Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gorge Heroes Club Marine Mom Takes America to War

Marine Mom and Author RaeLynn Ricarte

Story written by: Kathy Ursprung from The Dalles Chronicle

The book “Living the Oath: Warriors Take It, Families Endure It” written by Marine mom and The Dalles Chronicle reporter RaeLynn Ricarte has 35 chapters and includes stories from 29 warriors and military family members. Following are excerpts of narratives by subjects with ties to The Dalles, Oregon: Chief Warrant Officer Dan Manciu, veteran of Vietnam and Operation Enduring Freedom: “If you are going to war, go to war. If you don’t want to go, then don’t go. But once you put people in harm’s way, they need to be able to fight and survive. No armchair quarterbacking. People back at home shouldn’t make judgment calls on what is happening in combat because they have never been called upon to live like an animal and watch their buddies get killed.” Manciu, a resident of The Dalles, was 58 and the oldest Air National Guard pilot in theater during a 2005 deployment to Afghanistan. He was shot down three times in the war zone and was shocked to learn that the baffling rules of engagement in the politically-charged Vietnam conflict had grown even more confusing in the post 9/11 wars.
Oregon National Guard Staff Sergeant Christian Bagge, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom: “I don’t think there’s a defining moment in your recovery. It’s definitely a lifelong challenge. I tell people who have been seriously wounded that their future is going to depend a lot on how much they want to fight for it.” Bagge and his wife, Melissa (Eagy), had only been married three months when he lost his legs on June 3, 2005, when a bomb exploded under the vehicle he was traveling in. After going through grueling months of agony to overcome his disability and learning to walk again, Christian and Melissa settled into a home in The Dalles and began raising a family. They moved to Parkdale in 2011 after Homes for Our Troops built a residence to accommodate his mobility challenges.
Army Dr. Mary Deighton, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn: “I think the year in Iraq taught me I can do anything. So much of life is about determination,” Deighton is learning to find peace after a 2010 deployment that involved exposure to numerous explosions and a brutal rape at the hands of a Jamaican national working for a private military contracting company. She grew up in Hood River, left the Army in 2012 to relocate to The Dalles and take a position with Mid-Columbia Medical Center. She joined the Oregon National Guard and recently moved to La Grande to pursue a relationship with another soldier.
Navy Corpsman Micky Cates, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom: “Being out in combat is just like the Wild West. Everyone has a gun, everyone has ammo and you don’t really trust anyone. You are always on edge and there is no chapter in your training that can mentally prepare you for what you are going to deal with out there.” Cates provided medical care in 2009 to Marines stationed at a remote base and tasked with stopping smuggling activity along the Syrian border. He carried everything he needed to care for traumatic battlefield injuries as well as foot and body rashes.
Daphne Blanchard, mother of two Army soldiers, one a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom: “Sometimes you think that you are in this all by yourself and no one is really paying attention to what you are going through.” Blanchard, who resides in Mosier, has found that making cards for the troops helps her cope with the worry and stress of having Michael and Douglas serving in the military. Oregon National Guard First Lt. Brian Fike, veteran of Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom: “Americans need to quit being so passive; they need to grab life and live it to the fullest because that is the best way to thank our troops. Never settle.” Fike, a former Marine, was serving as commander of The Dalles Armory while his son, Chad, 19, was at war in Iraq with other local Guard soldiers. The father and son trade jests in their chapter that has become Chad’s memorial. After returning home from combat, he experienced major difficulty reintegrating back into civilian life. On July 8, 2013, Chad took his own life.
Trish McGrath-Rouleau, mother of seven National Guard soldiers: “Not all of their deployments have involved a lot of action but they have all involved a lot of worry on my part. Every time someone goes, it just increases the odds that PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) issues will emerge so there is always a concern,” Trish and husband Roger met in The Dalles when he was working as a recruiter and her youngest son, Ryan Young, was enlisting in the Guard. Their marriage in 2002 blended two families with a total of six soldiers and a new son-in-law soon became the seventh. The Rouleaus now make their home in Kennewick, Wash, with two daughters adopted from China.
Oregon National Guard Staff Sgt. Scott West, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom: “Quit putting yellow ribbons up and do something – whether it’s to adopt a soldier or send letters. Quit saying, ‘Thanks’ and show it.” West, a cowboy from Eastern Oregon, joined the Guard in 1997 and has served with Alpha Company from The Dalles. He was eager to defend his country by going into combat following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was a machine gunner during a 2004-05 deployment to Iraq and now suffers from PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) issues related to his time in combat.
Dr. Pat Stone, a Vietnam veteran and psychologist who specializes in veteran issues: “The effects of trauma redefine us because those memories become part of who we are as a human being and we can’t escape them.” Stone helps warriors with reintegration issues and addresses the psychological aspects of killing and how society can help returning veterans deal with mental and physical challenges that result from their military service. He has written a book about his experiences and the lessons he has learned called “20th Birthday” that is now available at
Army Specialist Cody Standiford, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom: “A passage by The Art of War by Sun Tzu asks: ‘What is the way of the warrior?’ And replies: ‘The way of the warrior is death.’ Not only do warriors deal out death to those who oppose them, but warriors also die, as we all know. Being a warrior means that no matter what the outcome, death is always the end result for someone and it’s always better them than you but it is a heavy weight to carry nonetheless. Warriors choose the path they follow and while those we love have not chosen the same path, they share the burden.” Standiford went to war in 2006 and still experiences nightmares about killing other human beings in order to survive. He currently works for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden to help veterans living within the Second Congressional District. USMC Capt.
Jesse Atay, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom: “When you’re on the top of the hill being who you are, some people won’t like it, cause when someone’s looking up at you from the bottom all they see is your ass. But it doesn’t matter, because you’re already standing on top carrying the flag, and not looking at the masses but looking beyond, bathing in that golden sunlight streaming over the next ridge.” Atay, son of the author, led a combat assault team in Iraq during 2007, 2008 and 2009 and deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2012.
If you would like to purchase a copy of this awesome book, or read more details, please visit the link located at the top of our homepage.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hunting Trip For Combat Veterans

