Tualatin salutes veterans from different eras at breakfast
At Tualatin's annual veterans' recognition breakfast Thursday, Nov. 9, attendees heard from a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot, a U.S. Air Force veteran who commanded a missile silo during the Cold War, and a retired military intelligence officer who served in Korea and Vietnam, while also paying tribute to World War II veterans in the audience and recognizing those killed in action, missing in action and prisoners of war.
The breakfast is a yearly tradition at the Juanita Pohl Center, where it was started by a former center supervisor, Matt Saviello, in honor of his father. Its master of ceremonies this year was Frank Bubenik, a Tualatin city councilor and Army veteran. Bubenik introduced two fellow veterans as speakers, as well as Chief Warrant Officer Rosemary Kaszubowski, who serves in the Oregon Army National Guard.
Kaszubowski has spent 37 years in the military, she told the audience, and she's gone from being a noncommissioned sergeant to a major to an officer in the adjutant general's corps.
"The end of my career in 1983, I wanted to stay (an) enlisted soldier, and the Army said, 'You can't do your job anymore,'" said Kaszubowski. She had been serving in military construction, she explained, which the Army reclassified as a combat role — and at the time, women were barred from serving in combat roles.
She continued, "I left in the Army in 1983 and I decided to join … the Maine Army National Guard, and I went to ROTC to become an officer. And while serving in the Maine Guard, someone said, 'I dare you to become a pilot,' and I did."
Kaszubowski was deployed three times during her time flying helicopters. She piloted UH-1 Iroquois helicopters — better known as "Hueys" — in support of the Gulf War, carrying out medical evacuation missions in Europe, and then UH-60 Black Hawks in Bosnia and then at Fort Bragg, Calif., in support of the war in Afghanistan. Eventually, she relocated to Oregon and is now part of the Oregon Army National Guard.
While Kaszubowski is dedicated to the Army, explaining how its values guide the way she lives, her deployments cost her precious time with loved ones. Her father, a Korean War veteran, died while she was stationed in Europe, followed by her brother while she was on deployment at Fort Bragg. Her mother died shortly after her last tour of duty ended.
Despite those losses, Kaszubowski said she hopes to be deployed again before her military career is over. She also called attention to the ways in which the military has changed over her 37 years.
"A good thing that changed — back in '83, when they said, 'You can't do your job because you're a woman,' but now women today serve in combat. Women today now fly combat aircraft. Women today are in the field artillery and in the infantry," Kaszubowski said.
Women also served as launch officers at nuclear missile silos during the Cold War, said fellow speaker Ken Dale, and as military intelligence officers in Vietnam, added third speaker Dave Dehart.
Dale was just a couple years removed from college when he was placed in charge of one of those missile silos. If the order came in, he was to take a key out of a red safe, insert it into a slot on the missile control panel and turn it to launch a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union.
"When I first got on crew as a deputy commander, the launch officers — the crew commanders, really — were … mostly majors, senior captains and a few lieutenant colonels. Four years later, we were 24- and 25-year-old junior captains and first lieutenants," Dale recalled. "They didn't mind giving you responsibility early."
Thankfully, Dale never had to fire the Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile in his silo. He quipped that he thinks of himself as a "peacemaker," supervising a piece of the United States' nuclear deterrent — also the nickname of his favorite aircraft, the B-36.
"Some cynics will point out how that is an oxymoron," Dale said of the B-36 Peacemaker's nickname. "I'd like to point out that the B-36 is our most successful aircraft bomber, because we never used it. We are here today because I never used my Titan II missile."
Dehart spent little time talking about himself and his service. Instead, he told the story of a fellow military intelligence agent who is an inspiration to him, James "Nick" Roe. Operating under the cover of being an engineer in Vietnam, Rowe and a fellow officer were taken prisoner by the Viet Cong. He survived five years in captivity, enduring harsh conditions, brutal treatment and serious illness; the other officer, a friend of his from the academy, did not.
"Recently, somebody Tweeted — I don't know who it was — said that the POWs aren't heroes. BS. They are. … POWs are heroes," Dehart declared, to loud approval from the audience.
More than 100 veterans and other attendees enjoyed breakfast courtesy of Dalton's Catering. But as always, a table at the front of the room was left unoccupied, and the plate and silverware set out remained clean. The table, said Bubenik, represents the "missing man" — the KIA, MIA and POWs.
Mayor Lou Ogden also took a moment to recognize the fallen, as well as to call out veterans in the audience by their branch of service.
"We all know the sacrifice that each and every one of you made to keep this country free, and you returned," Ogden said. "And we all know many people who made an even greater sacrifice, and those who did not return."