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July 21, 2024

Ashland Veterans Day breakfast was about more than the pancakes

Scouts from Ashland Troop 112 were introduced to Tim Hernandez Sr. (right) a veteran and former scoutmaster. Each scout shook hands with Hernandez. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
November 12, 2023

Swapping stories and respecting military service were on the menu

By Paul R. Huard for Ashland.news

Dozens of Ashland-area veterans of the United States armed forces enjoyed a free breakfast in their honor Saturday, a Veterans Day “thank you” offered to acknowledge their choice to serve their nation and protect their fellow countrymen.

Co-sponsored by Ashland Scout Troop 112, American Legion Guy T. Applewhite Post 14, and Ashland Elks Lodge 944, the breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs and assorted trimmings was served by members of the Scout Troop, who also set up the Elks Lodge ballroom for the event.

But the breakfast was more than a meal, said several of the veterans interviewed. It was a chance to meet with others who shared something in common: The experience of dedicating part of their lives to national service, something that civilians who have never been in the military rarely understand.

“Every time I get together with other veterans, it is always a good experience,” said Kevin Calkins, 66, Scoutmaster for Troop 112. Calkins, a retired chief petty officer, served in the Navy for 22 years.

Ashland area veterans were thanked with a breakfast Saturday at the Elks Lodge 944 by American Legion Post 14 and Ashland’s Scouts BSA Troop No. 112. Veterans and guests were served a hearty egg, biscuit and sausage breakfast served by scouts and their leaders. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

“We get to tell a few stories, crack a few jokes, but it is always a good time,” Calkins said. “I’m the poster child for having a good time in the military.”

He estimated that within the first hour of serving, more than 40 people attended the meal. Calkins said he anticipated even more diners by the time the Scouts stopped serving breakfast at 11:30 a.m.

Although the meal was free-of-charge, donations were collected, Calkins said. Any money collected minus expenses would be given to the Elks Lodge veterans assistance fund, he said.

Indeed, camaraderie was as much of a draw as the meal. Veterans sat at tables in groups of two and three apiece, indulging in a little “barracks humor” and comparing stories from their time in the military.

Tim Hernandez, 72, was a technical sergeant in the Air Force. He can tell anyone his length of service to the day: “20 years, five months, 10 days,” he said.

Veterans from every service branch and time-frame enjoyed breakfast and conversation at the Ashland Scout Troop 112 breakfast Saturday at the Ashland Elks Lodge. Here, from left, George Paige, Will Toth and Elias Ayala have coffee and conversation. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

But Hernandez said he loved his job in the military: crew chief, the individual responsible for supervising and performing maintenance on aircraft. “It’s the No. 2 job in the Air Force,” he said, putting “pilot” as the only other job that is more in important in that branch.

Hernandez worked with multiple generations of fighter aircraft at air bases around the world during his career. Once he was asked by a civilian attending an airbase open house why his job mattered.

“I said, ‘See that name on the side of the aircraft,’” Hernandez said. “‘That’s me. That’s my aircraft. I take care of an $80 million piece of equipment — and that can be your job if you want it.’ A general who overheard me talk to that young guy told me later, ‘You ought to be in recruiting.’ I said, ‘Sir, with respect I am where I need to be.’”

Another veteran said there is a bond that servicemen have that is difficult to share with people who were never in the military.

Scouts from Ashland’s Troop No. 112, Oregon’s oldest scout troop, worked hard serving dozens of veterans and guests at the Elks Lodge Saturday morning. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

“The breakfast was wonderful, but what was even better was the chance to talk to people who understand what it is like to be in the service,” said Eddy, 63, a veteran of the United States Army who said he didn’t want his last name in print. “If you were drafted or joined on your own, you sacrificed. There’s not a lot of that anymore.”

For their part, Boy Scouts said they were impressed with the veterans and their self-sacrifice.

Kit Metlen, 15, a Life Scout and the troop’s senior patrol leader, said Scouting emphasizes public service and a sense of duty, something he believes Scouts have in common with those who have served in the armed forces.

“In Scouts, you work together, camp together, and serve together,” said Metlen during a break from supervising other Scouts in the troop as they set up for the breakfast. “It’s the basis for a similar experience.”

Ashland Troop Scoutmaster Kevin Calkins (left) introduces his scouts to Tim Hernandez Sr., (right) a veteran and former scoutmaster. Each scout shook hands with Hernandez. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

“Also, I do feel the duty to give back to the veterans,” he added. “And I enjoy working with the younger Scouts.”

Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest youth organizations in United States. (Girls, as well as boys, are welcome to join since 2018 at the Cub Scout level and since 2019 at the Scout level — 11-17 years old.)

Inspired by the Scouting movement launched in the early 20th Century by Lt. Gen. Sir Robert Baden-Powell, a British Army officer and social reformer, the Boy Scouts helps prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.  Traditional Scouting programs emphasize outdoor activities, public service, physical fitness, and developing life skills.

