PHOTO STORY BY SHERI TRUSTY
On Veterans Day, we recognize the men and women who have worked to protect America and our vulnerable neighbors around the world. Here are a few of our local heroes, whose sacrifices were many. May they know they are honored and appreciated by us all.
Larry Camp, Army, 1960-1963
Larry Camp, of Oak Harbor, enlisted in the Army in 1960. The Vietnam War was in progress, but America did not yet have a strong presence in the country. Camp was sent to Germany, where he worked as a mechanic at an antiaircraft missile base. “It was the beginning of the Vietnam War. Most of the guys that were still there when I left were sent to Vietnam. I got out just in the nick of time.”
Camp said his service in the military was “good and bad, but mostly good. If the country’s not at war, the military is a good experience.” He learned lifelong skills, including mechanic work and welding. “And we learned to kill people. That’s part of being in the Army,” he said.”
Joyce Brock, Air Force, 1968-1972
Joyce Brock, of Oak Harbor, served as a medic at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas during the Vietnam War, where she tended to men on both sides of their combat experience. She gave shots to men preparing to leave for Vietnam, and she tended to the wounded on their return. When she would feel overwhelmed by the heaviness of caring for young, injured soldiers, she would retreat to her barracks to recoup before returning to her duties.
“We had heavy-duty training. We were taught to keep going, to do what we had to do, to remain focused on the mission,” she said.
Ben Knauss, Army, 2006-2008
Ben Knauss, of Oak Harbor, followed a longstanding family tradition when he enlisted in the Army, where he worked as a transportation management coordinator. “I wanted to be able to travel, to just have a different experience. Most of my family have been in the military, all the way back to World War II.”
Knauss left the military with many lifelong skills, including the lifesaving skills that were taught to everyone in his unit, including those assigned to non-medical duties. He also returned home with an altered view of the world. “I met a lot of different people and did things I wouldn’t have experienced without my training. It changes your perspective of life a lot.”
Chester Chaffin, Army, 1968-1992
When Chester Chaffin, of Port Clinton, enlisted in the Army in 1968, he was immediately assigned to duty in Vietnam, but was reassigned to Guam when his wife began experiencing pregnancy complications. While in Guam, he served as part of the support staff for Operation Linebacker II, during which “they spent 11 days doing nothing but bombing Vietnam,” he said.
During the Vietnam War, Chaffin worked in an orderly room and was, he said, “like a Radar O’Reilly.” In addition to Guam, he also served in Germany and Alaska. He became a career soldier, ending as a Master Sergeant, because he enjoyed serving. “We’ve liked every place we’ve been stationed. The people – that was the best part,” he said.
Kevin Bloemer, Army, 1983-1987
Kevin Bloemer, of Oak Harbor, served as a 19 Echo Tank Crewman in West Germany. For him, the military was a pathway to college. He served four years, and then took advantage of military funding to pay for his education. He said he enjoyed his service, which at the time was “like a 9 to 5 job. I still had to get up at 6 in the morning to do formations, but my evenings were mine.”
Bloemer said the best part of the military was the lifelong friendships he developed, and the worst part was basic training. “The first night, I think I got an hour’s sleep,” he said. “But I learned a lot of skills. I know how to keep things clean, and I can take care of myself.”