Web Exclusive: Touch the Flag

December 1, 2009
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A salute to the veterans among the ranks of America’s land surveying and mapping professionals.



If you’re a veteran, POB invites you to participate in this ongoing Web Exclusive tribute. If you are not a veteran but know of someone, living or dead, who should be included, please enter him or her. Please submit the following information to POB Editor Christine Grahl at pobeditor@bnpmedia.com:

Name:
Date of Birth:
Date of Death (if applicable):
War/Conflict:
Dates Served:
Branch of Service:
Final Rank:
Where Served:
Type of Work Performed:
Significant Memory or Reflection:
Photos, preferably one in uniform and a current photo. (.jpg preferred)

Roll Call: Scroll down for the latest posts.

Name: Chris Staats

Date of Birth: 1977

Date of Death: Oct. 16, 2009

War/Conflict: Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan
 
Dates Served: 1996-2009

Branch of Service: Texas Army National Guard

Final Rank: Staff Sergeant

Where Served: Kosovo and Afghanistan

Type of Work Performed: Liaison Monitoring Team, Kosovo; Agribusiness Development Team, Afghanistan

Significant Memory or Reflection: “Chris was a survey technician/GIS analyst for my team from December 2007 until he was redeployed in October 2008,” says Ray D. Weger, survey manager at Halff Associates Inc. in San Antonio. “Chris took life as it came and always with a smile on his face. He will surely be missed.”


Name: Gerald (Gary) W. Briant, PLS, CFS

Date of Birth: 1950

War/Conflict: Vietnam

Dates Served: 1968-1971

Branch of Service: U.S. Army

Final Rank: Specialist 5 (SPC 5), Honorable Discharge

Where Served: Marble Mountain, five miles north of Da Nang; then Chu Li and Phou Bi.

Type of Work Performed: I was a 67H20 (aircraft mechanic on a Mohawk twin-engine turboprop plane) the first year in Nam and a 67H30 (tech inspector on same aircraft) the last tour of duty.

Significant Memory or Reflection: I have a 10 percent disability (hearing loss) service connected. I have many memories from that era but most of them not good.


June 16, 1969: About 1300 hours (1:00 pm), we came under attack. Dave Fox and I heard the mortar coming. Sho Sho Sho and Bang. It sounded like gravel was thrown against the side of the metal hanger. Dave and I dropped our cups and ran for the bunker. On the way out, I looked to my right and seen Dave Tailer running out of the other door just as a mortar hit not 15-20 feet from him. It knocked him back 5-10 feet, and he lay lifeless. Dave and I and some other guys ran over thinking he was dead for sure. When we got there, he was coming to, and someone said, “Boy, are you lucky!”

It was the same night, not two hours later, when we had another attack, and Fats was going out the back of the barracks. I could see him, and I saw the flash and heard him yell. Shrapnel had come through the wall and hit him in the abdomen. We carried him to the bunker, and I ran to the medic station to get a stretcher. I can still see the flashes from the explosions around me and smell the gunpowder when I close my eyes. When I returned, we loaded him on the stretcher and carried him to the hospital across the compound. That was the last time I saw or heard about him. His real name was Brady Thomas.

Even though it has been 40 years since this happened, I still have deep emotions that surface when I tell about them, and even as I write this, I am reminded of the sacrifice that many soldiers made for our freedom that some in this country take for granted. I do not know if Fats lived or not but he was a good friend.

Name: Mike Dotson, LS

Date of Birth: 1946

War/Conflict: Vietnam

Dates Served: 1966-1970

Branch of Service: U.S. Air Force

Final Rank: E-5 Staff Sergeant

Where Served: Malmstrom AFB, Great Falls, Mont.
 
Type of Work Performed: Site Development Specialist (surveying, drafting, construction inspection). I was essentially a draftsman, even though my job description was surveyor, draftsman and inspector. I basically work for civilian drafts-people instead of military. I was the first Site Development grad to be assigned to Malmstrom AFB; others followed shortly, but we were all new to the job. Any skill in surveying that I acquired was a group thing.


Dotson (back row, second from right) at his class graduation.

The primary survey job was on a few missile sites that the helicopter pilots thought were too restricted. There were power poles, fences and security monitors on or near each site, and my crew had to measure the locations and heights of them using a transit and tape. There were two monuments on each site so we would set up on one and site the other then turn angles and measure, including vertical angles. We got so we could do a site in around five minutes since we had been to most of them previously, but every time a new helicopter commander came in, they would request another survey so it was just a matter of checking data previously obtained.

Significant Memory or Reflection:
That 18, 19 and 20 year olds were expected to be adults and perform as such and did. Close friendships were formed and top notch morale was maintained by the soldiers. It was the thing that set my whole life in order that has lasted and will last until the end. I am a much better person because of my service and what it required.



