Those who come to America seeking a better life have a long and distinguished history of serving our country. Beginning with the Revolutionary War and continuing in every war since, immigrants have served in every branch of our Armed Forces, willingly putting their lives on the line for their adopted home. Aviation Machinist Mate Third Class Ignacio Rodriguez continued that proud tradition, enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1964. He flew as an aircrewman on EC-121 Super Constellations hunting hurricanes in the skies over the Western Pacific and operating out of Da Nang and Chu Lai during the Vietnam War. He earned his U.S. citizenship the hard way – by serving our country during time of war. This is his story.
Welcome to Episode 35 of the Voices to Veterans podcast. This episode features the story of Master Sergeant Jay Cyril Mastrud, U.S. Air Force. Jay’s story is one of resilience and overcoming adversity. He first served as a sailor with fighter squadron VF-32 onboard the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), deploying in support […]
Much has changed on Navy ships over the centuries – sail converted to steam, steel replaced wood, and missiles supplemented guns, just to name a few. Yet with all these changes, fundamental truths remain. Navy ships carry the U.S. flag to the four corners of the globe, serving as ambassadors in the countries they visit and as strong reminders of U.S. military power and resolve. Navy ships also require a team of special people pulling together to accomplish the ship’s mission, enduring the perils of the sea, the long separations from family, and the risks associated with war. Captain Jack E. Helmann, U.S. Navy (Retired), knows these challenges all too well, having served on five Navy destroyers over the course of his twenty-four-year Navy career. He also knows the strains and responsibilities of command, having been the Commanding Officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Berkeley (DDG-15) for over two years. This is his story.
Welcome to Episode 32 of the Voices to Veterans podcast. This episode features the story of Master Chief Legalman David S. Leafer, U.S. Navy (Retired).Dave Leafer enlisted in the Navy in 1981 to see the world and see the world he did. Not only did he deploy to the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea […]
When people think of Navy lawyers, the image of courtrooms and court-martials comes to mind, conjured up from movies like The Caine Mutiny and A Few Good Men. Although those images are accurate as far as they go, they paint but a small part of the picture. No career illustrates that better than that of Commander Tom Jones, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, U.S. Navy (Retired). Tom left the courtroom behind early in his career to serve with the Navy SEALs in Iraq, charting the course for all future Navy attorneys embedded with special operations units. Where others might see roadblocks, Tom saw opportunities. Throughout his distinguished twenty-year Navy career, he never avoided challenges – he embraced them. This is his story.
Lieutenant Commander Alfred “Ski” Sokolowski, U.S. Navy (Retired), has experienced much over the last ninety-nine years. He had a front row seat in World War II as his ships plowed the North Atlantic, protecting convoys from German submarines. He fought on a destroyer in the Pacific, helping recapture islands lost to Japan at the start of the war, and then joined the fight again just five years later in the Korean War sailing off the coast of North Korea. As if that wasn’t enough, he took on the dangerous job of explosive ordnance disposal and managed weapons logistics in the western Pacific. He didn’t just watch U.S. history from a distance—he lived it over the course of thirty years. This is his story.
The naval aviator training pipeline is grueling. It takes months of study to learn the basics of flying. It takes strength of body and mind to withstand the physical and mental strains of landing a plane on the pitching deck of an aircraft carrier at sea. Most of all, it takes courage, to launch from a ship in the middle of the ocean in search of a target with the hope of accomplishing the mission and returning home safely. Few have what it takes to even try to meet naval aviation’s high standards and even fewer succeed. At the height of World War II, with the naval war against Japan raging in the Pacific, Lieutenant Commander Joe Dwigans, U.S. Navy (Retired), raised his hand and said I can do it. This is his story.
Master Chief Petty Officer Donald Gohman, U.S. Navy (Retired) – Keeping the Navy Flying During Three Wars
Master Chief Petty Officer Donald Gohman, U.S. Navy (Retired) is a humble man. When we began to talk, he told me his career was routine and he didn’t think he’d done anything special. Then he told me about how he helped keep planes flying from Henderson Field during the six-month long battle for Guadalcanal during World War II and kept carrier aircraft in fighting shape for missions over Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Needless to say, I was spellbound. Weaving in and out of peacetime and war, Don’s career is a thirty-year American history lesson taught at the individual level. I could not get enough of it, and I think you will share the same view. This is his story.
Welcome to Episode 22 of the Voices to Veterans podcast. This episode features the story of Petty Officer Second Class Arnold Fernandes, U.S. Coast Guard.Arnold’s service spanned two wars, World War II and the Korean War, and two services, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy. In World War II, Arnold served in one […]
In the 1965 World War II movie classic In Harm’s Way, the character Commander Paul Eddington, played by Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, describes the coming war in the Pacific as “a gut bustin’, mother-lovin’ Navy war.” All the men who served on ships in the Pacific theater from the start of the war at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, to the end of the war in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, know just how true that statement was. One of those men was Seaman First Class Edward Collins, U.S. Navy, who joined the fray in 1943 aboard the USS San Jacinto (CVL-30), a light aircraft carrier that participated in all the major Pacific War Navy campaigns in 1944 and 1945. Manning his station on the USS San Jacinto’s flight deck during everything from hurricanes to kamikaze attacks, he lived and breathed the history that has inspired generations of Americans ever since. This is his story.