Category Archives: Veteran Stories

Legacy and Sacrifice Live On 75 Years Later on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

by Kimberly A. Cook                       (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

The importance of military veteran stories grows with the passing of time. For those who have not experienced combat, military service or being in a war-torn country as a civilian, aid worker or journalist, the catastrophe of war can drift away like a mirage.

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Looking from the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri Memorial to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. I took these pictures in November 2012. This photo always gives me pause.

 

 

December 7, 2016 is the 75th Anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The U.S.S. Arizona lost 1,177 sailors and Marines from her crew that day. There were 333 U.S.S. Arizona survivors.

According to the Time Special Edition “Commemorating 75 Years since Pearl Harbor,” seventy-five years later only six of the sailors who survived the sinking are still alive. Four of the five of them hope to be at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial tomorrow to honor their fellow shipmates.

Some Pearl Harbor stories you might not know:

Doris Miller, an African American serving as a Cook Third Class in the segregated U.S. Navy, fought back manning a machine gun he had never been trained on when Japanese planes fired on the U.S.S. West Virginia. Miller received the Navy Cross for his actions. The first African American to receive the Navy Cross, he died in November 1943 when his next ship, the U.S.S. Liscome Bay, was torpedoed and sank.

“In four years at sea, I sat through 78 air attacks, but nothing was as frightening as the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Warren K. Taylor, ensign, U.S.S. Sumner in Time Special Edition.

The U.S.S. Oklahoma lost 429 sailors in the bombing. While being towed to California in 1947 after being lifted from Battleship Row, the ship was lost at sea. In 2007 the National Park Service opened a memorial to the ship and her crew on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.

After the bombing a total of 2,403 were killed or missing, half of them from the U.S.S. Arizona, and 1,178 service members and civilians were injured. All the U.S. casualties from sailors to civilians were listed as noncombatants since the U.S. was not in a state of war with Japan.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Congress passed public law 503 which ordered the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of them born in America. There was no due process of law for these United States citizens.

All proceeds from her autobiography, “Wherever You Need Me,” by Anna Busby, go to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial Fund. Busby was an Army Second Lieutenant in the Nurse Corps who witnessed the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field from the lanai at Tripler Hospital in Honolulu.

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The plaque on the U.S.S. Missouri’s teak deck where the surrender was signed. My Dad’s ship sailed past the Mighty Mo two days after the surrender signing in Tokyo Bay. He was part of the occupation forces first into Japan with the Army Air Corps. After she was discharged from the Marines, my Mom sailed into Tokyo Bay on a Liberty Ship to work as civilian staff for the Army Transportation Department for a year. Mom and Dad both sailed in and out of Pearl Harbor on their deployments.

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One of the U.S.S. Arizona’s three anchors. The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial and U.S.S. Missouri Memorial are in the background on the left.

 

“It’s so important that Americans don’t forget this day,” Donald Stratton, 94, Seaman First Class, U.S.S. Arizona.   

IMG_8920.JPGVisit the National Park Service’s World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument web site below.

http://www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm

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World War II Birds Take Flight In Madras, Oregon

by Kimberly A. Cook                  (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

Spent last week in Sisters and Madras, Oregon shopping, relaxing, digging thundereggs, and soaking in hot tubs. One fabulous exhibit we stumbled upon is the Erickson Aircraft Collection in Madras, Oregon.

Nestled in a refurbished World War II aircraft hangar at the Madras airport were more than twenty military aircraft complete with floor diapers for their oil leaks. They are still dripping oil since most of these rare birds are still flown on a regular basis.

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This B-17G is so big I could have backed up to the highway and still not get all of her in my wide angle lens. Notice the ball turret gunner “bubble” underneath. Very tight quarters.

Aircraft on display include a B-17G Bomber, P-51D Mustang, FM-2 Wildcat and even a ME-109 Messerschmitt. While wandering all around with my camera, I could not locate the Vought F4U Corsair, a favorite of my Dad’s. Found out it was in the shop for a tune up. Guess I will have to go back!

This collection started in the 1970’s by Jack Erickson and then his grandson Mike Oliver caught the airplane bug and serves as the General Manager of the Collection today. Pretty sure he might have been the one leading a tour of folks around the collection while we were there; the red Corvette parked out front a give away perhaps?

Since Madras served as a training base for B-17 pilots during World War II, it is the perfect place to host these fabulous machines. The stories of the men who flew these beauties were nicely displayed in the collection, especially since so many were local boys.

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USS Ranger magic strikes again. “Heavenly Body” is at Madras, Oregon. Priceless! 

The women were not left out either with the role they played building these machines on display. Since USS Ranger magic is everywhere, one of the photos featured the time a B-25J Mitchell flew off the USS Ranger in San Diego, CA harbor to commemorate the Doolittle Raid.

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Here she is!

