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Honoring Veterans

Servicemen proud of their career accomplishments Page 2

November 2016

A supplement to the Whidbey News-Times

Thank you to all our military personnel

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Honoring the veterans among us Michael Black. A vocalist will also perform the As communities across the nation national anthem. Mulkey said honor our veterans Nov. 11, Oak that state Sen. Barbara Bailey and Harbor will join in and hold several Oak Harbor City Councilman Jim celebrations. Campbell plan to attend. One of those celebrations will While the event honors all veterans involve 62 veterans living in one of of all wars past and present, Mulkey the city’s retirement communities. emphasised the importantance of “It’s really important to us,” said honoring WWII veterans. Sandra Mulkey, community ambassa“We are losing them at an astonishdor with Regency on Whidbey. ing rate,” she said. “If it were not for the veterans, we “We just lost our last Battle of would not enjoy the liberties we have Midway survivor.” today.” Mulkey said it is important to our Regency plans to have its own cercommunity and culture to honor the emony Friday and hand out certificates to all its veterans and surviving sacrifices of our veterans. She also added that wives made many sacrificspouses. es as well and took to learning tasks Colors will be presented by the and duties normally performed by Oak Harbor High School Naval men such as learning to make houseJunior Reserve Officer Training hold repairs. Corps as well as a reading of Old Mulkey spoke of a different time Glory by NJROTC Commander By MICHAEL WATKINS

mwatkins@whidbeynewsgroup.com

and culture when everyone pitched in for the cause making many small sacrifices. One such sacrifice Mulkey remembers was, as a little girl, she had a metal train that she loved to sit in. “My dad came home one day and said we needed to donate it for scrap to help contribute to the war effort,” she said. “It was just a very different time when people seemed to come together more than they seem to nowdays,” she said. In honor of this year’s Veteran’s Day ceremony, two World War II veterans are sharing their stories with the community. Army Sgt. Major Mike Russo and Air Force 1st Lt. Capron Coe are just two men who, according to them, reluctantly volunteered to go into the spotlight.

Honoring All Who Served

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MICHAEL RUSSO

Michael Russo, 89, from New York, served his country for nearly 25 years on active duty and 10 years in the reserves achieving the highest enlisted rank of E-9. Russo served in Europe during WWII, Korea and Vietnam. His wishes were to join the war effort at 17 years old, but his mother would not allow it as his father was lost at sea in 1940 when his ship was torpedoed in the Mediterranean. “I’m not going to lose both my men to the sea,” his mother said. Russo said he awaited the nation’s call and was later drafted into the Army. Originally assigned as an infantryman and grunt, he later became a combat photographer to America’s top brass. Upon being drafted at the tail end of WWII, Russo trained at Fort Pickett in Virginia for an invasion that would never take place on Kyushu, one of Japan’s most southern islands. “They woke us up a 2 a.m. and had us exchange

our tropical uniforms for OD (olive drab) greens and fed us,” Russo said. “We knew we weren’t going to Japan,” he said. Russo said he never saw the West Coast and was boarded onto a troop ship destined for France in 1946. Upon arrival, Russo said he and the other men were loaded onto wooden box cars know as “40 and eights,” or 40 men or eight horses, and then shipped by train into Germany for occupation duty. Russo said he was standing watch one cold night in Germany guarding boxcars and was thinking there had to be something better. Russo saw a bulletin soliciting photo experience for the base newspaper. He applied and was approved to pursue his new calling. Russo learned the rudiments of photography and went on to become the regimental photographer and even ran the movies for the base theater. This was the start of a long prosperous career for Russo. He later

Thank You, Veterans

Photo by Michael Watkins/Whidbey News-Times

Michael Russo proudly holds two photographs he took over his career. On the left is a photo of Gen. Matthew Ridgway and right, a photo of comedian Bob Hope.

deployed to Korea where he was assigned to a photo reconnaissance unit where he would handle imagery from the SR-71 Blackbird and U-2 spy planes. After Korea, Russo once again answered the nation’s call and was deployed to Vietnam where he worked in

some of the first mobile processing facilities. These were clean rooms that could ionize water to produce photographic chemistry to develop and process thousands of feet of film. These units would eventually be deployed worldwide. Russo said, “I am no hero, I was just there.”

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When discussing the importance of honoring veterans, Russo cited a quote from an unknown author on a tombstone that best sums up his feelings. The inscription read, “When you go home, tell them today I gave my tomorrows for your todays.”