Name:
Stephen Estopinal, PE, PLS

Date of Birth: 1946

War/Conflict: Vietnam

Dates Served: 1969- 1971

Branch of Service: U.S. Army Combat Engineers

Final Rank: First Lieutenant

Where Served: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands
 


.
Type of Work Performed:
Logistical: Recovered, repaired and returned to service battle-damaged weapons and vehicles.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Name:
Frank J. Jessie III  

Date of Birth: 1952   

War/Conflict: Desert Storm   

Dates Served: 1969-1996   

Branch of Service: Marine Corps
 
 
 
 
 
 
.


Final Rank: Master Sergeant  

Where Served: Saudi Arabia   

Type of Work Performed: Platoon Chief for 1st Topographic Platoon, I MEF   

Significant Memory or Reflection: The heat and humidity of Saudi Arabia.

 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
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Miller, pictured here with his wife, joined the Utah Army National Guard in 1995 as a Technical Engineering Specialist (surveyor/draftsman/soils tech), and went to OCS in 1999 and EOBC in 2002.

Name: Randy N. Miller, PLS, CFedS

Date of Birth: 1972

War/Conflict: Operation Iraqi Freedom

Dates Served: 2003-2004

Branch of Service: U.S. Army

Final Rank: First Lieutenant

Where Served: Tikrit, Iraq and An Nasyriah, Iraq

Type of Work Performed: Horizontal construction, construction management

Significant Memory or Reflection: There was a coordinated nationwide indirect fire attack directed against Coalition Force bases on Memorial Day that year. I think the selection of the day was deliberate to be demoralizing to Coalition Forces. We were out in the desert at a place like Tooele Army Depot West of Mosul (name of place changed) with a small contingent of my Army Engineers, maybe a dozen Blackwater security civilians, and a platoon of Rafidan-contracted local security armed with AK47s. We had finished a series of bunkers in our camp just two days before. About midday I started getting radio traffic from all my security trucks and Blackwater that rockets had been fired at us. Funny things happen in moments of stress, the reports of the point of origin all differed and the direction of the rockets was reported very differently by every call in. Turns out the rockets were not set up properly, and they shot off out into the desert. I thanked God profusely for that one but felt very relieved at the same time that we had prepared ourselves with a decent bunker complex.

Later that summer a security patrol inside the base picked up three armed infiltrators stealing scrap. They were obviously pawns of some other operator, but notwithstanding, it was a very frightening night until we could scour the camp and enlarge our guaranteed friendly areas. It was about 3 a.m., and I don't think I ever remember waking up, pulling on boots and locking and loading so fast ever.

Me and my buddies Bowen and Morgan. I am on the far left, closest to the Centex Homes sign. I think the place is still for sale!

The 4th of July was a real blast (pun intended). We had a pond for local contractors to deliver construction water by truck to improve the security of limiting them to just a small portion of the base. On the 4th we let our hair down but kept our weapons close. We had some active-duty soldiers with us who commented they never would have had so much fun with their battalion. We played horseshoes, made arrangements for a little bit better food, and had a tug of war across the pond. That cold water felt so good on such a hot day.

We had a large stockpile of MK19 ammunition that we wanted to fire off that evening, but there were friendly patrols out not far away so we could not do that. We had an explosives-removal contractor operating on the base, and they saved up nothing but white phosphorus munitions to destroy at dusk. Those fireworks didn't last long like back at home, but they were real and spectacular. It's not very often you get to see 70 tons of explosives go off at once. Later that night, we got to see some traditional fireworks go off at FOB Speicher (named after now-repatriated and killed-in-action Captain Michael Scott Speicher; he was still missing in 2004 from the 1991 Gulf War; his wreckage and remains were recovered earlier this year). FOB Speicher was the HQ for the Big Red One [1st Infantry Division], and luckily we were just close enough that with a high enough antenna we could contact some of the units at Speicher. Being out in the desert like that is a lonely feeling if an attack goes down. There were three substantial bases that we could reach by radio, but Speicher had the big firepower if we needed big help and a MEDEVAC that we needed on one occasion.

Editor’s Note: Check out Miller’s article, Full Enclosure, in the 2009 June issue of POB.

Name: Paul N. Scherbel

Date of Birth: 1917

War/Conflict: World War II

Dates Served: 1942 to present

Branch of Service: Navy

Final Rank: Commander
 
 
 
 
 
 
.


Where Served: Central Pacific

Type of Work Performed: Navigator, Executive Officer

Significant Memory or Reflection: Okinawa
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
.


Pictured here on his 87th birthday, Schumann goes to work every day and volunteers to help the elderly.

Name: Max A. Schumann Jr.

