“Each person confronts war and copes with it in his own way… but all of us are bound up in its common tragedy. We feel its futility more keenly because we also sense its damning persistence as a part of the human condition. It is a symbol and a symptom of humanity’s failure to understand itself. (Jud Blakely, 1967)
In 1967, I was going to fraternity house dances, keggers and football games (watching the OSU Giant Killers) – enjoying life at Oregon State University. Most Americans were preoccupied with their own pursuits, while 8,000 miles away in SE Asia, our fellow citizens were serving in the Viet Nam War.
Recent world events and an evening I spent in late August with two gents who I consider to be outstanding citizens and heroes, compelled me to dedicate this post as a small tribute to them almost fifty years later. You can join Thebeerchaser in giving a more tangible salute to Oregon’s other Viet Nam vets by contributing to Viet Nam Veterans of Oregon Living Memorial (VNVOLM) . (see end of this post)
Jud Blakely and Doug Bomarito both served as combat officers in Viet Nam. Jud graduated from OSU in 1965, where he was a member of the SAE fraternity and served as OSU Student Body President. He was then commissioned in the US Marine Corps. Doug was a 1968 Annapolis (US Naval Academy) graduate where he played first base and had the highest batting average on the Academy baseball team.
With 24/7 news feeds, it’s too easy for us to be oblivious to the service of our current military personnel, but Viet Nam was much worse. We not only ignored their sacrifice, but when they returned home, they were often chastised rather than thanked. Let’s look at the service of these two veterans:
Doug as a Navy Ensign, initially served on a destroyer, but in 1969 volunteered for River Patrol Boats or swift boats, which patrolled in the hostile rivers and canals. He served near the Cambodian border by the Gulf of Thailand. It was, to say the least, hazardous duty.
February 23, 1970, on his 75th combat mission, the boat which he skippered and another for which he had responsibility, were ambushed by the North Vietnamese. During a severe fire-fight, Doug and two of his crew were wounded and eventually med-evaced to hospitals, but not before Doug completed his mission.
He received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star with Combat V (The “V” insignia is added to the medal when it is earned for extraordinary heroism or valor in combat situations. – see the end of this post for the specifics on his Bronze Star.) Doug later served as a Navy Officer Recruiting Officer (OIC) for the Northwest and after leaving the service, went to Lewis and Clark Law School and passed the Oregon State Bar exam.
Jud, as a USMC 2nd Lt., spent a toal of 13 months in combat ops in Viet Nam as an infantry platoon leader with India Co., 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. He received two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star with Combat V. (See the end of this post for an excerpt from his citation.)
He spent 3 months in the Chu Lai area, along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) for 2 months, south of Da Nang for 2 months and then in Duc Pho for 3 months and back south of Da Nang for 3 months. His purple hearts were for a punji-stake puncture in his knee and shrapnel wounds in his forehead from a midnight mortar attack during the monsoons on the southern edge of the DMZ.
They both went on to successful careers and have wonderful families. Jud and his wife, Deborah, live in Boise. Doug still practices law in Portland He has been active in numerous civic affairs including serving on the boards of CYO Camp Howard and the Girl Scouts and was the driving force in the development and siting of the VNVO Living Memorial.
Jud formed his own consulting company, Jud Blakely Ltd., and wrote speeches for CEOs and top executives of companies and coached them on how to speak. His clients included Shell Oil, Sea First, Rainier Bank and Lonestar Gas.
He has written two screen plays and designed the new website for the VNVO Living Memorial, which is very close to completion. Jud has done all of the writing that appears on the Memorial site.
The three of us attended the recent Portland State vs. Eastern Oregon College football game in JeldWen Stadium to see Jud’s son, Paul, who is a punter for the EOC football team and was voted 2nd Team All-Conference as a freshman last season. It was then that I realized that in reviewing events from our forty-five year friendship and what I knew about him that Jud deserved special recognition as Thebeerchaser-of-the-Quarter.
I once described Jud in a letter as follows:
“He is an amazing guy. He will take a twelve-mile run, break to read a 600-page non-fiction book, then play full-court basketball for three hours before coming home to work.” (I guess it was probably only ten miles….)
I realized that if Jud’s beer of choice at Price’s Tavern in Corvallis had been Dos Equis instead of Blitz, he might well be appearing in the commercials as The World’s Most Interesting Man. Let’s look at the evidence – presented, in part, below:
OSU Student Body President – Jud and three other OSU seniors, including All-American and former ABA/NBA basketball player, Jimmy Jarvis, went on what was to be a stealth mission and lit the traditional Rook-Sophomore Bonfire, the night before the lighting ceremony in 1964. Jud and two of the others got caught and arrested for “Maliciously and willfully starting a fire.”
