Throughout Oregon’s history, men and women from every corner of the state have courageously given their youth, and sometimes their very lives, to the hands of war for our country. Nearly 6,000 Oregonians have lost their lives in the line of duty. Those who served – whether by choice or by draft – dutifully answered the nation’s call, sacrificing for the greater good.
This year marks 10 years since the country witnessed the "shock and awe" of a war half a world away. Since then, operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have made up the longest sustained U.S. military operation since the Vietnam War. More than 30,000 Oregonians from all five service branches have been deployed in support of these operations and 137 have died.
There are countless stories of events and individuals that tell Oregon’s role in these operations. As the largest mobilization and deployment overseas for the Oregon National Guard since World War II, we look back and honor these Oregonians for their service and their sacrifice.
Salvador "Sal" Trujillo | Tigard
Salvador "Sal" Trujillo from Tigard, was with five Marines that went on night patrol in Iraq in 2006. They were riding in a Bradley fighting vehicle when an IED detonated beneath them. Doused in diesel from the fuel tanks exploding and set aflame, three of them were injured seriously. Not realizing how badly he was injured or burnt, Trujillo leaped into action to help save his buddy’s’ lives. He suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body, lost two fingers and had to undergo massive reconstructive surgeries. For his brave actions that night, Trujillo was awarded the Chehalem Valley Sportsman Club’s George Washington Patriot award.
Scott Anderson | Canby
Chief Warrant Officer Scott Anderson served in the 158th Aviation Regiment in Balad, Iraq. When the Canby resident was not using his military skills as a medevac pilot, he was able to apply his civilian skills as a magician to help people in a different way. Anderson worked through translators to perform magic shows for groups of Iraqi children during base-hosted events. He also worked with parents to entertain children under the care of the hospital there with his illusions. His magic not only provided an outlet for him, it also broke the ice and formed relationships with Iraqis around the base.
Jacob Jones | Prairie City
Sgt. Jacob Jones, originally from Prairie City, was an infantryman in the Army. He was patrolling the streets of Mosul wearing 50 pounds of gear and his rifle, searching for insurgents, sometimes clearing an intersection of the rubble from a suicide bomber. The sniper’s bullet hit him in the left shoulder and he never saw it coming. That bullet ended his four-year military career, earning him a Purple Heart and an honorable discharge. "Iraq is a dangerous place. It is hard to distinguish the good from the bad there. I am just really proud to have served my country in this time of hostility and war," Jones said. "It is hard to see exactly how good life is until everything is taken away."
Dillon Bergstad | North Bend
August 27, 2007 is a day 24-year old Army Specialist Dillon Bergstad of North Bend will never forget. Driving in the second vehicle of a convoy in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, Bergstad and his unit were ambushed. As many as 30 enemy fighters, some only 10 feet away, attacked his convoy. While fighting off the ambush, Bergstad was thrown from his turret three times. The first time his truck was hit by an RPG. The second time he was shot through the right bicep with an armor piercing incendiary round. The third time his vehicle was struck again with another RPG. Bergstad continued to get back up and return fire. As a result, the enemy RPG team was killed and several machine gun positions suppressed. Dillon earned the Silver Star for his actions that day. "I don’t think I did anything more outstanding than anyone else." Bergstad said of his award. "I would trade 10 of these medals to get PFC Thomas Wilson back who died that day," Bergstad said. Thomas was Dillon’s close friend.
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Michelle Ring | McMinnville
Army Specialist Michelle Ring was deployed to Bagdad with the 92nd Military Police Battalion from Fort Benning. Ring attended school in McMinnville before she enlisted into the Army. Her goal was to obtain a college degree and become a U.S. Marshall. In July of 2007, Michelle was on guard duty when her base at Camp Liberty was hit with mortar rounds. The mother of two was unable to avoid the flying shrapnel and was killed. At her memorial, Ring was promoted posthumously to the rank of corporal. Her family was also presented with her Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Good Conduct Medal. Specialist Michelle Ring became the first woman with ties to Oregon to be killed in Iraq.
Bob Shano | Scappoose
Vietnam Vet and business owner, Bob Shano, felt there was something he could do to help a new crop of young soldiers heading over to Iraq. That help came in the form of joining them. In his fifties and with already 22 total years of military service, it was a little difficult convincing recruiters to take him seriously. Once they did, Shano began an extensive battery of medical exams to ensure his fitness level was on par with the military standards. His experience training young paintballers seems to have transposed into a fatherly devotion to the next generation of real infantrymen. He explained that he wants to bring guys back from Iraq in one piece, so they will be around for their children. "I just feel like they need some older guys," said Shano. "I can do something to help."
