“Thank you for your service.”
When someone says this I don’t take it as meant for just one person, but for all servicemembers past, present, and future. I am proud to have been able to visit with the following men who live in Portage and have served our country. They served willingly and diligently when the country was at war and they were needed.
Bruce Roderick joined the Army in March of 1968. Basic and AIT training on the job was in California at the then-active base at Ford Ord, which was located on the Monterey Bay off the Pacific Ocean. He really wanted to serve in Vietnam, but his orders said he was to go to Germany as a cook.
“My duties were to arrive at the mess hall at four in the morning and be prepared to feed between 15 to 75 men for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said.
Cooks were outfitted in white cooking uniforms during the day and of course had the Army uniform for other occasions. When he had time off he would help by driving a truck and helping mechanics. He did not want to sit and do nothing.
He stayed in the same location in Germany until discharged. On weekends of two days in a row he would sometimes go to the Non-Commissioned Officers Club and also into some of the close German cities and party.
He met Sonja, his wife, in Germany. He saw her first from the second-story balcony walking with her sister. He soon met her and the connection was made. Her full name is Sonja Katherina Uhrig Roderick. She did not speak any English and he did not speak any German.
They got engaged when Bruce left the Army. He went though the ceremony to receive his discharge papers and told her he would be back after he had worked and earned enough money to return. She and her father wondered if he would truly return.
“Her father was so happy and excited when I went back that he treated me like a king,” Bruce said.
They were in Germany for approximately three years before they returned to the United States. One of the places he loved visiting in Germany was the Black Forest, which is known for its namesake ham and cake. He learned German while he was there, and Sonja learned some English.
They have been married for 48 years. About 25 years ago her parents came to America to visit. They had never been so up-close to the mountains, so Bruce loaded them all in his truck and drove up Middle Canyon, which is not far from Portage. The weather here is about the same as Germany — cold in the winter with snow, and warm in the summer.
He says that since he was a cook in the military, Sonja has had him cook most of the time during their married life. His favorite German meal is rump steak (or as it is called in Germany, jager & hunterschnitzel). Germans also love bread, and every other store is either bread or meat.
Bruce says, “If I had it to do it all over again I would not change one thing.”
Ed Rogers moved to Utah after retiring from the U.S. Air Force but is originally from California, now living in Portage.
He spent over 25 years in the military and says they were good years. He was a crew chief and worked mainly on the C-141 Starlifter and the C-5 Galaxy, our largest military cargo/passenger aircraft.
Ed made a couple of trips over to Iraq and considered it a privilege. His first trip was to Balad Air Base. He was in charge of the wheel and tire shop, as well as crash recovery.
“I had a great NCO who got us neck deep in testing our recovery equipment when we first arrived, and it was a good thing,” he said. “Our normal day was to generally build up F-16 tires that had exceeded a certain number of flight hours. We did that because we didn’t generally have that many aircraft crashing. We would go out semi-frequently because if a pilot has a problem that could get hairy. The pilot calls for an emergency landing and most of the time it’s a humdrum wait until the excitement is over.”
One quiet Sunday afternoon they got a call, not of an emergency landing, but an F-16 had blown a tire upon landing and had gone off the runway into a grassy area. It had just taken off, heavy with bombs, fuel and maybe a missile or two.
The incident commander has to be certain the aircraft is safe to work on before allowing the ground crew to respond. His crew was ready to go, but had to wait for the command. Once they received orders all cooks, clerks, cops, accountants everyone available from the base was asked to come assist. As many as they needed, came.
“One base, one team,” Ed said. “We’re airmen, soldiers, seamen, whatever our country needs.
“The pilot was A-OK and his aircraft actually stood up pretty well.” Ed said. “I believe they sent it back to the depot and it got repaired.”
His second trip was to a small place called Ali Air Base, about 100 miles north of the Kuwaiti border.
Reflecting back, Ed said, “I am proud of my service and the experiences the USAF afforded me. I cherish the men and women I served with.”
Glen Jacobson joined the Army in 1973. Fort Ord in California was his first duty station. Here he served basic training and also started training to operate guns and be a sniper. After basic, he was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and continued sniper training, but also trained to be a radio technician.
“They were getting me ready to go to Vietnam with my unit and we went to receive jungle fever injections,” Glen said.
When he received his shot he became deathly ill. He had such an allergic reaction that he was unconscious for two weeks. They really didn’t know if he was going to survive.
“When my unit deployed to Vietnam I was not able to go because of health reasons, so I was assigned to guard duty and repair technician for four months.” he said.
Glen was trained as a radio technician and personnel carrier driver. At every base where he served he was assigned guard duty, which he really enjoyed.
Glen was transferred to Fort Carson, Colorado, which was his last duty station, to be a repair technician for radios, tanks, jeeps, trucks and anything that needed fixing. He volunteered for guard duty whenever he was needed.
“It was better than sitting around trying to find something to pass the time,” he said.
He actually stayed in the Army for a total of two years and then decided to go home. He wasn’t home long before he had a job at Hill Air Force Base in repairs, and then moved on to other employment.
“I loved serving my country and I think it is the best thing anyone can do,” he said. “Military teaches you respect for officers and other peoples’ wishes, and especially you gain respect for yourself.”
Would he do it again?
“Absolutely I would do it again, but I would serve for a longer period of time,” he said.