Glad to see that the unemployment rate for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has fallen to 7.6 percent, below the overall national unemployment rate that now stands at 8.3 percent. Hope this progress continues.
Every year, as Memorial Day approaches, my thoughts drift back to a little town in Nebraska. Other than those who live in or near this place, few ever heard of a little town named, Bruning.
My first encounter came when our group of control tower operators was assigned to a new base in Nebraska. Remote is an understatement. As we entered the area, we saw a small sign reading, Bruning, population, 232. It hasn’t grown much. Googling the town on my computer, I learned that in 2,010, the population was 279.
By Ralph Christopher
Around noon on Nov. 8, 1968, Chief Theodore Smith was leading a patrol with boat captains James Mildenstein on PBR 841 and Bloss on PBR 755, when they received a radio message to proceed to the Nga Ba River. The place, the Thi Vai - Go Ghia area, was known as a Viet Cong stronghold and had been the site of many enemy ambushes in the past. Smith was directed to steam up a narrow stream with his two patrol boats and act as a blocking force for Vietnamese commandos and their Marine advisers, who had been inserted by Army helicopters earlier in the day.
Upon graduating high school, I snuck to Yuma, Ariz., to marry my sweetheart, Wilma, on June 6, 1943. I was only 19. But the next few years would be very different for me, as I was drafted into the Armed Forces in October that year. I reported to Fort Sill, Okla., then was transferred to Camp Wolters, Texas, where I trained for the U.S. Army Infantry for six weeks.
Next thing I knew, on my first wedding anniversary, I was on the high seas, looking at the beaches of Normandy in France.
I was on my first tour of duty as a Marine drill instructor at MCRD San Diego. Orders came down from Headquarters Marine Corps, as requested by the mother of Lance Cpl. Donald L. Bennett.
I had put him through boot camp a year earlier. I remembered him because at one of the mail calls, he had received a large box of home baked cookies from his mother and I made him share them with the other recruits and made the statement, "if you get anymore cookies or cakes from home, my favorite is chocolate!"
Well, I had forgotten that statement by the time the platoon graduated.
I entered the U.S. Air Force under the opposition of my mother - Oh, she was angry! However, I stood at the Greyhound station in downtown Youngstown, Ohio, in the early hours of Aug. 20, 1971. My best friend, Al, also joined me as we rode the bus to Cleveland and took the oath.
I never looked back after that day. The next several years were good years, not a bad day - except the day I prayed to God that if He got me through this I would be in His service forever!
D-Day, June 6, 1944, Omaha Beach, Normandy.
Staff Sgt. Robert Brant, U.S. Army, started his journey across France and ended it in the Rhineland a year later. He was then in the Army of Occupation until the magic point sent him home to be with his wife and new son (born May 4, 1944).
He didn't talk about the war very often. Neither did my Uncle Dick, U.S. Navy, or my adopted Uncle Hank (Army Air Corps. P-47 pilot). Although Hank was not my grandmother's son, she raised him along with my dad and his four brothers.
I’ve wanted to say thank you for some time now. In my Marine Corps travels, I’ve buried veterans, retirees and Marines killed in action. All totaled, there were over 300 Marines. I never once got to say thank you.
In my nearly 26 years of service to our nation I never went in harm's way, a subject that bothers me to this day. Not by choice, but by design. During my last three years of service I was assigned as a casualty officer, a duty I would not wish on anyone.
This was stressful and probably the most difficult of duties and it was certainly the most necessary.
A longtime member of American Legion Post 1 of Omaha, Neb., John Dickinson started his Legion affiliation when he was a delegate to South Dakota Boys State in 1942. He needed money to buy the new pair of pants he wanted. So he drove to Fort Omaha and joined the Marine Reserves. They paid $50 a month.
“I paid for that decision,” Dickinson said. “I didn’t know there was going to be another war!” He was one of approximately 404,000 Americans who fought in both World War II and Korea, according to a researcher at the Korean War National Museum.
ENLISTED AT BARKSDALE AIR BASE SEPT. 17, 1940. DISCHARGED AT CAMP SHELBY OCT. 5, 1945, AS S/SGT. LEFT FOR AUSTRALIA JAN. 31, 1942. ARRIVED BRISBANE GUEENLAND, AUSTRALIA FEB 27, 1942. MOVED TO CHARTER TOWER, QUEENSLAND FEB 10, 1942. MOVED TO PORT MORSBY, NEW GUINIA, NOV. 1943. MOVED TO NABNAZ, NEW GUINEA. JULY 1944. MOVED TO CLARK FIELD, PHILLIPINES AUG. 1945. SERVED MY ENTIRE TIME IN THE 47TH. SERVICE SQDN.IN AUSTRAILA WE WERE CHARTER MEMBERS OF THE 5TH. AIR FORCE AND REMAINED IN THAT ASSIGNMENT UNTIL I WAS DISCHARGED.
SLOW HAND ED - A WW II PLANE CAPTAIN
VERBAL INTERVIEW OCTOBER 9TH TO November 16, 2012 USING HIS NAVAL AVIATION LOG BOOK FROM THE SOUTH PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS
ED JOINED 8/1942 US NAVY – IN Boston, Mass
HE TRAVELED FROM RECRUITING CENTER BY TRAIN TO NEWPORT RODE ISLAND FOR SIX WEEKS OF TRAINING AT BOOT CAMP
UPON GRADUATION FROM BOOT CAMP HIS SCORES ON THE TESTING WON HIM A SELECTION TO ATTEND AERIAL GUNNERS SCHOOL AT MAINE SIDE NAS JACKSONVILLE, JACKSONVILLE FL.
I have many experiences very unusual in nature, but here is one I shall never forget:
I joined the Navy in March 1941 to be a flier. Well, I washed out on my 21st birthday.
Because I had good grades and the war was coming, the Navy gave me an ensign AVS.
My first assignment was as a parachute officer at Corpus Christi, Texas.
I’d like to begin with my family’s military service history:
My uncles Roscoe and Sterling Mathews served in France during World War I. Roscoe served with the Third Army. Uncle Sterling served with the Second English Battalion.
My two older brothers served in World War II: Ralph Mathews was killed in action June 6, 1944, at Normandy. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Charles Mathews served with the Third Division in France, where he was wounded.
My brother Richard served with the 24th Infantry Division in Korea.
Myself, I got drafted in 1960.
For Heroism in Combat: Vargas, John A
For heroism while participating in aerial flight, Specialist Four, John A. Vargas, distinguished himself by heroic action on May 19, 1967, in the Republic of Vietnam.
Specialist Vargas was serving as a door gunner on the lead aircraft of two armed helicopters performing a screening mission for a ground force in the Ho Bo Woods. While on a low level reconnaissance, the lead gunship came under intense ground fire and sustained multiple hits. Specialist Vargas was seriously wounded in the right arm and shoulder.
I am a Marine Corps Combat Veteran of the Korean War. I served in Korea from June 1952 thru July 1953. I served with Weapons Company, Anti-Tank Assault Platoon, 1st Bn, 1st Regt. For over 5 months I carried a 70 lb. flame thrower. This is one of the most devastating weapons of war ever conceived. I stood 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighed 158 lbs. I could not have accomplished this if I was not in the perfect physical shape that the Marine Corps molded me into. After the flame-thrower, I moved to a 3.5 rocket launcher, called a bazooka for several months.