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Based on the tyranny of the urgent as well as the unique challenges presented in 2020, we may tend to overlook our traditional commemoration of individuals and groups on Veterans’ Day.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic, experienced raging wildfires throughout the West, encountered protests and riots over the issue of social and racial injustice, witnessed businesses floundering or ceasing operation and endured divisive political campaigns culminating in one of the closest and most contentious elections in many years. Oh yes – and now we face the ever-present dilemma of how, with many gyms still closed, to get back in shape and lose the poundage gained snacking during the lockdowns.
We cannot, however, forget those who had a profound impact on preserving our freedom – our Veterans. In this Beerchaser post, I’ll attempt to reinforce the importance of taking time during Veterans’ Day on November 11th to hail their dedication, sacrifice and patriotism.
In a recent post, based on my forty years of working with them, I named lawyers – as a group -as my Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter. Now I know some of you may think that the recent post-election turnout of lawyers exceeded the turnout of voters, but they are critical to preserving the Rule of Law – a foundation of our system of justice.
And below, I will single out a few of them – some who have previously garnered the “honor” of Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, but should also be recognized for their distinguished service in the Armed Forces. In closing, I name a few others who should also be saluted on this day.
The headline and narrative below first appeared as an opinion piece in my local newspaper in 1998. It was inspired by an event at the law firm where I worked for twenty-five years – the last thirteen as the Chief Operating Officer.
A number of times in the past, I have asserted why Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt is an outstanding firm – not only for its superb lawyers and support personnel, but also its culture, commitment to civic engagement and community service. The event below is just one example of how Schwabe distinguishes itself and I want to share it again.
(The following was originally published in the West Linn Tidings in November, 1968.)
“Vets Stories Awe Law Firm, Honor Holiday”
Joe Willis is a senior partner in the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm based in Portland, Oregon. Joe was an E-5 (petty officer second class) in the Navy quite a few years in the past.
A few months ago, he sent an e-mail to everyone in the firm. Joe asked military veterans to e-mail him back, indicating the branch of service and some details about when and where they served. Those of us who responded promptly forgot about his unusual electronic request.
But Joe didn’t forget. He felt that Veterans’ Day is now largely taken for granted. Joe wanted his law firm to think about what it signifies. On November 14th, he sent another e-mail with the invitation below inviting everyone to a social function honoring the men and women in the firm who are veterans.
Most people in the firm attended – many out of curiosity. Willis made a few opening remarks (after all, he’s trial lawyer…) and then asked three of the firms named partners to relate stories about their military service. We heard:
John Schwabe – After he graduated from college, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and then completed officer training. He endured beach landings and the battles of Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan. For his service, he was awarded a Silver Star, five Bronze Stars and a Presidential Citation for Valor.
John told about coming ashore in the Battle of Tarawa as a Marine Corps officer. Of the twenty-two men in his amphibious vehicle, only four survived – one of them received the Medal of Honor posthumously.
John Schwabe was known for his humility and modesty and Joe had at one time asked him why he volunteered to go back on the last two of his four campaigns and John told him simply, “Because it had to be done.”
Wendell Wyatt – This former Oregon Congressman told about flying reconnaissance missions as a Marine Corps aviator in the South Pacific from 1942-46.
Wayne Williamson – He related an exciting and somewhat humorous tale about when he was a Naval officer during World War II. While his ship was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Germans surrendered to the Allies. Without much warning, a German U-Boat surfaced near them evidently to surrender.
Armed to the hilt including a pistol, grenades and a submachine gun he didn’t know how to operate, he and his party boarded the sub. They descended the ladder to take command of the vessel, which was a problem because no one in the submarine could speak English and none in the boarding party knew any German.
As everyone in the firm listened attentively, Wayne told how as he looked at all the German sailors surrounding them, he “got the giggles” at the absurdity of the situation.
The hour passed 5 0’clock, as the lawyers continued their stories. No one left. Everyone, but especially the young people, listened with rapt attention. Joe Willis distributed a large sheet of paper with a chart he made giving each veteran’s, branch of service, rank or rating and duty stations.
Attorney, Jack Faust, who served in Army counter-intelligence, walked in wearing his kaki tunic (several sizes too small, which was probably why he didn’t wear the pants).
On display in the conference room was a pith helmet one of the soldiers had worn on active duty, along with some photos of people who were in the room, but “hard to recognize” from the photos taken years before. People cheered as the veterans finished their stories.
That morning as I drove in, I bemoaned the fact that the firm was not closed to commemorate the holiday unlike government offices, schools and banks. When I went home that night, I thought it had been the most memorable Veterans’ Day I could remember. Each person who attended had been enriched by the experience.
Thanks Joe. Well done. Mission accomplished!
Well, that’s the Schwabe story, but there are some additional individuals who I want to salute on this Veterans’ Day – mostly lawyers, but also some friends and relatives:
(To see the full story of each BOQ including the full text of the medal commendations for Blakely, Bomarito and Lawrence, click on the link over their names below)
Jack Faust – US Army – He served in Army intelligence and counterintelligence during the Korean War. From 1953-55 as a Special Agent in the US Army Counterintelligence Corps – detachment Far East Command, he was stationed in Korea, Japan and China. Jack is a retired Portland attorney and the former moderator of the Town Hall public affairs television program.
Jud Blakely – USMC – After graduating from Oregon State University in 1965, where he served as Student Body President, Jud was commissioned as a USMC 2nd Lt.
He spent a total 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. 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.
Jud writes and consults from his home in Alabama.
Doug Bomarito – USN – a good friend of Jud Blakely, Doug graduated from the US Naval Academy. As a Navy Ensign, he initially was on a destroyer, but in 1969 volunteered for Patrol Boats River (PBR), which patrolled in the hostile rivers and canals.