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CAPRON COE

Capron Coe, 94, from Lincoln, Neb., spent nearly five years as a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber pilot in the 8th Air Force. Coe was going to school for geology at the University of Nebraska, butsaid he knew he would eventually get drafted so he wanted to join a service where he could have his bed with him. “I never wanted to sleep in the dirt or be a foot soldier,” Coe said. At the end of the day, he joined the Air Force although at the time he had no interest in airplanes. Coe said he had been around an airplane only one time and that was when he took a ride in a Ford Tri-motor. Coe reported for basic training at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis and had put in an application for flight training, but had not been accepted at the time he arrived for basic training. As luck would have it, Coe said he was accepted and started primary flight training

“You just have to keep your mind on your job.” Capron Coe, WWII veteran

in Tulare, Calif. Primary flight training had its dangers, Coe said. Pilots would solo after only six flights with a trainer. One of his bunkmates went up for his first solo flight and inadvertently entered low cloud cover. That was the end for him when his plane crashed to the ground. Coe’s aspirations were to be a fighter pilot, but he was too tall. He said he would have loved to have flown any of the fighters at the time but eventually found comfort in the B-17 at the age of 23. “It just felt safe to be in,” said Coe. Coe said it was not just the plane that gave him comfort, but also the fact he had been

a Christian since he was 12 years old. His faith in God and the airplane made him feel safe and unafraid. Coe said that at one time, his plane came back with 30 bullet holes and as many as 15 holes in and out, but not one member of his crew was injured. Coe said he flew the last mission to bomb Berlin just as Adolph Hitler committed suicide putting an end to the war in Europe. “You just have to keep your mind on your job,” he said. After the war, Coe went back to college and earned a degree in business and interior design. Coe said he owned a number of small private planes throughout the years that he used to get around for business travel and leisure, making the world a little bit smaller. Photo by Michael Watkins/Whidbey News-Times

Joe Capron poses for a photo in his home at Regency on Whidbey in Oak Harbor.

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The annual Veterans Day Parade in Oak Harbor may have been cancelled, but veterans will still be honored thanks to the Oak Harbor Navy League. The Navy League will conduct its yearly Veterans Day Program at the Oak Harbor High School according to Steve Bristow, the league’s president. The event will take place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to commemorate the original Armistice Day agreement marking the end of WWI in 1918. Kent Peckenpaugh, the event organizer said this will mark the 12th year of the community-wide event, which is sponsored by the Oak Harbor Area Council and the Navy League Peckenpaugh said each year communities across the United States honor those who have served our country, under the broad theme of “Honoring our Nation’s Heroes.” This year’s ceremony will feature musical performances by the Oak Harbor High School Harbor Singers and the Oak Harbor High School Jazz Band, The Oak Harbor High School NJROTC

2015 file photo

Active duty servicemen and civilians gathered at Oak Harbor High School last year for the annual Veterans Day celebration put on by Oak Harbor Navy League and Oak Harbor Area Council.

Color Guard will present the colors as they have for many years. The guest speaker will be Navy Capt. Brett Mietus, commodore of Patrol-Reconnaissance

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Common sacrifice connects Whidbey Island veterans It was a common sacrifice that connects World War II veterans Merle “Milo” Milfs of Langley and Freeland resident George Clark. Each gave up a significant chunk of their young adult lives to defend the freedom of the United States as it fought a two-front war against the Axis powers in the early to mid-1940s. What they got in return, they said, was the pride of knowing their cause was ultimately just. Like many others, Milfs joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941, while Clark served in the U.S. Army Air Corps (later transformed into the Air Force) from 1939 to 1945. “It took a big hunk out of my life as a young, married man,” Clark said. The pair meet on a monthly basis at the Masonic Lodge in Langley and share stories and experiences. Even during a gathering Monday morning at Clark’s home in Freeland, there were new tales to share. Among other things, they talked about Dec. 7, a day that transformed both the course of U.S. history and the two men’s lives, and the unity they felt with their fellow comrades. Clark also expressed concern about the current state of the country. “Frankly speaking, I’m so deeply con-

cerned with the direction our nation is going right now,” Clark said. “Lack of choice in presidencies, and I never really thought I’d be so worried about a country as I am now.” Milfs and Clark also shared some insights of mortality. Both felt they were spared the fate of many of their friends and countrymen who died in the war, as they were away from fighting on the ground. The memories of the dead won’t be far from their minds on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. “Almost everytime, I think about my buddies,” Milfs said. “Some of them were killed.” Milfs, a 95-year-old Langley resident, commanded LCT-1037, an amphibious assault craft used to land tanks on beachheads. His proudest experiences came when he took part in Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s landing force in the Phillipines to help liberate American civilians and servicemen from prisoner of war camps. Among the people rescued was his former high school friend from his hometown of Le Mars, Iowa, who was being held at Santo Tomas Internment Camp after her husband was killed by the Japanese. Though he never had a chance to see her after her rescue, Milfs was happy to know MacArthur’s force helped bring her and others home.