Fortunately, the Municipal Judge, one Helmut Schreima, could not find that specific provision in the Corvallis Municipal Code and our boys were only charged with “burning without a permit” and fined $15 each (Jud’s beer money for the month….) so he could serve in the Marine Corps, but he had to forfeit his student body office.
A column from the OSU Daily Barometer (written by Baro Editor, Rich Hansen) expresses sentiments about his leadership talent and his ability to arouse (?) students: “….Seldom has the office of President been so alive in campus conversations or has the President’s name been so often repeated. I’m convinced that it has been a long time since OSU has had a president so well suited for the office as Jud Blakely.
Blakely is not only an intellectual and dynamic leader but retains those school-boy qualities that make him a human being – the zeal for school spirit and his subsequent bout with municipal authorities (bonfire incident) is a recent example. He drew enormous criticism and even more teasing for that stunt, but in the end it achieved its goal. It revived spirit and got students participating again.
Nevertheless, for the first time in my memory the student body is excited, or at least aroused, about what’s going on. From the hand-made sign that someone carried to the game reading, ‘Ban Blakely’ to the chants of ‘We want Blakely’……”
As an aside, Jud was a three-sport athlete at Portland’s Sunset High and also played freshman baseball at OSU.
Marine Corps Recruiting Officer – 1970 – A prior Beerchaser post (June 2012) briefly highlighted the ruckus caused on the Portland State College campus, when Jud and USMC Silver Star recipient and now Federal Judge, Ancer Haggerty, were the Marine officer recruiting officers and actively engaged Portland State students in debate about the War.
During this time, he met Major Nelson Olf, who was commissioned in the USMC after graduating from the OSU NROTC program. He was the CO of the USMC Reserve Unit at Swan Island when Jud arrived in Portland.
After retiring from the Corps, Nelson managed a business out of Forest Grove and was a professor of business both at PSU and Pacific University. He has contributed substantial sums to a variety of institutions and causes he supports – for instance, he has fully endowed an engineering scholarship at Oregon State. The Navy ROTC obstacle course at OSU is named after him in recognition of his significant gift.
Tri-Met – After his military service and before starting his consulting firm, he spent several years as an Asst. to the General Manager of Tri-Met, where Jud was not the typical bureaucrat as evidenced by this excerpt by the late Doug Baker, in this 1972 Oregon Journal Column, “Baker’s Dozen.”
A woman – Esther M. Leibrand – who had tried to get bus service to Boones Ferry Road, wrote the following rhyme to get attention
“ I love Tri-Met, I love Tri-Met
I’d love it even better yet
Out on Boones Ferry Road, you bet.”
Jud answered with his own ryhme and started a poetic dialogue with her that went on for over a year while he worked behind the scenes to make the route a reality:
“We Tri to meet and Tri to meet
The need for folks to save their feet..
So we will try to save your feet a load
And try to reach Boones Ferry Road
Tri-Met’s money won’t grow on trees,
It comes from taxes and fees…”
On the initial run of the new route, “…Riding in the decorated bus was Ms. Leibrand, who was greeted with a special placard at the front of the bus”:
“Here we are Ms. Leibrand
We brought you a Tri-Met bus,
Bring your poetry , climb aboard,
And rondelet with us.”
Basketball Exploits – Jud and I used to play each week at Catlin Gabel School with a bunch of Nike execs. I would taunt him by reminding him that his name spelled backward is “Duj” and kid him that he lost his quick first step because of the war wound to his leg.
He responded by mailing me a note that said:
“Next time we play hoop, I will show you how to go to your left. Then you can go to Portugal, seize power and then be overthrown.”
One time we were trying to dunk the ball at a basketball hoop on the wall at Collins View Grade School (now Riverdale High School) while partaking of our favorite beverage.
Ollie Moreland, a former star college athlete, got over-hyped and severely injured his leg which led to a painful trip to the Emergency Room at Kaiser Sunnyside Hospital where the following dialogue actually occurred:
Blakely: “I think Ollie’s in shock. He’s not communicating. Let us off at the entrance. I’ll take Ollie and the beer in and you meet us.”
Beerchaser: “Do you think it’s okay for us to drink beer in there?”
Blakely: “Shut up and enjoy it. You only live once. I’ll handle it.”
Emergency Room Doc (while chuckling when he sees the beer being consumed): “Looks like your friend’s leg is badly broken. We need to take some X-rays and run some tests. Do you know what medication he’s on?”
Gulf Coast Humanities Consortium (GCHC) – Because he could not gain membership to the Tri-Lateral Commission, when he was huddled in the hurricane shelter under his house in Mobile, Alabama, Jud formed the GCHC with three colleagues in the 1990’s.
