Local veterans remember and share
Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States armed forces.
And the men and women who have served the country — who are in the Brainerd lakes area — honor their fallen comrades and remember their own service. A group of veterans last week at the Brainerd American Legion’s All Generations Veterans’ Coffee Time shared their stories and thoughts about the meaning of Memorial Day. The group consisted of Gordy Schulke, Roland Monasmith and Don Peterson, all of Baxter, Daryl Bahma and Ronald Frink, both of Brainerd and David DiMartino of Deerwood.
Bahma said Memorial Day brings back a lot of memories and the main reason why veterans serve in the military.
“The reason why we serve is to serve our flag and our country,” said Bahma. “Our country was founded on our country’s beliefs ... and we have gotten so far away from that.”
Monasmith said he gets upset that there are people who believe that it is OK to burn a flag.
“Our country has bent over backwards and our soldiers fought and died for that flag,” said Monasmith. “... And we’re getting so far in a gray area (of the meaning of the flag).”
Monasmith served in the army from 1965-1989 and was a combat engineer where he constructed most everything needed in war, including bridges. He served stateside during the Vietnam era. “It was the luck of the draw,” said Monasmith. “I had my bags packed ... I had a lot of buddies over there.”
Monasmith also was in Brainerd’s former 367th Engineering Combat unit.
Bahma has 23 years of service, with 14 years of active duty. He served in Vietnam and during the Berlin crisis. Bahma was a reconnaissance platoon sergeant for the armor cavalry and he served all over the U.S., and also in Vietnam, Korea and Germany. He said he supervised 43 men in 10 track vehicles, three tanks, two personal carriers and five reconnaissance vehicles.
Bahma also served in Brainerd’s First Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor.
DiMartino joined the Air Force in 1964 out of high school and he served in Vietnam and the Gulf War.
“I was a B-52 crew chief,” DiMartino said. “I flew 27 combat missions in Thailand, Okinawa and Gwam.”
DiMartino also joined the 194th Cavalry in Grand Rapids and he also trained as a tank commander at Camp Ripley.
“I put in 16 years of active duty,” said DiMartino. “I was in the service from 1964 to 1996.”
DiMartino remembers having to go for a mobility bag check and he thought it was just going to be gone for just a few hours. But instead the military loaded him and the others on a airplane and took them to California and then to Guam.
“I was gone for six months,” said DiMartino. “I had only given my wife a kiss on the cheek ... It (information given to soldiers) was on a need to know basis.”
Peterson skipped school and enlisted in the Navy on April 7, 1944. He said he was part of a suicide squad in World War II. “I had to be on all the ships Germany was sinking,” he said. After the war, he got out for four years and then reenlisted. “I told my mom I’d be back when I retire.”
Peterson then served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. In the Korean War, Peterson said he was put on the landing craft and an airplane came in and hit the island and there were parts flying everywhere. He said he had enough of that.
He requested submarine duty, which he did from 1951-62. He got off the submarine after he was disqualified because of a bleeding ulcer. He said one time he was submerged on the submarine for 66 days. He then was transferred to a destroyer ship.
Peterson retired on Nov. 1, 1968. Peterson then became a recruiter in Alexandria. He said one day he enlisted 27 soldiers. He retired as a recruiter in 1968.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would,” Peterson said of his service.
Frink started in the Air Force, then joined the Air National Guard in 1974 and went to Air Traffic school. Frink served in the Korean War in air traffic control warning.
Schulke served in World War II and was in the Navy from 1943-46. Schulke said he enlisted in the Naval’s Construction Battalion and then was transferred to work with a patrol torpedo, where he wound up on a war ship. Schulke worked in the auxiliary division on the ship and said he took care of everything dealing with the mechanics.
Monasmith and DiMartino also talked about the Patriot Guard and how much that means to them. The Patriot Guard is a group of motorcycle riders who attend funerals of United States armed forces members, firefighters and police by an invitation by the deceased family. The Patriot Guard also is present for soldier deployments and when they return home.
Monasmith and DiMartino said they don’t want any soldier to ever feel like the Vietnam veterans did when they came home. Monasmith said there are soldiers who come home from war with post traumatic stress disorder. Monasmith said he’d like to see the military deploy soldiers on a different rotation that would make it easier on the solider and the family.
The group invites any veteran, male or female, to any of the three informal veteran events. The events are 10 a.m. Mondays at the Brainerd American Legion; 9 a.m. Wednesdays at the McDonald’s at Walmart in Baxter; and from 8-10 a.m. Thursdays at 371 Diner in Baxter.