Many of those Doolittle Raid pilots were drawn from the local area. Think USS Ranger was giving me a sign. If you get a chance, venture over and visit this amazing collection in Madras, Oregon.

Check them out at http://www.ericksoncollection.com

P.S. Did I mention there is an air show too? Must make another trip…..

 

 

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Honor With Remembrance Those We’ve Lost

by Kimberly A. Cook                    (Twitter@ WarriorTales)

While we go about this long weekend spending time with families and friends, we must remember why we have Memorial Day. That is the day the nation honors and remembers the men, women and military animals who have given their lives in defense of freedom.

We take time to honor and remember those who have given the greatest sacrifice since we became a nation. Take a few minutes this weekend to think about and thank those who gave all for our country. Say a prayer for their friends and families who go on without them.

There are thousands of individual stories of these brave military service members who didn’t come home to their loved ones. Below is one story of a veteran who honors our fallen every day by using his talent.

Stay safe this long weekend and enjoy your freedoms; they were earned at the highest cost. Freedom isn’t free.

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Happy Veterans Day U.S. Warriors

by Kimberly A Cook                (Twitter@   WarriorTales)

Tomorrow is Veterans Day and I wanted to say thank you to all my fellow veterans for their service. It’s nice to be remembered on a national holiday, but we are veterans every day. For veterans who return with medical and mental health issues, each day is another fight for them and their families and friends.

We don’t ask for parades and big ceremonies; we serve because we love our country and we took an oath to defend the United States against all enemies. Veterans have been hurt and injured during war, peace and in training. Saying thank you is enough, but for wounded and disabled warriors do what you can to help them throughout the year, especially supporting their family caregivers.

Serving changes us all. Even the four-legged vets. Thanks for remembering.

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Am I Me Only If The DMV Says So?

by Kimberly A. Cook            (Twitter@   WarriorTales)

I’ve always thought my eye doctor’s parking lot is the craziest to enter and exit when all of us patients with dilated eyes are trying to back up and drive safely when we can’t really see. That was until I tried going to the smaller DMV office since the big one is being remodeled.

Proof! I was out in 30 minutes. Ta Da! And NOBODY is seeing my new picture.

Proof! I was out in 30 minutes. Ta Da! And NOBODY is seeing my new picture.

First I couldn’t figure out how to get into the parking lot. What appeared to be the entrance had an out only arrow. The road I was driving on immediately turned into a dead end with a loopty-loop.

Sling-shoting out the back side of the loopty-loop, I spotted the side street where I needed to take a left hand turn to enter the street then another one to get in the parking lot.

I avoid left-hand turns like the plague, but now I had two in a row. Once I made it into the parking lot I had to stop just two spaces in. Thought I’d entered a demolition derby site. In front of me two cars were trying to back out of spaces at the same time while a yellow-shirted pedestrian who seemed to have no peripheral vision whatsoever stood behind them.

While all I could do was raise my eyebrows, I could tell the backer uppers were newby drivers since they were going three miles per hour backwards. The pedestrian finally noticed the black SUV trying to back over her and moved to the left, directly behind the second car backing up at two miles per hour.

I spotted an open parking space ahead while gangs of new pedestrians walked blindly from their cars across my lane and into the area where folks were waiting for driving tests with their cars. Yellow-shirted gal was roaming in that area so I thought she was either a driver or a tester. I’d actually been looking forward to renewing my driver’s license since the DMV is an awesome place to observe people. My writer heart was so excited and all of this parking lot drama was messing up my mojo.

Finally got parked and inside the building. Didn’t kill or maim anyone. I ‘m pretty sure. Saw the take a number machine. Got number 100 and they were on 85. Score! Waiting time, but not too much, just enough to snoop. Noticed one man having a tantrum about some paperwork license plate issue and the supervisor had come up to help the clerk. You know that’s never good for the citizen when the reinforcements show up.

Then I noticed a sign for the Express Line next to him. How does one get into the Express Line? There was a receptionist after the number machine, but the sign above her said to come up in the order of your numbers if you had questions. Well, the Kaiser Pharmacy staff has trained me well, so I get a number, sit down and wait. By the time I figured out maybe I was supposed to go to the receptionist after all, they called my number.

I haven’t renewed my license since the whole prove who you are rules went into effect, so I’d brought almost every piece of ID I own. I’d raided the fire safe and had my original Social Security card, my Passport, my two DD-214s to get the veteran designation put on my license, my driver’s license and the filled out renewal form from online. I knew I was golden.

“You have a PO Box,” said the clerk.

“Yes,” I replied.

“I’ll need to see a piece of ID with your street address on it, like a utility bill.”

Only piece of ID I didn’t have with me and could not produce. Even if I went back home. “But I have a PO Box since I got hit with ID theft and my utility bill goes to the PO Box,” I replied.

