Monday, November 11, 2013

We Honor Those Who Serve on Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. We honor all who have served, most especially those who sacrificed life and limb in the name of our country and to protect its freedoms. Hats off and a warmest thank you to all the veterans out there!  
Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, a
mile up from our old home in Arlington, VA. 

In the family, thanks beyond the great divide go to my Uncle Lyn and Grandfather John who served in WW I and Uncle Herb who served in WW II. We are fortunate for the opportunity to personally thank my father in law who served in WW II and was a reservist for many years thereafter. A big hand of appreciation goes out to my army veteran brothers in law Jack and Edward, who works for the Army to this day as a civilian employee (if you want to know anything about Soviet or Russian tanks, or more recently, IED's in Iraq or Afghanistan, he is your go to guy). Thanks to all!!!

Here is my father-in-law's World War II enlistment record.

NameCharles H Wagamon
Serial Number33594605
Residence StatePennsylvania
Enlist Date (m/d/y)03/22/1943
BranchNo Branch Assignment
Enlistment TermDuration of War, Plus 6 Months
Birth Year1924
Race + CitizenshipWhite, Citizen
Education3 Years High School
Marital StatusSingle, Without Dependents
Component ArmySelectees - Enlisted Men

"Doc" Wagamon was a bomadier/navigator in the Army Air Force. A couple of years ago he had a chance to relive his experience in a World War II era bomber.
The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX
September 28, 2011
Cody Stark: Taking a ride in a flying museum
By Cody Stark
Staff Reporter
HUNTSVILLE — There were a lot of people in Huntsville with their eyes glued to the sky this past weekend. The buzz was that everyone was wondering what that mysterious, loud aircraft was flying around the city. 
The Texas Raiders, a B-17 World War II bomber, made a stop at the Bruce Brothers Regional Airport. Tabbed as a “Flying Fortress,” Texas Raiders is truly a historical treasure. 
I had the privilege to join three World War II veterans and several other members of the media for a 30 minute flight around the city last Friday. I can admit that it turned out to be one of the coolest experiences I have ever had as a journalist. 
When I arrived at the airport, Sandra Thompson, the public information officer for the Gulf Coast Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, introduced me to a pair of local heroes who would be on the flight. Charles Wagamon and Barney Driscoll both flew in bomber missions during WWII and it really set the tone for an amazing morning. 
Wagamon and Driscoll both shared intriguing stories of some of their experiences during the war and gave me an idea of what I could expect once the flight took off. 
“It’s loud,” Driscoll said. “That is why I’m deaf now.” 
Doc Wagamon prepared for flight
Wagamon came prepared. The former lieutenant colonel who flew 20 missions as a navigator in Italy during WWII brought with him the helmet he wore during his service from 1943-47. When Wagamon put the helmet on for some photos before take off, it really began to set the stage. There was also a story he told me that really sank in as Texas Raiders was flying down the runway. 
“There was a mission during the war that sent up 30 planes and 600 men,” Wagamon said. “None of them returned. When I speak at schools, I often ask the kids how many are in their class? They usually say around 500 or 600, and I tell them just imagine that you all went on a mission and none of you returned. 
“Seventy percent of airmen did not survive 30 missions. That puts things in perspective.” 
That does make you think. One of the reasons I wanted to go on the flight was to get a feel for what our WWII heroes went through. When I see movies like “Saving Private Ryan” or a cable series like “The Pacific,” I cannot begin to imagine how scared those brave men and women had to have been as they fought to secure our freedom and how in the moment when bullets are flying and mortars are exploding that they find away to persevere.
Also known as Judge (as in the real Texas Walker County Judge) Wagamon, Doc recounted the nostalgic experience and thanked the sponsors,
Thank you for making some old men special. For a short time I was 20 again during the run up, mag check, and prop cycle. There is just no feeling like being in a bomber with its noise, vibration,and odors while in flight.  I will never forget this trip back in time which brought memories of men I knew who experienced the same feelings so long ago. When I awoke this morning I was 88 again but for a short time I was very young and immortal thanks to you. May God bless you and keep you always gently in the palm of His hand.
LTC Charles H. Wagamon, USAF, Ret., B/N 486 BS, 340th BG 
He has posted praises of the planes that served him well.
Charles Wagamon. LTC , USAF Ret., 01.03.2010 I was with the 340th BG, B/N, on Corsica and later in Italy near the end of the war. The maintenance on these 25's was always first class so no matter what demands were placed on them during a mission they always performed. On July 3rd we were given 6K of the 486th BS to fly back to Savannah,GA. We logged 52 hours from Italy to Africa to Ascension Island, to Natal, to Belem, to Georgetown to Puerto Rico to Hunter Field. Sgt. Garland, the crew chief, changed a left main tire on Ascension but other than that 6K never missed a beat. 6K had a 103 missions on it with an ME 109 shot down to its credit. What a remarable airplane. The hardest part of the flight was leaving her there on the tarmac and not knowing who would be flying her and not knowing the super service she gave to us in the 486th and bringing us safely home. After shutdown I just sat in her listening to the gyros wind down and the sounds hot metal gives as it contracts so I could remember what it was like to have flown in such an airplane in combat and my last private contact with her. There are some who thought planes were just just well formed aluminum sheets fashioned into shapes with engines attached. I always thought 6K was more than that. I remained convinced that 6K had a soul.
Doc doesn't allow advancing years to shut him down. Here, last month, he speaks up on behalf of the families of fallen comrades.
October 11, 2013
Letters: Wagamon  
Submitted by readers The Huntsville Item
Have we no shame? 
Dear Editor: 
I read the Air Force Times each week and am astonished at the purported cover ups of commanders who do nothing about sexual harassment and are openly accused of tampering with investigative teams who seek facts about events that occurred. 
This past week however a new low was reached. Six dead heroes came home from Afghanistan to Dover AFB and no families were given the traditional rites of seeing them carried off the plane in honor. Add to that the denial of funds for burial and transportation and the problem snowballs. This is not a glitch. Obama Care may have glitches but this smacks of political retribution at the Obama level of our government associated with shut down.
Sadly our Administration does not get the connection between the six heroes’ families and the thousands of veterans who felt the pain of those six families. We were all saddened and embarrassed by this irresponsible and preventable episode. If there is one thing that unites veterans against an injustice, it is dishonoring those who paid with their precious lives. Apparently honoring our valiant dead is an idea that is only used in Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day speeches by politicians as a punch line. 
Let us answer the original question. Have we no shame? It is clear we have no shame when it comes to making political points.

