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Before Vietnam

Not every story is glory or grief. Sometimes they're just funny.

So here I was, seaman apprentice aboard the USS Blue Ridge, one of the original crew as the ship was still being built in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Had to be careful where you stepped, might be an unfinished deck and it's a long way down if you're not paying attention.

One day I was in the Air Ops compartment when a phone rang, so I answered it with "Hello?"

On the other end was none other than Captain Kent J Carrol, commanding officer. He barked, "This is how you answer a phone, sailor? Who is this?"

I said, "You mean you don't know who this is, sir?"

He actually said "No!"

So I actually said "Good!" Hung up and ran my ass off out of there as fast as I could!

Captain Carrol commanded Blue Ridge through her maiden voyage around the horn, and into the South Pacific. My station was on the bridge the day Blue Ridge came under fire following operations off the coast of North Vietnam, and it was Captain Carrol who gave orders to turn the ship into the fire and for us to open fire - engaging the shore battery.

Enemy guns were silenced. Wow! What a great Captain!

Bill Brown
Chicago, IL

Magellan and I (Title of my Father's book)

My father, Colonel Andrew P. Kelly, was a copilot and navigator during WWII. He flew the CBI route for a year, (The Hump), and 2 years ferrying planes with 70 roundtrip flights from New York to Paris. The plane he flew the most was the C-46, but flew others as well.

He went on to volunteer at Fairchild AFB for decades, working with the Air Force Museum, where a large display of his uniform, flight jacket and his many accolades reside. He also started the Blue Ribbon Committee, bringing entertainment to the base for the officers as well as the enlisted. As a comedian myself, I was proud to perform for both.

After a successful career in plumbing and heating sales, he was also on the Board of Trustees at Eastern Washington University for 7 years, 1 year as Chairman. He ran for State Senator in Washington as well. He was very active in his church,too. All after raising 7 children!

As you can see, I'm extremely proud of my Dad, who we lost in 2010 at the age of 92 and rests in Spokane, Washington.

Kristine Kelly

Kristine Kelly
Spokane, WA

A Real Hero And She's Only 101 1/2 Years Young!

My aunt, Lillian Nutter, lives in a small town in Indiana. For many years, she's been sending boxes to the troops overseas. Thankfully the veterans from the USS Salamonie Museum have continued to make it possible for her to keep sending the boxes by paying for the postage. This amazing lady has given of herself and her limited resources for quite a few years and is even keeping a scrapbook of all the thank you notes she's gotten from the "boys and girls", as she calls them,to leave to the museum. She doesn't see herself as doing anything extraordinary but I truthfully don't know of any other people even close to her age doing something so special and so selfless. I'm very proud of my aunt and want to share her accomplishments with the world. She's been honored by the governor and the lieutenant governor of Indiana as well as by the vets who she has helped. (It was through her red hatter group, which she started many years ago, that the USS Salamonie was able to be anchored where it is so it could be a museum.) I know she thinks nothing of this and always tells me she's not doing anything special, but to me she is. She's a true hero and I hope her story can be shared with everyone as she deserves it. Hopefully her story will inspire others to follow in her footsteps so that those fighting overseas can continue to get reminders that they are not forgotten!

PS This is a link to a picture and story of her and the museum. http://www.huntingtoncountytab.com/special/salamonie/23053/presentation-uss-salamonie-museum

Sandra Van Domelen
Grand Chute, WI

Honoring our Grandpa who fought in WWII and just turned 90

Our Grandfather is Donald J. Watt and on July 7, 2014 he turned 90 years old. Grandpa fought in the Battle of the Bulge and carries the scars to this day. He is humble about is WWII service, but for many years of his life he went back for reunions with his life long buddies he met in the war. Those guys were so important to he and grandma.

He has lived a good life, worked hard after the war, raised a family and never left them. He still lives at home and drives his own car to buy groceries, go to church and the Veterans hall. We wanted to do something to let him know how much we appreciate him and how much he has influenced who we are today. I think making sure his generation understands that our generation will tell their story in the future is important. We are sibling, 16, 18 and 22 and together we wrote this song with our Mom and put it to a series of pictures from Grandpa's life. The video not only shows grandpa's life but we wanted it to honor current veterans as well so we included so many scenes of the military. We hope that the video has an impact on you and inspires you to thank a Vet today.

You can find the video on Youtube by searching "I'll Honor You - Nathan Watt" in order to see our 90th birthday gift to Grandpa. This video is a family project with my Mother and sisters McKenzie and Hannah, we wrote the words, recorded and sang the music. This is tribute to our grandfather and to all military men and women. Our mother and other grandfather are also pictured in the video because they both served as well. We hope that others will go find the video "Ill Honor You - Nathan Watt" and share it with all the military friends they have. Happy Birthday Grandpa we hope we can write you another song at 100!

Nathan Watt
Sylvania, OH


While I was applauding the fact that all the veterans who were deployed in Iraq and were exposed to the chemicals of the Burning Pits finally have a VA Health Registry, my happy moment soon became a nightmarish moment. It happened while I was reading comments on a LinkedIn discussion board. There was a comment made about "toxicity at Fort McClellan." I thought, I was at Fort McClellan for basic training, maybe I need to check into this. So I Googled "Fort McClellan" and that is when my nightmare began.