“But I need to see that because you’ve moved.”

“I’ve moved?” By this time I really thought I was losing it. Maybe I had moved without my knowledge.

“You have a sticker,” she said and pointed to my old Driver’s License.

“But I’ve been at the same address since 1998.” I really was having trouble grasping what was happening.

“Oh, let’s check your past licenses.”

Let’s do that, I thought to myself. Teamwork!

“We’re good, you’ve got the same address on your past licenses.”

Big release of tension on my part. I hadn’t moved without my permission. Seems my change of address sticker on my old driver’s license made her assume I had moved but I’d only added the PO Box. She then checked my DD-214.

“Thank you for your service,” she said.

“Sure.” I never know what to reply when people say that to me. “You’re welcome” doesn’t seem quite right and “anytime” is not coming out of my mouth either; twice was enough, thanks.

Got through my eye test fine, paid my money, went to the photo chair and promptly found out I had to have my glasses off for the picture. Rats! I wanted my new purple glasses in my driver’s license photo. I also would’ve put on some eye makeup if I knew my peepers were going to be naked on my license for ten years. Without eye shadow and my glasses I bear a striking resemblance to a ferret. Yikes!

Picture taken, temporary license given and back out the door to try and navigate out of the wacky parking lot. I feel really sorry for the new driver’s in Oregon. Forget the written and driving tests, you’re never going to make it into the parking lot!

P.S. I got the veteran designation put on my driver’s license so I can get discounts at Joann’s and Fred Meyers. Goal!

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Have A Safe And Thoughtful Memorial Day Weekend

by Kimberly A. Cook                 (Twitter@    WarriorTales)

This Friday I wanted to let you know about an amazing place called Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. While most folks know the iconic images of this hallowed ground, to me it’s the honor and reverence by The Old Guard (3d US Infantry Regiment) and the cemetery staff that most folks don’t see that is truly respectful.

The first video shows The Old Guard performing the “Flags In” they do every year for Memorial Day, putting flags on every grave site on the more than 600-acre cemetery to remember and honor those at Arlington. The second is an hour-long National Geographic television special about Arlington National Cemetery and The Old Guard.

Have a wonderful long weekend for those of us not working this weekend. A thank you to those military and law enforcement personnel on duty across the globe so we can honor the sacrifice of our fallen this weekend. Be happy, be safe and hug somebody and your pets this weekend. Freedom isn’t free.

Here is the link to the National Geographic Special “Arlington: Field of Honor.”

https://youtu.be/EyOSpMjwZps

 

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Take A Moment To Remember On Memorial Day

by Kimberly A. Cook                  (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

Next Monday is Memorial Day and many of us will be off work. In this age of Memorial Day sales and the rush out-of-town for a long weekend, take a few moments to reflect on what Memorial Day is really all about.

The Vietnam Wall at night on November 5, 2005, in Washington, D.C. The blue folder contains the War Stories I left there from my veteran writing students.

The Vietnam Wall at night on November 5, 2005, in Washington, D.C. The blue folder contains the War Stories I left there from my veteran writing students.

This national holiday was put into law to remember and honor the sacrifices of the men and women who died while in military service. It is also a time we can remember those who have served and passed on after war and peace. It’s also a time to honor and never forget those who never came home and are still Missing In Action or Prisoners of War, their fate never to be known.

Thumbing through the back newspapers from my vacation on Sunday, I came across an article that one of my former veteran writing students, Phillip Leveque, had passed at the age of 92. Phillip was a character in every sense of the word and never failed to entertain us all with his stories and brought tears to our eyes when telling the truth about his service during World War II.

He served with the 89th Infantry Battalion as a Battalion Scout and earned the Combat Infantry Badge. As he told it, “he walked from Luxembourg to near Dresden mostly under fire.”

In Oregon he is better known as the “Pot Doc,” a name he preferred to be remembered by as he introduced medical marijuana to Oregon and later lost his license issuing cards for users. In a news story in February of this year while he was on hospice he stated he was “very proud” that medical marijuana would be legal in Oregon this July, especially for veterans with level five and above PTSD.

It was an honor to coach Phillip for three years in my class and read his stories. Later he published his own book of war stories and I wish I had a copy. Life goes by quickly enough, so on this Memorial Day take a few moments to remember the men, women and military animals who gave their all to keep this country free.

Then go have a great picnic and celebrate the day in honor of those who are no longer with us. I know they are with us in spirit and would want us to play and have fun with family and friends, because those are the most important things in life after all. So raise a hot dog, beer or s’more in toast to them all on Memorial Day.

Those we’ve lost are watching from the true high ground and will be cheering us on. Land of the free, because of the brave.

Special Note: For all those now riding across the country on Run For The Wall to participate in Rolling Thunder in Washington, D.C. the day before Memorial Day, God Speed and ride safe.

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