Date of Birth: 1922

War/Conflict: World War II

Dates Served: 1942-1949 (plus approx. 10 years with National Guard)

Branch of Service: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Final Rank: Captain
 
Where Served: Italy

Type of Work Performed: Engineer: Built bridges over the Po River


On leave to get married in 1945.

.
 
 

Significant Memory or Reflection: “He talks a lot about them building bridges and the Germans blowing them up,” says daughter Cynthia Ann Klatt, vice president of Schumann Engineering Co. Inc. in Midland, Texas.
 
“He and his brother reflect about the war sometimes when they get together. One thing that really bothered Dad was when bodies would come down the river and they didn't have the time nor capability of tending to them.”
 
 
  
 
.
 


.

Name: Alart R. van Vloten

Date of Birth: 1952

War/Conflict: Grenada

Dates Served: 1977-1983

Branch of Service: U.S. Navy Seabees

Final Rank: EA2 (Engineering Aid Second Class E-4)

Where Served: Antigua, West Indies

Type of Work Performed: Surveying, soils testing and drafting with Amphibious Construction Battalion One, Public Works Dept., NAVFAC.

Significant Memory or Reflection: Learning from some very seasoned people.


Name: Louise A. Veverka, PS

Date of Birth: 1954

War/Conflict: Vietnam

Dates Served: 1973-1975

Branch of Service: U.S. Navy

Final Rank: Draftsman, Seaman (DMSM); Petty Officer 3rd Class

Where Served: Miramar Naval Air Station, San Diego, Calif.; Yokohama, Japan


Veverka, pictured here at her daughter’s wedding, used her GI benefits to earn an A.A.S. in construction. She is the owner of L.V. Surveying Inc., Cleveland, Ohio, one of the few women-owned surveying companies in the area.

.

 

Type of Work Performed: I served with the Seabees at N.A.S. Miramar, San Diego, working in the engineering department there. After that, I went on to Yokohama, Japan, and worked as a postal clerk. (I changed jobs in order to travel to Japan. This turned out to be a fantastic idea as I met Hank, my future (and current) husband. He was also serving in the Navy aboard the USS Midway.)

Significant Memory or Reflection: One of my best survey memories was helping at a jet plane crash in San Diego. The pilot ejected from the fighter jet before it went down. He did manage to direct the plane to a desolate part of the base avoiding any casualties.
 
 
 
.



 


Name: Mike Lucas, PSM

Date of Birth: 1945

War/Conflict: Vietnam

Dates Served: 1967- 1971

Branch of Service: U.S. Marine Corps

Final Rank: Sergeant (E-5 Honorable Discharge)

Where Served: USA and Vietnam

Type of Work Performed: Ground forces and aircraft mechanic

Significant Memory or Reflection:  My 12 months in a war zone is like being in shock, maybe a bad dream and temporary insanity continually for the complete year I was “in-country.” No one really knows how they will react in a life-or-death situation until the real event unfolds before them. The following is only one event of many only few people knew about that left me thinking to myself, “What the hell did I do that for?” and was I only dreaming this event or did it REALLY happen?  Hmm....


Place: Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, Southeast Asia
Date: (about) early 1970
 
It was a unique, extremely high enemy threat night with a possibility of an enemy ground assault or aerial/rocket/mortar attack. We were working the night shift at Marine attack aviation squadron VMA(aw)-242 ordnance shop at the busiest airport/airbase in the world, Da Nang Air Base.
 
Our squadron was flying the ugly A-6 Intruder, which had a flight crew of two--a pilot in the left seat, and the right seat had one man with two jobs as bombardier/navigator. The Intruder was a relatively small all-weather, two-engine, agile aircraft.
 
The night had a full moon, so the sky was relatively light and visibility was good. We had three Marine A-6 Intruder close air support attack aircraft loaded to their maximum takeoff weight with 28 500-pound bombs and fueled up sitting in their 24-inch thick concrete rocket-proof hangers at the “ready” for any fellow Marine ground forces that needed immediate close air support. At sometime after midnight, we got the word to launch all three aircraft ASAP to aid the ground troops.
 
The pilot and bombardier/navigator were in the aircraft and taxiing out to the end of the runway to have us perform the final safety check of the bombs hanging under the wings and belly on their pylons. All went well, and the three planes got airborne. Our job as ground crew was done for the night--or so we thought. In reality, the nightmare was about to start.
 
As we drove back to the hanger, one of the aircraft that we just launched had catastrophic   hydraulic failure of the main controls (kind of like losing your power steering in a car while at high speeds). The pilot all but lost control while over the friendly city of Da Nang and had to manually steer the airplane back to the air base.
 
Because the aircraft took off with maximum gross weight and the plane had to return to the air base and land immediately, the pilot dumped most of his fuel to reduce the landing weight.
 