HAL WOODS, a Marine combat veteran, is an avid hunter, shown above with a downed buck, and a firefighter and medic with Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue in The Dalles. He is working with other emergency responders to organize a hunting trip for wounded warriors in October. Four veterans who were injured during deployments to Iraq will be provided with an all-expense-paid weekend adventure on two private ranches in Wasco County.
Wasco County ranchers prepare to host four wounded warriors.

A group of Wasco County emergency responders and ranchers are finalizing plans to provide four wounded warriors with a hunting trip this fall.

"We felt it was the least we could do for what these fellows have gone through for our country," said Vicki Ashley, who plans to serve peach cobbler fresh from the Dutch oven, along with other homemade specialties, during the October weekend.

She and her husband, Larry, own a wheat farm near Maupin, as do Bill and Barbara Hammel, who will be providing a campsite for the combat veterans.

"This is something we are all looking forward to and excited about," said Vicki.

Mike Caldwell, a retired Oregon State Police trooper, took the lead on forming Outdoor Adventures with Military Heroes, a committee of the Gorge Heroes Club that is organizing the hunt. He made the following comment after hearing about the Ashleys' planned feast: "I expect my hunters to lose weight, not gain it."

One of the veterans who will be participating in the hunt was a member of the Oregon National Guard and lost his leg during a 2004 firefight in Iraq. Another is an Army veteran who received chronic injuries while fighting for his life in hand-to-hand combat with an insurgent during a 2006-2007 deployment to Iraq.

The third veteran was in the Army and is grappling with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after taking on the grisly task of preparing the bodies of fallen warriors for transport home during a 2007-08 tour of duty in Iraq. The fourth hunter will be a sergeant currently serving in the National Guard who endures chronic back pain, severe migraines and seizures. He received a traumatic brain injury after a roadside bomb exploded under his vehicle during a 2010-11 deployment to Iraq.

"For the guys who have mobility issues, we have places to hunt with easy access so they can still have a good time," said Ashley.

Bob Stone, owner of Bob Stone Freeway Auto Center of The Dalles, has stepped forward to support Outdoor Adventures and the heroes club by donating $100 for every car sold from Aug. 14-19 to the cause.

In May, Stone raised $4,300 from the same type of fundraiser that was dedicated to the care of local veterans. His goal is to generate a total of $10,000 this year for outreach efforts that benefit past and present military personnel.

"I have some great deals for this sale and it is a good opportunity for people who are shopping for a new vehicle to also show their appreciation for the men and women who have served," he said.

Terri Hansen, vice-president of the heroes club, said Stone has been the number one sponsor of care packages for men and women serving overseas from the Mid-Columbia region since the wars began in 2001 and 2003. She said he has provided nearly $20,000 in the past 12 years to boost the morale of troops in the field and help Guard members return from war and reintegrate back into the civilian world. In addition he has donated more than $45,200 to Mid-Columbia emergency response teams.

"Since 9/11, Bob Stone has made a real difference in the lives of those who have sacrificed so much for this nation," said Hansen. Outdoor Adventures was accepted by the heroes club as a committee in late January.

The five-member board is chaired by Fred Coleman, a former member of the Guard and a firefighter/medic with Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue. Serving with him are: Hal Woods, vice-chair who is also a firefighter with Mid-Columbia; Caldwell, who has the role of secretary/treasurer; Wasco County Chief Deputy Lane Magill; and, Keith Nantz, general manager and partner of Dillon Land and Cattle Company of Maupin.