He served as a patrol officer for a number of PBRs attached to a River Division 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 on which he was directing tactics and another for which he had responsibility, were ambushed by the North Vietnamese.
During a severe fire-fight, Doug and two of the crew were wounded and eventually medevacked to hospitals, but not before Doug completed his mission. He received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his heroism.
He is now a Portland lawyer. Bomarito was a key player in developing, designing and funding the Viet Nam Veterans of Oregon Living Memorial. (see below)
Jim Westwood – USN – This now semi-retired Oregon appellate lawyer in the ’60’s was the Captain of the legendary Portland State College Bowl Team which made headlines for its victories on national television.
After graduation from PSU and before law school at Columbia University, he was commissioned in the Navy and served as a Naval Intelligence Officer for several years. Because of his superior language skills, he spent a year learning Thai – an extremely difficult language to master.
Steve Lawrence – US Army – Steve is a retired lawyer and until recently, the two-term Mayor of the Dalles, Oregon went to Boise Jr. College after graduating from The Dalles High School, but enlisted in 1967. He was selected for Officer Candidate School, was commissioned and then commanded an infantry platoon in Viet Nam.
While a Second Lieutenant, Steve recalled several “serious helicopter events” including two crashes nearby during fire-fights, and an Army pilot who made three passes firing on Steve’s troops and wounding half of his squad before the chopper was called off by radio.
His Silver Star was awarded for action in combat in July 1968 and Bronze Star for “his display of personal bravery and devotion to duty” in February 1969. His Bronze Star has an Oak Leaf Cluster because he received a second one for meritorious service while still in Viet Nam.
The Late Colonel Terry “Spike” McKinsey – USMC Ret. – I first met this Gladstone, Oregon native who was to become a legendary jet pilot when we were shipmates on a Navy destroyer (USS John R. Craig DD 885) on our 3/c midshipman summer training cruise when I was in NROTC at Oregon State and he was at the Naval Academy.
Terry took his commission in the Marine Corps and after his eighteen-year career in the active military where he earned the nickname “Spike” because of his tendency to come in for “hard landings,” he flew for the Oregon Air National Guard. As a result of his charismatic leadership skills, he became the Base Commander from 1985 to 1989. He then flew as Assistant Chief Pilot for Horizon Airlines.
Spike passed away in 2019 and this excerpt from his obituary written by a USNA classmate sums up his character:
“During his 72 years, Spike’s undeniable strength, unconditional kindness, and unquestionable integrity made a lasting impact on his friends, colleagues, and family….. Spike lived a life true to his values. He stood for what is right and didn’t hesitate to step in when he saw injustice in action.”
John Runkle US Army – He joined the Army in 1980 and was ordered to Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia. John became a Paratrooper with the 509th Airborne Combat Team, was shipped to Europe and graduated from the French Commando School.
He also earned Spanish Jump Wings. The big guy made a total of 53 jumps.
He served as a member of an Army Service component command of United States Africa Command, which although based in Italy, primarily operated in Africa. His last billet was as an instructor at Fort Benning.
John is now the owner of the Dirty Shame Saloon and the Yaak River Lodge in Yaak, Montana. I met him on my 2019 Montana road trip and “The Shame” was the most interesting and my favorite of any of the 400 watering holes I’ve reviewed since starting I started Beerchasing in 2011.
Captain Rick Williams USN Ret. – Although all three of the Williams boys served in the military, our youngest brother had a long and distinguished Navy career.
After graduation and commissioning from the NROTC program at Oregon State, he became a Navy hard-hat diver and then commanded a deep submergence vehicle (USS Sea Cliff DSV 4) including a dive to 20,000 feet in the Middle American Trench off Guatemala.
On his “journey” he went to Nuclear Power School after an interview with the late Admiral Hyman Rickover. He retired as the Skipper of the USS Spadefish SSN 668 – a Sturgeon Class attack submarine.
And while mentioning submarines, I don’t want to forget our brother-in-law, Dave Booher, a retired teacher and school administrator.
Dave served as a sonarman on two Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines for five nuclear deterrent patrols and was aboard the diesel boat USS Dogfish – it was older than the Beerchaser, having been launched in 1944!.
Dale Harlan – US Army – Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, he volunteered for the U.S. Army and was sent overseas. Dale was awarded two battle stars and the Air Medal for service in the Central Pacific. Subsequently, he volunteered for the Parachute Infantry and was assigned to Company E, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Screaming Eagles).
Dale received two battle stars in Europe, two Presidential Unit Citations, and a Purple Heart. He was severely wounded in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium in January 1945.
He passed away in 2017 and had a distinguished career as a lawyer and elected official besides a life-long commitment to charitable and civic activities. Dale Harlan is the epitome of those in the Greatest Generation and was a wonderful friend.
But my final recognition on this Veteran’s Day goes to two members of the military who gave the last full measure of devotion to their country:
Don Wilburn – US Army Air Corps – Captain Donald E. Wilburn was my dad’s best friend and SAE fraternity brother at George Washington University. Don was a pilot in the Army Air Corps and died during World War II. I’m honored to be named after him (Donald Wilburn Williams)
Gary Kestler – US Marine Corps – Gary Kestler was my best friend at Oregon City High School and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1967. He was killed by enemy rifle fire while on patrol in Quang Tri Province in Viet Nam on May 28, 1968. In high school, Gary was a student leader, a multi-sport athlete and a friend to all.
So what are a just a few things we can do this Veterans’ Day to pay homage to those who served:
- Show the flag at your personal residence.
- Call a veteran(s) and thank him or her for their service.
- Raise a mug and make a personal toast to those currently serving.
- Send a check to the Viet Nam Veteran’s of Oregon Memorial Fund (VNVOMF) to honor all of our Viet Nam Veterans. Send to: