|A salute to the veterans|
|Saturday, November 24, 2012 1:25 AM|
During the past few weeks, I have had the honor of talking to several veterans. Some are willing to tell their stories; others prefer to just forget most of it. I’d like to relate some of their experiences with you.
Last week, the Veteran’s Day Program for the students of Fort Jennings School came to the Memorial Hall to tour the Veteran’s Museum and listen to Retired Chief Petty Officer Randy Gasser relate some of his experiences. The high school students came in the morning and the elementary grades were bused over in the afternoon.
Randy came in his dress blues, which was very impressive. He explained many of his badges and medals to them. Students were very interested and asked many questions.
Chief Gasser retired in February 2012, concluding a career of 26 years of service in the Navy and to the nation. He enlisted in the US Navy’s Delayed Entry Program in September 1981 and then reported to Boot Camp at the Great Lakes Training Center in Chicago in January 1982.
In January 1990 he left active duty and enlisted in the US Navy Reserves. In May, 1990 he moved back to Ohio and was transferred to the Navy & Marine Corp Reserve Unit at Fort Wayne, Indiana, until 1996
Chief Gasser rejoined the Navy Reserve in January 2000. In the wake of the bombing of the USS Cole he was recalled to active duty and his unit was sent to conduct Anti Terrorism Force Protection operations in the Mideast.
In January 2003, he was again recalled to active duty in support of Iraqi Freedom. In 2004, he was again recalled and qualified as Boat Watch Officer. During this time he was privileged to drive one of the Patrol Boats, whose job it was to protect the ships in and out of port and the off shore oil rigs. He told students it was fun to drive one of those speed boats, even though it was dangerous. He has been awarded many medals, including the Navy and Marine Commendation Medal and even the Army Commendation pin, for some of his duties which involved the US Army. He also has a special medal for driving a boat.
While describing the size of an aircraft carrier to the students, he said you could fit all the residents of Fort Jennings, Ottoville, Kalida and half of Delphos on a carrier. Randy mentioned that during one ten-year period, he was away from home 7 1/2 years. He was happy to say he has been in 41 countries of the World.
Randy retired in February 2012. He is currently the Ombudsman Director of the Ohio Committee of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) This is an agency of the Department of Defense. In this position they recognize employers for keeping employees who are in the Reserves and have to go away for two weeks of training each year. They also go to bat for reserve service men and women, who have trouble keeping their jobs or returning to their jobs after reserve duty. They have a 90 percent success rate.
Father John said he likes his pastoral assignment at Ottoville and the people of the area He is also a member of the VFW. Father John said he often has visitors, who are very impressed with the parish and the area.
Ralph Hoehn, of Delphos (born in Ottoville) is a member of the “Greatest Generation.” He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his multiple bombing raids over Europe but didn’t receive it until June 2010.
Hoehn volunteered for service in October, 1941. He went to basic training the following February. As an aviation cadet he went through multiple rounds of training in the United States Army Air Force, including pilot training under Delphos resident Bob Bendele. The training was extensive and prepared him to fly B-24 bombers over Nazi-occupied France. In May, 1944, he boarded a train for New England, traveling through Delphos. Along with 10,000 other airmen, he sailed to England on the New Amsterdam. Hoehn was assigned to a bomber group station at Metfield, England, and flew 35 missions over France. Of his 35 missions, the most memorable one took place just after Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy. The sky over France was overcast on the 22nd of July, 1944 so orders to drop were reeled in. Due to miscommunication, some bombed anyhow. They were flying very low and finally pulled up, without dropping our bombs. The plane next to him was shot down, and the men taken prisoner until the end of the war. Hoehn’s aircraft was damaged. “My plane got shot up pretty bad and I didn’t have any navigation system to get back. We didn’t drop our bombs, so I went back across the channel toward home and I started losing oil pressure on three engines. I wanted to drop my bombs but they said too many of our ships were in the channel. It was overcast and we had to go through 10,000 feet of clouds to get to our base. A fighter pilot said ‘you stay on my wing and I’ll take you down,’ so I did that and when I saw the ground, all I had to do was drop the throttle and put her down. That was about the scariest mission I had,” Hoehn said.
Hoehn returned to the United States just after the Battle of the Bulge. That was in 1944 and he was sent to California for training to fly B-29’s when the war ended. He
Don was a quartermaster, serving at the Shower Point, where he was in charge of checking the water temperature and providing soldiers with clean clothes after returning from the front and showering. He said he met his next door (home) neighbor over there. Bill Hemker was an electrician in Saigon.
His friend, Larry Luersman had the job of driving the commanding officer around in a Jeep, but they didn’t meet while in Korea. Don mentioned how the Koreans ate dried up dead fish. Then he said it was a wonderful feeling to come back to the USA and pass under the Golden Gate Bridge and step foot on good American soil once again. The four of them always take part in the honor guard at the funerals of veterans.
Many veterans had many stories to tell.
The Bohnlein Family from Delphos had seven boys in World War II. They were: Robert, George, Frank, Joe, John, Louis and Tom. Tom did not return; he was killed at the Battle of Attu, in the Aleutian Islands.
The four Berelsman Brothers, from Fort Jennings were all in World War II. They were Linus, Norbert, Albert and Hubert.
Hubert was killed in the service to his country.
The Jennings Memorial Association, with the financial help of the Fort Jennings American Legion, the Delphos VFW, the Ottoville VFW and Bob Calvelage or Woodlawn Monuments has just erected a monument to those who gave their all in the service of our country.