Two of them were English professors at the University of South Alabama in Mobile and one was a Catholic priest. They met each month at the Pink Pony Pub in Gulf Coast and drank Rolling Rock Beer, while contemplating weighty issues. The following summarizes their objectives and was part of their recruiting letter to yours truly:
“Here’s the deal: Join up but don’t show up. That’s all there is to it. You never have to ever go to a meeting – NOT EVER. Hey, we don’t want you to. All we want is your name. Oh, and we also want to use your titles, achievements and honors. And we ask for zero in return…..Ah, but you do get – absolutely free – a chance to identify with us as we move in capricious ways to exploit your name, your life’s work, etc.”
I don’t think I ever joined because I was afraid that it might be on my record and keep me from getting a library card or passport, but I did participate by conference call in their book club selection that summer – “Goldillocks and the Three Beers.”
Other Exploits of Note (or not….): Jud and I co-presented at an American Society of Association Executive’s National Conference in Chicago when I worked at the Oregon State Bar in the late ’70’s. Jud was an accomplished speaker but it was my first gig and I was very nervous.
To loosen up the crowd (and Thebeerchaser..), Jud started the seminar by asking someone in the audience to dare him to cut the silk tie he was wearing in half. A person in the first row promptly complied and to rousing applause, Jud took out a pair of scissors and “performed the surgery.” We received outstanding evaluations……
58,286 U.S. Armed Forces personnel were killed during the twenty years of the Viet Nam conflict (including those missing in action) which ended in 1975. Approximately 2.6 million Americans served. 153,303 were wounded in action.
As stated in the Oregon Living Memorial:
We honor, too, the 57,000 Oregonians who answered the call, who served, and who returned to us. This Living Memorial is also no less a loving celebration of them.”
Jud Blakely’s idealism and optimism were tested during his thirteen months in the field in Viet Nam. As he wrote regarding his platoon’s experience in Duc Phổ, in the South Central Coast region of Vietnam: “We fought and fought and never lost…and yet we didn’t win.” It seems that Jud’s narrative eloquently portrays the tragedy of Viet Nam for us as a nation.
He and Doug Bomarito are heroes and the words Jud wrote as part of the eulogy for my best friend in high school, Marine Lance Corporal Gary Kestler, who was killed in Quang Tri Province in Viet Nam in 1968 should be taken to heart by each of us:
“When you honor the veterans of your county, honor them not only for their commitment and sacrifice on your behalf. Honor them also for their quiet conviction that war is the most sorrowful state of man. And honor them with reverence for the lives they gave to end that sorrow forever.”
And please send a donation by check to the Viet Nam Veteran’s of Oregon Memorial Fund (VNVOMF) to honor all of our Viet Nam Veterans. Address your donation to Doug Bomarito, 7157 SW Beveland St. Suite 100, Portland, Oregon 97223. You can reach Doug at his law practice in Tigard at (503) 223-8285 and Jud at home in Eagle, Idaho at (208) 629-1920.
The following is an excerpt from Jud Blakely’s Bronze Star citation:
For meritorious service in connection with operations against insurgent communist forces in the Republic of Viet Nam from 4 July 1966 to 1 August 1967.
Through this period 1st Lt. Blakely performed his demanding duties in an exemplary manner while participating in several major combat operations……He displayed exceptional leadership and professional ability in leading his unit against the enemy.
Although painfully wounded on two occasions, he steadfastly remained with his men and, despite his injuries, directed his platoon with skill and determination, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy.
During Operation Desoto, he assumed command of a beleaguered Marine platoon which came under intense enemy fire and sustained several casualties, including the platoon commander.
Disregarding his own safety, he repeatedly exposed himself to the heavy volume of fire to lead the unit against the enemy. Through his heroic and timely actions in the face of great personal danger, 1st Lt. Blakely inspired his men and provided command continuity at a critical moment.
From Doug Bomarito’s Bronze Star citation:
“For heroic achievement while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong…on 23 February 1970. Lt. (jg) Bomarito was in charge of a two boat patrol proceeding north on the Giang Thanh River.
As the patrol was rounding a bend in the river, it suddenly came under heavy enemy rocket and automatic weapons fire.
During the ensuing engagement, his boat received one direct rocket hit which wounded him and his crew and started a blazing fire.
As the boat beached, still under enemy fire, he maintained control of the situation and readied his crew for for an assault on the closest enemy position. When the other boat in his patrol came to his assistance, he then directed a devastating air strike on the enemy positions and coordinated the medical evacuation….”
Jud recently had triple by-pass surgery and is undergoing physical therapy – I’m sure with the same discipline and intensity that has characterized his life since high school and led to the achievements which make him a slam dunk for Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.
So rather than affirming the sign from Corvallis – “Ban Blakely” – let’s hoist a mug of PBR – since they don’t brew Blitz and longer – and yell, “We want Blakely” and make a toast to all Viet Nam Veterans.