There is nothing more fulfilling, and yet so difficult, than to live with the scars that wars leave behind. That – in and of itself – allows us to honor the courage displayed by our loved ones as well as each and every service member. In turn, we have an amazing opportunity to learn more about ourselves when faced with adversity, change, and even death.
This Veterans Day, when all the tempting sales draw many into malls, and the extra day off makes for an attractive “short work week,” let’s try to remember what this holiday really represents: the honoring of all US Military Veterans.
Our veterans have contributed to the building of our great nation and continue to contribute to its evolution; they have been tested in the worst of conditions and prevailed; they have maintained the moral high-ground in the internal conflicts of our changing society and they have placed duty, honor, country foremost in our nation’s consciousness. We have much to learn from our veterans. This past weekend I was able to interview some of these most valuable men, who each served at least 30 years and have confidently remained proud of their country after all these years.
I sat down with Ret. Commander Sisal Ogles and Ret. Medical Officer Fred Baker; both originally from Kentucky, where they only lived 60 miles apart from one another, but didn’t know that until they both moved here to sunny California (Ogles in 1967 and Baker in 1984). The Navy can be a small world, you never know who you’ll meet or reconnect with down the line.
Ret. Commander Ogles proudly proclaimed, “I have a deep respect for my flag. Fred and myself know that our country is safer with all these young men and women fighting today, just like they did nearly 70 years ago,” (in reference to the Korean war). Both Fred and Sisal served in WWII and in Korea as well.
Fred exclaims, “It wasn’t unusual for men, and I would say a good percentage of women… who would volunteer to help their brother in arms. It is less prevalent today, but Sisal and I don’t lose faith in young people today. The world is different today, wars are fought differently, but I still know that patriotism is universal, especially in the United States of America.”
Both men attend many of the VFW events, every Veterans Day they come down to the VFW, eat a meal together and make time for their families (both of their families live in the San Diego area).
“I guess if I had to summarize what being a patriot meant to me, it would be this,” Sisal went on to say. “Respect for the country’s flag, a desire to see your nation succeed, and a deep, abiding love of your country are all patriotic expressions, but being patriotic doesn’t mean you think your country’s perfect — just that you love it.” I couldn’t agree more!
My second interview was with Ret. Army Colonel James E. “Ned” Rupp, who served 30 years in the Army. He is still very much active and working for the Wounded Warriors organization, specifically the organization that provides employment opportunities for the blind and visually impaired.
When he reflects back on his Army career, he uses one word to describe his overall experience, “gratifying,” and gives a sincere smile when he says this. He went on to say that he was very proud of the men and women who served, especially those dealing with the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict … continuous war in the Middle East.
“Their efforts are [commendable] and I am very proud to see them come out of it.” In the beginning of his career Rupp originally enlisted with the Air force during the Korean War, after he had just finished college. Soon after, he soon joined the Army and did three tours as a Battalion Commander in the jungles of Vietnam.
“I have served 32 years in the military; how could I not feel pride? The job I hold now (Veterans affairs with the Wounded Warriors) is very much a ‘feel good’ job. The people there are able to bring their service dogs and get things done that they never thought possible. It is a wonderful working environment.”
Ret. Colonel Rupp was able to fly out from the East Coast (Washington D.C. area) to visit his daughter Jill and his son-in-law, Marvin Heinze, who reside in the Coronado Cays. Heinze was very enthusiastic describing his father-in-law’s exceptional military career and the work that he is doing now.
“The Wounded Warriors for the blind and visually impaired are trained to prepare the Army uniform/apparel, for the Navy they make and distribute the color-coded shirts for those that work on the flight deck, and make every-day office supplies, called ‘Skill craft.’ It really is amazing how much they have come up with… this gives blind veterans motivation, and the chance to work and have purpose in their lives.”
Ned was an absolute delight to speak with! He will be visiting and staying busy here in California for the next week, and it is evident that Ned appreciates hard work and wants to still help others in need, just as he did throughout his Army career.
Continuing with the many events held in Coronado over the Veterans Day weekend, on November 12, 2017 I was able to participate in the Silver Strand Half Marathon. It was inspiring to see all the runners, skaters, elliptical bikers and wheelchair participants on the start line. The weather was overcast for a majority of the race, which is prime weather for any runner! This Veterans Day weekend was truly significant for me as my brother, LTJG Philip Youngberg, is deployed (originally left on July 7, 2017 and will be returning in early February 2018). This is his first deployment and it has been very challenging for both him and me, but I know he is doing his job and protecting Americans everywhere. I want to thank everyone on active duty and those brave men and women who have retired and have served in all branches of the military, as well as all that have lost their lives defending our freedom; without their sacrifice the American dream would be non-existent.