Wahkiakum students hear veteran's story


November 15, 2018

Diana Zimmerman

L-r, Allen Bennett, Brent Freeman, and Dennis Reid all served in the Navy. They stood as the Wahkiakum High School band played Anchors Aweigh during the March of the Armed Forces.

Three Vietnam veterans were the featured guests at Wahkiakum High School's annual Veterans Day Assembly last Wednesday.

They were Ron Kimmel, Brian Elliott, and Edward Garcia, and they all sat down for interviews with middle school teacher Mike Thomas prior to the assembly.

Elliott grew up in Wahkiakum County. He joined the Marine Corps in 1967. He was a "Hollywood Marine," he said, because he went to boot camp in San Diego.

He went to heavy equipment operators school, where they trained him to use "just about anything that could move dirt."

As a Marine, he was certain he would see combat in Vietnam.

"I'd never seen a third world country in my life," Elliott said. "You don't realize living here, the conditions that they live in. It was eye opening."

Elliott spoke about the Tet offensive of '68.

"That was the big push in 1968 over the Tet holiday," Elliott said. "The North Vietnamese attacked everything in Vietnam."

Including his location in Chu Lai. Three members of his unit died.

After serving a little over two tours, coming home was hard, Elliott admitted. He had changed, and he took a job as a timber faller with the logging company Crown Zellerbach that suited him.

"That was my escape," Elliott said. "I loved the solitude. I could not have gone into the rat race again."

"Do you still think about it?" Thomas asked.

"It never goes away," Elliott said, choking up.

"Was it worth it?" Thomas asked.

"For many years, no," Elliott said. "I never talked about it. My kids didn't even know I was in the service, for many years."

"I always wanted to be a Marine," he said. "To be a sergeant in the Marine Corps is respect. I have been called Sarge by more people...It's just a badge of respect and honor that has been earned by generations."

Elliott would serve again "in a heartbeat. I'm an American. What we have here has been earned by people wearing the uniform. I have been to many, many countries in my travels. If you've been to other countries, you have to show your passport, you have to show your documentation. You can go from coast to coast here without showing anything."

He advised young men considering military service to research the matter, and do it for the right reasons.

"Do it because you want to do it," Elliott said. "It has to be a solid choice."

After the interviews, the Wahkiakum High School band played March of the Armed Forces and the senior class honored local veterans with the reading of names and a candle lighting ceremony.

Diana Zimmerman

Names were read, and the Wahkiakum High School senior class honored local veterans with their annual candle lighting ceremony.


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