Kent G. Solheim | Oregon City
In July of 2007, Capt. Kent Solheim’s team "fast-roped" from hovering helicopters into Karbala, Iraq and set up their positions. His team took enemy fire from three sides with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s throughout the 40-minute mission to capture the leader of the Shiite militia. At one point, Solheim charged an insurgent with an RPG and killed him. Later he fatally shot an armed Maddhi fighter, but as the terrorist fell, he fired a burst from his AK-47 which wounded Solheim in the legs and back. After having his right leg amputated, Solheim continued to serve as a Major at the Special War Training Group On December 12, 2008, Kent received the Silver Star, the nation's third highest award for combat valor, along with fellow Oregonian, Sgt. Gabriel Reynolds (next story). The ceremony was the largest in of its kind since the Vietnam War.
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Gabriel Reynolds | Lake Oswego
Sgt. Gabriel Reynolds’ Special Forces detachment came under intense enemy machine gun fire from Afghan Insurgents while conducting operations in the Khas Oruzgan District in November of 2007. During three very intense firefights, Reynolds is credited with continually engaging the enemy with suppressing gunfire that had trapped American soldiers during the ambush. This would eventually allow the U.S. troops to escape. Reynolds would later destroy a machine gun emplacement and RPG positions. He then dismounted his disabled vehicle while under immense gunfire, and set up a mortar tube and fired at enemy positions.
Chelsea Rice | Newberg
Chelsea Rice can be described an idealist after making her decision to join the Army after she graduated from Newberg High School in 2003. When she deployed to Iraq, her main mission was running munitions to the front lines to keep troops supplied. Stationed near Bagdad, she typically slept no more than four or five hours a day. She described seeing education improvements and the Iraqi women’s faces when they voted for the first time. She truly believes the military work in Iraq is helping Iraqis and Americans. Rice now owns a Purple Heart and scars after a mortar shell landed seven feet from her, sending shrapnel into her left leg. And, after all of that, she still has no regrets.
Shane Bohnenkamp | Pilot Rock
While Shane Bohnenkamp was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 he began writing poems from the field which captured the essence of soldiers serving their country in a hostile environment. One such poem titled, Afghanistan – The Guardian, was written in memory of his battle buddy, SSG. Michel Estes:
Afghanistan – The Guardian
A solider standing at the gates of heaven when the angel guarding the gate asks,
"Why do you think you should enter into heaven?"
Without hesitation the soldier replied, "I don't wish to enter into heaven."
The angel, shocked on such a fast and yet quick answer, asked, "Why don't you wish to enter onto heaven?"
"For on earth I have guarded the weak and innocent, protected the land of the free, and when others countries needed I went to their aid to keep evil at bay."
"Know that my time has come and called my name. I will stand here so that the innocent and weak, and those from the land of the free, can enter into heaven without the threat of evil and have no more fear."
The angel, in disbelief and with a tear running down his face, said in a thunderous voice,
"Darkness and evil beware, for a new guardian of heaven has come."
"Soldier, take up your post and stand ready to carry on your duties here in heaven, as you would on earth."
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Remembering The Legacy of Those Lost
Memorial Day is at once a day to honor the fallen in our nation’s wars and the unofficial start of the summer season when we fire up the barbecues and enjoy our rivers, lakes and beaches.
Many veterans and military families voice frustration at this dichotomy and the dilution of Memorial Day. In the lead up to the last Monday in May, there will be articles, editorial cartoons, blog posts and twitter feeds urging us all to remember the real meaning of Memorial Day.
I will join them in highlighting the true cost of war – a cost far beyond dollars and cents. In Iraq and Afghanistan alone, we have lost over 6,000 of America’s best men and women. We owe them and their families a debt that can never be repaid.
But I also worry that our pointed effort on Memorial Day to remember the legacy of those lost will not bridge the civilian-military cultural divide. World War II was fought by 10 percent of our citizens, affecting a large segment of the population. Today, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been fought by less than 1 percent of our population.
Even for those of us who work closely with veterans, it is disconcertingly easy to go about our everyday lives, forgetting that thousands are still deployed overseas in harm’s way. We must all go beyond a day and recommit to building the critical relationship between our citizens, military families and veterans.
Sharing our stories and experiences is not always easy, but it is essential as we ramp up and sustain community support for our veterans. Ultimately, our efforts are not simply for the troops. The bond between a nation and its veterans is about our way of life that the military defends and that we all actively create and cherish: a democratic nation, full of freedom, with justice and opportunity for all.
As we honor the fallen on Memorial Day this year… let us take to heart the symbolism in the flag code. The flag will be flown half-mast from sunrise until noon when it will then be flown at the peak until sunset. Half-mast to honor all those who have given their lives in the service of our nation and then flown high to show that the nation they defended lives on.
Continue to share the stories of your service and most importantly share the stories of all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you for all of your support for our veterans and God Bless all those still serving overseas.
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