From 1935 to 1999 Fort McClellan was toxic and while I was there for basic training I was exposed to: Agent Orange, Agent Blue, Sarin, VX, uranium, and PCBs, TCEs from the Monsanto plant. I was there in 1978 (when I found out for the first time I was 4 months pregnant) and back again in 1980 when I completed basic training. I drank and showered with the water, breathed the air, and trained on the ground. I have not cried since the passing of my mother in 2006, but as I found this out, I wept hysterically. I felt like I was in a nightmare. I felt like on the one hand "ah ha" and on the other hand "oh no." Now I know why I had so many miscarriages, sinus and breathing problems, joint problems, anxiety, (so far) benign cervical and breast cancer and most recently, thyroid cancer with 2 very large masses to either side of my thyroid. I was connecting the dots.

Then I found out about the chemical exposure being chromosomal....that means our children are affected. Now I was getting angry while I connected more dots: my children have multiple medical and mental health issues (especially my first born----the one in my womb in 1978 at Fort McClellan). I must apologize if you are reading this and were at Fort McClellan and this is the first you are learning about this toxic tragedy. I feel your sorrow----there are internet support groups for us to help each other. We have HR411 hopefully will also be passed.

AnnaMaria Bliven

My Grandfather was one of my Hero's

My Grandfather Conrad Blatter. He fought Bare Knuckle Boxing when he was a young man for extra cash. Drafted, he went to France and fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, where he picked up a piece of shrapnel in his butt. While recovering from his wound, the "Spanish Flue Pandemic" swept Europe, and he survived. He came home to Portland, Oregon and worked as a Steam Fitter the rest of his life, working with tons of molten lead and asbestos in confined areas. He retired eventually to live in the home he had built to replace the "old homestead," which was a dump. He smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish. Speaking of which, he loved to fish and fished just about every river and lake in the state. He fell off a ladder on the second story of his house when he was 72 years old, and was up again a few days later. He was one tough man. I remember when I was 18, I was working on my car and he asked for a ride to the liquor store. When I brought him home (we lived right next door), as I was walking away he said to me, "I hear you joined the Army. What the hell did you do that for?" Then he asked me in and and got me "stupid." That was the only time I'd ever heard him speak of WWI. We talked until I could barely walk next door. I was gone a few days later for Basic Training at Ft. Lewis. He died at 92 because he just got tired. His wife and all his friends had died, so he was basically alone. Sometimes even family isn't enough. I loved that old man as much as anyone can love another and I hope he would be just a little proud of me.

Eric Blatter
Sandy, OR

Read the US Constitution

For 22 years I served this country. I wish we had a welcome home, however, for my entire military career were either treated with hostility or indifference. I both took and gave blood for this country, and yet, the public at large couldn't care less. And, it's still that way. If you don't believe that, just look at the way the Vets are treated by the VA. Twice as many Viet Nam Vets have died prematurely of Agent Orange exposure than died during the entire Viet Nam conflict, most without any compensation at all. Airport applause is nice, but is doesn't honor the commitments to our warriors made by your government. In recent years people have said to me, "Thank you for your service." Please, If you want to thank me for my service, the next time you stumble across a voting booth, don't vote for a person because of their skin color or gender. Vote for the person who will support, honor and defend the Constitution of the US. And, if you really want to thank me, read the Constitution of the US.

Edward N. Ryan Jr MSgt (Ret)
Merritt Island, FL

NH State Poem

In 1944 Richard Hartnett wrote the poem "My Homeland Sea" while serving his country in the South Pacific. Now 70 years later, the poem is being nominated for NH's state poem. It is a great honor for not only those veterans from World War II, but also for our heroes returning from America's longest running war. Thanks to all our Veterans. We must continue to honor and support their courage and sacrifice on our behalf. Nominating this poem as NH's state poem is just another small way to do so. Peace.

Max McMillan
North Hampton, NH

My brave little brother

My baby brother passed away a little over two years ago in combat. His daughter will never get to meet him, he will never get to walk her down the aisle because he gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This is why my baby brother is my hero! I love and miss you Rick!

Shannon Mcnulty
Cuba, MO

Brave US Soldiers and KBR Contracter

I don't know the US military men who pulled me out of the fire that I was in. I do know that they and our Bobtail KBR Contractor Juice pulled me out of the middle of the fire I was trapped in. On our way back from Q-West in Iraq, about 60 to 80 K's from Mosul Iraq. We went up there with 15 empty tanker trucks to get JP8 fuels for the military in LSA Anaconda (now called JBB) On our way back we were all loaded with JP* fuel and the insurgents knew this so they waited for our return thru what we nicknamed The Tinker Box Zone. About 5 k's from the south gate going into LSA Anaconda. I was in the 2nd truck, right behind our CC (Convoy Commander) Big Al. My job was to lead the convoy safely back to LSA Anaconda if the CC's truck with hit and disabled. This did not happen to him, it happened to me, the 2nd truck in the convoy. I remember hearing the load explosion of the IED and seeing nothing but fire in both rear view mirrors. I knew that I had to get out or die. So as my truck was still rolling about 25 mph I jumped out. Did not care where I jumped to as long as I was out of that death trap. Unbeknown to me I jumped right thru a wall of flames. The IED went completely thru the tanker that I was pulling. At a 45 degree angel, it went straight thru the tanker and opened 2 holes, spooning, spilling JB8 fuel all over the road. I remember doing the Jump Drop and Roll that I was thought when I was young, pulling off my PPE gear, it was on drenched in fuel and boost into flames as I went thru the wall of fire.Next thing I remember is the Military and KBR Bobtailer there right at my side and pulling me out of the fire that I landed in.


Richard E Philemon Jr
Monroe, NC
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