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.
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