A-6 Intruder at Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam

But there was the problem with the 28 500-pound bombs. Jettisoning the bomb on the route back to the base was NOT an option as time was of the essence and the flight path was over friendly territory of Da Nang city. The pilot had only ONE choice and that was land his aircraft ASAP on the same runway that he had just taken off from and with a FULL bomb load. And that spelled disaster.
 
As we (the ground crew for the aircraft) heard of the emergency, we jumped in the vehicle, hooked up four trailers to pick up the bombs and hauled butt to about midpoint of the runway to retrieve the bombs. We got to the best vantage point along the runway, and    we could see the plane about to do the unthinkable: land with a full load of bombs. We knew it was not going to be a pretty landing and were prepared for the worst.
 
The disabled A-6 Intruder aircraft approached the runway at a high rate of speed because of the heavy load. The plane dropped out of the sky like a rock. The rear wheels slammed on the runway; all the rear tires burst from the heavy “G force” load. The gravity tore off    all the bomb racks and bombs from underneath the wings and belly of the plane. The front tires burst, as well, when the nose wheel touched the ground, so the plane was rolling down the runway--sparks flying all over the place from the wheels--only riding on its wheels with shredded tires and no brakes.
 
As all the 28 500-pound bombs came off the plane, the bombs were bouncing and tumbling down the middle of the runway of Da Nang Air Base with pieces and parts of the bombs breaking off, traveling about 180 mph on the runway.
 
When the bombs stopped tumbling and rolling, we started to pick them up and put them on the trailers. We were in the middle of the 300-foot-wide runway collecting the bombs (assuming they were safe to handle), managed to put most of them on the trailers, then, when we thought all was well and things could not get any worse, the enemy rocket attack started on Da Nang Air Base, and we were in the worst place--on the flat paved runway and nowhere to hide. (The runway was the favorite place the enemy liked to land the rockets as that would disrupt the flight schedules.) The unique thing about this attack is there was no prior warning like the base sirens.


As the rockets landed, we looked at each other and said, “What the hell are we doing here!” Like Most rocket attacks, it lasted probably five minutes but seemed like an eternity. If any enemy rockets landed in our proximity on the runway, it would be all over for us--we may as well bend over and kiss our ass goodbye! But I guess some luck was with us that night, and the nearest rocket landed less then 1,000 feet away, which is still too close as we could feel the percussion hit our bodies. It felt like 100 rockets came into the base at that time, but in reality there was probably only 30 rockets, and those were in at safe radius from us. It was still frightening as we froze in place from shock for about a minute and then continued lifting the scattered bombs from the ground to the trailers. I guess we were lucky and my number wasn’t up. After we gathered up all the bombs and the parts of bombs, we headed back to the bomb dump storage area.
 
It took awhile for the disabled A-6 aircraft to be towed off the runway for other aircraft to land. When it was all over, the plane was almost a 30-percent loss--the bombs bouncing off the ground and slamming the fuselage and wings, the two engines sucking in parts of the bouncing bombs (FOD). None of the 28 tumbling bombs we picked up exploded as they were not armed. The pilot and navigator came out OK, as well, and flew another mission--probably the next day.
 
Even though this is true event, I told very few people about it because it was so bizarre. I thought it was probably a bad dream, and I had problems believing it myself. Then about 10 years ago, I hooked up (via Internet) with some of my fellow Marines I served with in that same squadron, and one of them actually remembered this same event as I described it, and one of the pilots recalled us crazy guys picking up the bombs after the emergency landing and during the rocket attack.
 
And that’s the way it was. So it really happened, and maybe my mind kept the incident tucked away all those years, maybe as a safety factor till the time came when I could handle the reality of this bizarre and life-threatening event.
  


Name: Duane "Glynn" Parker
 
Date of Birth: 1947
 
War/Conflict: Vietnam
 
Dates Served: 1968-1971
 
Branch of Service: Army, Combat Engineers, 168th Battalion
 
Final Rank: Specialist E-5, Honorable Discharge
 
Where Served: Lia Khe and other areas of Vietnam
 
 
  
 
.


Glynn Parker (left) and Joe Hildebrand (right) surveying in Vietnam, 1970.  

Type of Work Performed: Surveying of new base camps and new Highway 1, a paved road to Cambodia for our convoys to travel.
 
Significant Memory or Reflection: Rocket attacks and snipers on the road job.
 
One night, we were getting hit by rockets, so we went off to the bunkers. When Dave Bannon and I realized our buddy Bernie was stuck in the hootch [Vietnam-era military slang for a hut], we crawled over, got him, and carried him to the bunker. Hey, you couldn’t leave your friends.
 
Or the good times of trading our services to the Big Red One for a water pump for my survey vehicle.
 
I served because my father, Glynn J. Parker, served in World War II and gave me the right to do anything I wanted.
 
I’m still surveying 40 years later.

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