The idea to do something for wounded warriors at the local level was spawned by Caldwell after he read a guest editorial published by The Chronicle in November and written by Magill. The law enforcement official spoke about the suicide of a local veteran and how that tragedy had driven him to do whatever he could to prevent other deaths. He urged community members to also step up and get involved in a cause that helped veterans.

"I read that column and then I went downstairs to watch TV and a program was on about a hunting trip that had been planned for wounded warriors," said Caldwell. "It made me ask, 'Why can't we do this locally?'"

Magill said when Caldwell first showed up at his office, he was gratified to know that his message had spurred someone else to action.

"He was all fired up and to have someone motivated like that by simple words on paper was pretty humbling. It meant a lot that someone listened to what I had to say," he said.

It has been a good cause for emergency responders to get involved with, said Magill, because they, like the military, deal with a lot of negative human behavior. Being able to help combat veterans is good for the morale of those who serve on the front lines at home because there is no downside to taking care of their "brothers and sisters."

"If we can save one life by doing this, or help one veteran feel cared about, then we have accomplished our mission," he said.

Once Caldwell enlisted Magill's help, he signed up Woods, who is the only combat veteran on the board. Woods was a lance corporal in the Marine Corps who took part in the Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm, in 1990-91.

"Just knowing what these young men and women are going through - this is my opportunity to give back," he said.

Coleman was chosen to head the committee because of his ongoing work with Ducks Unlimited, a national nonprofit organization. He also has military experience, with more than 10 years in the Guard so Caldwell and Magill, who have not served, thought he would also be an asset when working with veterans.

During a series of neighborhood meetings to pitch the idea for a hunting trip, Caldwell met Nantz, who offered the group his business experience. The ultimate goal of Outdoor Adventures is to have a variety of activities available to veterans each year, including rock climbing, hiking, fishing and off-roading.

"If they want to do it, we can plan for it," said Caldwell, who applied for start-up funds from Eid Passport, Inc., of Hillsboro.

The company, with a long track record of supporting military families, provided Outdoor Adventures with a $5,000 grant, which gave the group a green light to move ahead.

"Without them, this would never have gotten off the ground and up and running, it was a leap of faith," said Caldwell.

The list of landowners who have signed up to host activities is long, he said, and next year the hunt will take place by a lottery system to ensure that every veteran receives an equitable chance to enjoy one of the all-expense paid trips. Caldwell said the inaugural adventure is being undertaken by a group of veterans who have agreed to provide feedback about what went right and what could be improved upon. Their input will be used to plan future activities that will be customized to meet the needs of participating warriors.

For more information, Caldwell can be reached at 541-993-6222 or Donations can be sent to Outdoor Adventures with Military Heroes at P.O. Box 9, The Dalles, Ore., 97058

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Honoring our Warriors

Mid-Columbia Fire &Rescue, local law enforcement agencies and military representatives are providing community members with an up close and personal look at the world of emergency responders.

The Heroes Day event in The Dalles has been scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, in observance of National Armed Forces Day. The fire district decided to team up with the Gorge Heroes Club, a local pro-troop group, to pay tribute to their “brothers and sisters” serving in Afghanistan and returning veterans.

“We support our armed forces and wanted to provide an opportunity for people to learn more about what emergency services personnel do and the equipment they use,” said Dan Hammel, division chief.

The event is free at the fire station, 1400 W. 8th Street. See a LifeFlight helicopter and displays set up by MCF&R and these agencies: Oregon State Police, The Dalles City Police Department, Wasco County Sheriff’s Office, Hazmat Team 3 of Gresham, Oregon Department of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. U.S. Army and possibly U.S. Marine Corps.

Smokey the Bear, the mascot for the Forest Service, and Sparky the Firedog, who works with Hammel and other local firefighters, will be present to greet children.

Hero’s club members will sell a hotdog lunch and beverages.

All proceeds will be used to ship care packages to troops in Afghanistan or support National Guard soldiers reintegrating back into the civilian world after a deployment.

“Our troops are taking care of us 24/7 and we all need to take a moment every now and then to thank them,” said Terri Hansen, vice-president of the heroes club. “There have been 15 deaths of soldiers, airmen and Marines this past month alone and it is important that their families, and the men and women they served with, know that these sacrifices are not forgotten.”

She said emergency responders stepped up immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the east coast to risk their lives to protect their fellow Americans. She said firemen and 72 police officers died that day and then the banner was handed off to the military, which has lost 6,400 troops and had another 40,000 injured on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan during the past 11 years.

“We are so proud of all of our emergency responders and plan to let the troops in harm’s way know about the showing of support they are getting from back home,” said Hansen.