Charles Wagamon,
World War II Veteran
Judge Wagamon is a prolific writer of commentary and opinion letters to his local rag.  A guest blogger perhaps?  

I knew my Uncle Herb well. He along with my father and my Aunt Margaret, were the Chicago branch of the 11 child clan. Uncle Herb never spoke of World War II. The only remembrance I have of his service is the tombstone where he was laid to rest in his hometown, on the frigid northern plains of North Dakota. Uncle Herb, thank you for your service.

Uncle Herb's tombstone, Bathgate, North Dakota

Though I never met him, Lyndon R. "Red" Foster, besides being a veteran of WWI, he was quite the character. He reportedly was gassed in the war and had status as a partially disabled veteran. Following the war, he returned to California where at one time or another he ran, unsuccessfully in all cases, for Los Angeles County Supervisor, the U.S. House of Representatives and Lieutenant Governor of California (when Ronald Reagan was elected to his first term as Governor of the Golden State). He once had his apartment bombed by political opponents. He was a lobbyist, a profession we have learned a thing or two about. Lyn is buried in Section 270, Los Angeles National Cemetery, maintained by the Department of Veteran Affairs. Uncle Lyn, thank you for your service.

Similarly, I never met my grandfather John Stuberg. He was a bricklayer or brick mason my mother liked to say. When drafted into World War I, John Stuberg was a resident alien, recently immigrated from Sweden. From what I understand the war ended shortly after his troop ship docked in England. He trained, he prepared, and he deployed but he did not see live action. We have the 48-star woven American Flat which graced his coffin courtesy of the VA in commemoration of his service. Grandfather John, thank you for your service.

To all the veterans out there, thank you for your valor, your sacrifices and devotion to duty.

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