“Scouts opens up a whole array of opportunities that you never will have any other way,” said Michael Runyen, 17, also a Life Scout in the troop. “In the process, you build friendships and learn leadership skills along the way that you never would have learned without Scouting.”

Calkins, the troop’s scoutmaster, said he hoped that everyone attending would learn what he believes is the most important lesson about Veterans Day.

“I want people to know that those old guys walking around with a hat that says ‘Vietnam Veteran’ or ‘Desert Storm Veteran’ are more than just someone who went somewhere,” he said. “They come out of the military with a different outlook on life. They know how to get the job done, they have zero tolerance for stupidity, and they have a camaraderie like nothing else. The military is not for everybody, but it is a good place to grow up.”

Email freelance reporter Paul R. Huard at paulrhuard@gmail.com.

Below appear portraits of other veterans at the breakfast.

Don Wilson was an E-6 in the US Navy and served for 20 years. He served aboard the USS Kittyhawk, USS Constellation, and USS Independence. One of his memories was visiting Talofofo Falls in Guam in 1972. He was on the boulders at the pool below and got caught up in a rope. “No damage done except for my ego.” Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Darryl Mallory was an E-5 in the US Army from 1968 to 1970 and served in Can Tho, Vietnam. The memory that stands out for him was that “I couldn’t believe there were that many shades of green!” Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Elias Ayala was a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force for 20 years and the United States Marines for four years. Over those 24 years, he was stationed in Japan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Texas, Puerto Rico, Ohio, Colorado, and Florida. While serving in Baghdad, Iraq, he worked alongside a US Olympian who won bronze and gold medals for the bobsled team. “He too was wearing the military uniform.” Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Dave Dotterrer served in the United States Marine Corps from 1973 to 2000 and achieved the rank of Colonel. Over his career he served in 17 different locations. His memory is “How much I liked serving with my fellow Marines.” Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Ron Leonard served in the US Army as a Specialist 5. He was stationed in Germany and was a computer operator on mainframe computers from 1966 to 1969. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Jean Dooms served as a Yeoman 2nd Class in the US Navy from January 1971 to July 1979. She served Brother/Sister Duty and also served in Hawaii, Italy, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She remembers wanting “to get out of Kansas.” So she joined the Navy “to see if I could handle it.” Jean enjoyed her service time. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Ty (Charlie) Aldinger was a Captain in the US Navy for 32 years. He was stationed in California at San Diego, Monterey and Alameda, and also in Houston, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana, Charleston, South Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida. He was deployed to the North, Caribbean, and Mediterranean Seas and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. His biggest memory was “being rammed by a Soviet nuclear submarine in the middle of the (not so) cold war.” He also remembers the men and women who he worked with who voluntarily chose to serve their country. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Rick Davis served in the US Air Force from 1963 to 1968. He was stationed at Westover and Barksdale Air Force Bases in the United States and Kadena Air Force base in Okinawa. He remembers being “fearful of nuclear catastrophe on the world.” Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Tim Hernandez Sr. was a Technical Sergeant in the US Air Force from 1971 to 1991 or 20 years, 5 months, 20 days, but he really wasn’t counting. He was stationed in many places including Korea, West Germany and his favorite base, Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls. He was chief of a crew that took care of jets when on the ground, including T-33s, F-101s, F-102s, F-106s F-4s, F-111s, and F-16s. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Eric Entenmann was in the US Navy Air Corps for four years. He was stationed in San Diego, California. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
John Morrison was a Specialist 4 in the US Army. He served from 1965 to 1967. He was stationed at Fort Old for training and then in Vietnam for over a year. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Gary Mallicoat served in the US Navy for six years and achieved the rank of E4. He was stationed in Vietnam in the “brown water navy.” Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Edd Eggiman served as a sergeant in the US Army for two years. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Fort Sill-RVN, and in Vietnam. He remembers waiting to leave Vietnam. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Mike Bakke was a Staff Sergeant (E5) in the US Air Force. He served for eight years in Thailand, and both the eastern and western United States. His memory of his time in the Air Force is all the men and women he met. He met his wife while serving at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls. They have been married for 52 years. He says “what a catch!” Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Will Toth was a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy. He served in the United States and Cuba from 1979 to 1987. He has memories of being at sea in rough weather. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Matthew Preston served in both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army between 1988 and 1996. He was a EM2 (Petty Officer Second Class) in the Navy and a Specialist 4 in the Army and was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia and Klamath Falls, Oregon. He has been to the Caribbean, South America, Central America and Europe during his service. He says his most profound observation is although norms and customs are different, every person has similar needs and desires. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Harlan Tso was a sergeant in the U.S. Marines and served for four years. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. He grew up around the Four Corners area in Arizona, and when he went to California to serve, it was the first time he saw the ocean. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Archie Blake served in the United States Navy with a rank of AX2 (Petty Officer Second Class) from 1963 to 1968. He was stationed in Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, Sicily, Italy and Vietnam. His favorite memory of his service is flying the world in Naval aircraft. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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