Bob Stone Freeway Auto Center in The Dalles, 2222 W. Sixth Street, is also observing Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day, which honors America’s fallen warriors, by donating a portion of sale proceeds from May 16-21 to the heroes club. Bob Stone, owner, has contributed thousands of dollars in recent years to help the nonprofit organization send care packages to military units with a point of contact from the Mid-Columbia region.

“It has been, and continues to be, an honor to support our troops,” he said.

Hansen is also organizing the heroes club garage sale on May 18 at the Hood River Amory, 1590 12th Street.

The doors open at 8 a.m. and people are invited to shop for a bargain until 4 p.m. Proceeds will be used for the nonprofit group’s continuing programs to educate the public about military service and take care of those in uniform.

People wanting to donate items for the sale can leave them during regular hours at The Dalles Liquor Store, 430 Mt. Hood Street, or Columbia Auto Sales and Repair, 518 East Second Street.

Debra Laraway of Pine Grove is coordinating the storage of quality used goods in Hood River County and can be reached for arrangements to drop off an item at 541-386-3318 or 541-490-6954.

The Gorge Heroes Club began informally sending boxes to troops from the Mid-Columbia region and beyond in 2007 and became a nonprofit organization a couple of years later.

RaeLynn Ricarte - The Dalles Chronicle

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Marine Veteran and Hospital Corpsman Father Share Stories of Courage With Chenowith Elementary School Children

Marine Veteran, Johnathan Paplik - As he visits with Chenowith Elementary School Children -The Dalles, Oregon

Teacher Larry Sprouse and Daryn Fogle, father of Hospital Corpsman Third Class Jeremy Fogle from Hood River.

Jonathan Pablik, 23, a Marine veteran, captivated fourth graders at Chenowith Elementary School, using his military training Thursday to hold their attention.

He began his presentation in the class of Larry Sprouse with a round of push-ups and then directed students to growl a reply to the question, “Good to go?” to show they were tracking the conversation. When he used the word “Eyeball” they were to say “Click” and then shut their eyes briefly to clear their heads and regain focus.

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” said Pablik as students carried desks out of the way so they could sit in a tighter formation for his lesson.

Each of the 22 students were given a “call sign” that was based on his or her name to demonstrate how communication occurred out in the field.

“If your last name is P, like mine, then you are ‘Papa,’” he said, which earned giggles from the students.

Pablik’s instructions were mixed with levity but also held messages of empowerment that he had learned after heading off to war in 2008 at the age of 17.

After telling the class that it was important to empower themselves to prevail over fear, he shared his methodology to overcome being afraid while engaged in a 36-hour firefight with Taliban militants during Operation Moshtarak in Afghanistan during 2010.

“When you feel afraid you have to find something opposite to think about; anything that makes you smile – that’s it!” he said. “There is a way to overcome fear; it’s a choice.”

He also told the students to be appreciative of living in the U.S. where they do not have to fear stepping on a roadside bomb as the children do in Afghanistan and other war zones.

“They are scared every day they might die when they go to school, so be grateful you live in a country like this,” said Pablik.

Also visiting the class of Larry Sprouse in the afternoon of April 4 was Daryn Fogle, father of Hospital Corpsman Third Class Jeremy Fogle, 25, who is currently on his second deployment to Afghanistan.

“I would be the first to say that wars are mean,” he said. “But wars and battles do take place and, when they do, people get hurt. When that happens, Corpsmen like my son take care of the ones who are wounded.”

Jeremy is a 2005 graduate of Hood River Valley High School and enlisted in the Navy five years ago; first working in Italy and then taking on the role of “Doc” for Marines in a combat assault battalion from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Sprouse contacted the Gorge Heroes Club several months ago about adopting someone who was at war and was given Fogle’s name. His students began exchanging messages through Facebook and were provided with an overview of living conditions in Helmand Province, where the Marines are tasked with stopping drug trafficking activities that fund Taliban militants.

“I’ve really been trying to teach them about honor and respect and what service means,” said Sprouse, who has been an educator for 30 years and a resident of The Dalles since 1982.

Next week, his class plans to ship a box off to Fogle that contains well wishes and some snacks for him to enjoy on patrols and share with “his” Marines. Daryn told the students his son was protective of the 150 men and women he was charged with providing medical care for and that Marines, whether they wanted to admit it or not due to service rivalry, were also assigned to the Department of the Navy.

“When I heard that they were supporting Jeremy like this I just thought, ‘Wow!’” said Fogle. “Honestly, I’m kind of speechless about it. It’s nice, it’s honorable and, as a parent, I’m proud of my son and now more than ever because he’s also a role model for these kids.”


The Gorge Heroes Club was honored to send support from home to these brave Warriors during there many deployments.