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Merle “Milo” Milfs (left) and George Clark (right), both World War II veterans, gathered in Clark’s home in Freeland to discuss their service and experiences.

“That was very satisfying,” Milfs said. It wasn’t always so. Milfs saw his hometown friend Bill Ullum lose a leg after being struck with shrapnel from an enemy mortar round. Aleman was was taken to a hospital ship to recover from his wounds, but it was later bombed by the Japanese. Milfs thought he was dead. That was until a chance encounter while both were attending the University of Southern California reconnected them. Milfs happened to be walking around the campus when he saw a man limping, who he later recognized as his friend Ullum “We spent the rest of the night talking to each other,” Milfs said. “That was a pretty touching experience.” Before going overseas Clark flew radio-controlled aircraft that served as the forerunners of drone aircraft used heavily in today’s modern warfare. He eventually made his way to the Pacific Theater and flew combat missions with the Thirteenth Air Force, which later earned the nickname “Jungle Air Force.” Clark remembered when a U.S. airplane in Clark’s unit was forced to make a crash landing into the ocean after it had ran out of fuel. Clark’s crew and plane volunteered for a search-and-rescue mission, but after seven days they

were forced to abandon it. Clark said he and his crew-members had the grim task of gathering the lost crew’s belongings to send home. Seeing pictures of their girlfriends and wives made the task even harder. Then they heard some commotion at the far end of their camp. It was the crew of the downed aircraft. Clark said they had made a successful landing in the water, gone ashore with life rafts and encountered a heavily populated Japanese fortification, then went back out to sea and spent the next week on the water before signaling a U.S. aircraft. “We had a wonderful celebration with those guys,” Clark said. “Talk about a love for man. It’s hard for people to realize.” Clark’s perplexity for why he survived and others did not still lingers. While visiting Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. with some family members in 2010, Clark found a bench to sit on and told his relatives that he would catch up with them later. In front of him lay a sea of thousands of headstones, the dead of the nation’s conflicts including World War II. He asked himself a simple question. “Why them and not me?”

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Forest Service waives fees Coupeville honoring veterans with in honor of Veteran’s Day annual ceremony of song and salute In honor of veterans, all Forest Service day-use sites across the nation are fee-free on Friday, Nov. 11. This includes trailheads, picnic areas and other day-use sites where a fee is normally charged. The fee-free program is in cooperation with other federal land management agencies under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. The Olympic National Forest encourages you to take advantage of this and other fee-free days throughout the year, to discover and enjoy public lands. Introduce newcomers to the variety of recreation activities available in National Forests, as well as an opportunity for the Forest Service to thank regular visitors for their continued enthusiasm and support. For ideas on where to go, view Olympic National Forest Recreation sites on an interactive map or contact one of our offices for information. To learn about some accessible sites and trails on the peninsula check out the forest service website showing accessible sites around the

The public is invited to Coupeville’s Annual Veterans Day Remembrance Ceremony 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11 at the Veterans Memorial Plaza next to the county courthouse in Coupeville. Veterans of the Armed Services will post the United States flag and their respective service flags start-

State Parks free day State Parks are also offering a fee free day, Friday, Nov. 11 at state parks in Washington state. No Discover Pass is required to enter. Free days apply only to day-use access by vehicle, not overnight stays or rented facilities.

Olympic Peninsula at www.fs.usda. gov/olympic/ The Forest Service also honors active duty military members yearround with the free Interagency Annual Military Pass honored at all Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sites charging entrance or standard amenity fees. Traditionally, fees are not charged on 98 percent of national forests and grasslands, and approximately twothirds of developed recreation sites in national forests and grasslands can be used for free. Many recreation opportunities such as camping, sightseeing and hiking can be enjoyed throughout the year at no cost.

ing at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, commemorating the armistice ending World War I. Coupeville Mayor Molly Hughes will host the event and the Shifty Sailors will present the songs of the service branches. Ceremony is outdoors, rain or shine.

A history lesson on Veterans Day World War I — known at the time as “The Great War” — officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the 11th month.” “For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.” In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the

following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m. The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926.

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THANK YOU VETERANS! We salute your brave service to our country.

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Special Sections - Honoring Veterans 2016  

i20161108130353358.pdf

Special Sections - Honoring Veterans 2016  

i20161108130353358.pdf