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

The Coast Guard started me on a challenging and rewarding career path. Because of my service in the Coast Guard, I never again thought I was working too hard or too long. In the Coast Guard, I learned the values of respect, discipline, honor, service and sacrifice.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE COAST GUARD?

Choose a career path that teaches marketable skills.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.

Through Together We Served I have been able to reconnect with old shipmates, No one else understands my experiences except another veteran.

%d bloggers like this: