'We have to remember our history'
West Linn veteran Greg Arnold enlisted in the Navy in 1968, thinking it was a better option than waiting for the draft. He only intended to complete his obligatory tour and left the service in 1972 after manning the USS Wandank and USS Ajax.
In his four years away from the Navy, however, Arnold found he missed the adventures that came with life as a sailor and ended up returning in 1976 to spend 17 more years in the service.
Today, Arnold is the commander of the Oregon City post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization. He fondly remembers his time in the Navy, both at sea and the three years he worked in Naval personnel command in Washington, D.C.
While Arnold has taken away numerous lessons from his experiences serving his country, he hopes other Americans remember lessons from wars past.
"We have to remember our history, why we fought in World War II and Korea and Vietnam," Aronold said. "We have to remember the sacrifices our veterans have made for their country."
Arnold spent most of his two decades in the Navy as an electrician on several ships in the Pacific.
Arnold's first tour of duty was aboard the USS Wandank, an ocean-going tugboat that surveyed the Marshall Islands and Carolina Islands and towed barges from Thailand to Vietnam.
Arnold said the crew brought doctors and medical supplies to people on the Marshall and Carolina Islands.
After three years on the USS Wandank, Arnold began service on the USS Ajax, a ship stationed out of San Diego that traveled to Japan and Vietnam. While Arnold said the Ajax wasn't involved in battle during the Vietnam War, the boat served as a repair station for South Vietnamese and US Navy ships fighting in the war.
Arnold left the service in 1972 after his time on the Ajax but returned four years later.
From 1976-1978, he continued his work as an electrician in the western Pacific Ocean, this time aboard the USS Barbour County.
In 1978, Arnold transferred to the USS Belleau Wood, for which he was part of the commissioning crew. Arnold served as the ship's electrical supervisor overseeing the elevators on board during a tour of the western Pacific as well as the Indian Ocean.
The Navy transferred Arnold to the Naval Personnel Command in Washington, D.C. in 1981, where he was tasked with writing work orders for electrical work. Though Arnold said his work in Washington was more administrative than his roles at sea, in time he came to like it just as much. During his time with the personnel command, he visited various ports throughout the country and in Europe, talking to sailors about their assignments.
Highlights from this period of his service included his initiation as a chief petty officer at the Washington Naval Yard and being present for the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
"Anyone who was there that day would tell you what an emotional experience that was," he said.
After his time in D.C., Arnold got to choose his next duty station.
From 1984-1990, Arnold worked aboard the USS Vincennes overseeing the ship's maintenance programs.
In 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war, the ship became infamous for shooting down an Iranian airliner and killing nearly 300 civilians, an event that left its mark on history and Arnold.
Arnold said it was difficult to learn the plane was a civilian aircraft rather than a hostile one.
After his time on the USS Vincennes, Arnold spent the last three years of his service in Seattle inspecting minesweepers from the Korean War.
Arnold said his time in the Navy taught him how to work with people. Whether he was the one giving orders or taking them, Arnold said he learned to not jump to conclusions and be objective in his relationships with others.
He also mentioned the traveling he did while in the service taught him to appreciate other cultures.
Now, Arnold said working with vets from other branches of the military who served in other wars is inspiring.
"Getting into the VFW, I found people with whom I had the common bond of combat," he said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.