So many Americans answer the call to service when their nation needs them. When the events of 9/11 unfolded before our eyes nearly 20 years ago, thousands flocked to recruiting offices to sign up and serve their nation. The Marine we honor today felt that same urgency to sign up. But the events that SHE heard the call from were way back on December 07, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, plunging America into World War II. Today we salute Sergeant Dorothy Cole of the United States Marine Corps. Sergeant Cole just celebrated her 107th birthday on Saturday, which officially makes her the OLDEST living U.S. Marine. Cole, known as Dot to her friends, said “Everyone was out doing something, so I decided I needed to do something too, I would go into the Marine Corps.” The road wasn’t an easy one. Women weren’t allowed in the Marines during the early years of WWII. By February 1943, the rules were changed and women were allowed to join the Corps and by the end of WWII there were over 18,000 women serving in the Marines. Today almost 10% of the Marine Corps’ 185,000 members are women. For her service to the Nation, and for helping to blaze the trail for women in the Marine Corps, today we salute Sergeant Dorothy Cole. And we wish her a happy 107th Birthday as well!
Fitz in the Morning: Troop Salute
Marines consider themselves a little bit special among the services. Of course they do. Other branches feel the same way. Today we are saluting a Marine whose wife feels like he’s pretty special too. Today we salute Corporal Benjamin Gibson of the United States Marine Corps. Corporal Gibson is a Combat Engineer in the Marines. His wife Emily says, she isn’t exactly sure what that means exactly, but she knows that he loves his job. Ben Gibson Joined the Marine Corps after attending community college and receiving an Associate’s Degree in business administration. Emily says, “He originally thought the degree would mean a comfortable job in an office somewhere.” Ben finished the program, but realized that an office was not the place for him. He told Emily that he was planning on enlisting on their 3rd date, and he followed through with the promise just a few months later. The pair married after Gibson finished Basic training and MOS school. Ben has been in the Marines for just over 5 years and is currently stationed in Camp Pendleton, California. Emily is so proud of her husband Ben, and she is excited for the future. She’s ready to follow him wherever his Marine Corps career takes them. Today we salute Corporal Benjamin Gibson of the United States Marine Corps.
We get so many submissions for Troop Salutes from parents, spouses, siblings, and children of our service men and women. We all understand the toll and sacrifice that service and deployment has on these relationships. The strain on a marriage, or separation from a parent for service is one of the oldest ideas associated with the profession of soldier or sailor. But we cannot forget the strain on friendships. People become close, only to move around the country or the world and turn that regular companionship into a long-distance connection. Today we salute Alicia Garofolo of the United States Navy. Alicia’s best friend Christopher Boivin wrote in to remind me just how much it hurts when a friend has to relocate for service. “Alicia has been stationed here for a few years. She is shipping off to Hawaii soon to complete her service in the Navy, and that really sucks because I won’t get to see her much.” Christopher said. “But our friendship is really important, and so is her job. We’ve grown really close, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.” Stories like this play out all over the country. But Sailors like Alicia make all of these sacrifices in order to continue our American way of life. And that is why today we salute Alicia Garofolo of the United States Navy.
For many of our military men and women, service to their nation and to their fellow members doesn’t end with retirement. Today we’re saluting someone who is carrying on the mission past his retirement: Master Sergeant Jesse Reynolds of the United States Air Force. Jesse’s daughter Jennifer Dorward from Federal Way wrote in to tell us about her dad. “He’s very humble and I believe he deserves every kind of recognition he can get.” Jesse retired from the Air Force, but he still serves veterans through an organization called “Around the Sound”. And Jennifer says he does his best to get a smile out of every one he helps out. For his continued service to the nation and the people who have served this nation, today we salute Master Sergeant Jesse Reynolds of the United States Air Force.
As we reflect on this important week, ending with the anniversary of 9/11, each of us needs to recognize the value and importance of the service from our troops. Signing up for service can mean a lot of opportunity for young men and women, but when the nation is at war, volunteering for service means consciously accepting a very serious amount of risk. Today we salute Sergeant Mitchell Wilson of the United States Army, who signed up when we needed him most. Sergeant Wilson was a high school kid headed for college in the year 2000. He had never even considered military service. Mitchell’s sister Cara wrote me to tell me her brother’s story, and to let him know how much she wants to thank him and all of the people who made that choice. When September 11, 2001 had passed, our nation was stunned. No one was really sure what had happened, or why, but we all seemed to arrive at the same patriotic feeling on that day. We all knew that we could not let this stand; that we had to defend our nation. Mitchell Wilson made his mind up that morning that he was going to enlist in the Army and be part of the team that would avenge those innocent Americans who died on that day. Cara says “He had never even thought about the military, but after 9/11 it was all he could talk about. He’s my little brother, and I was so scared for him, but I could tell that his mind was made up.” Mitchell Enlisted about 3 months after graduating and never looked back. He served for about 6 years in the Army, and was deployed to the Middle East 3 separate times. Mitchell is now an electrician living in Oklahoma, and he is a father to 2 wonderful kids. Cara is so proud of her little brother, and of all the men and women who signed up, knowing that they were heading into the danger to defend this nation. Today we salute Sergeant Mitchell Wilson of the United States Army, And ALL of our service men and women who defend this nation.
If you would like to honor someone you know who is serving in our armed forces, do not be shy to write me and tell me about them. You don’t have to have all the details and dates, you don’t need ranks and honors. You just need a name of someone you care about. Charish Brooks is a P1 who forgot a lot of the details in her request, but I still feel her passion and her pride regardless. Today we are saluting Derek Livingston of the United States Army. Derek is an active duty soldier in the Army and he is currently deployed overseas for the 3rd time since he and Charish have been together. She had one simple message for her boyfriend Derek, and that is “Hurry home, I’m waiting”. The salutes may be more comfort for the submitting person like Charish, than they are for the troops who may not hear this show on the other side of the globe, and that’s OK. Those waiting at home have a big part of themselves wrapped up in service too. When anybody serves this nation overseas, they take a little bit of everyone who cares for them along. So today we salute Derek Livingston of the United States Army.
Most of us have someone close who has served this nation in the military. If you think about that person or those people, and you think about what type of character they have, you’ll probably notice that they are a bit tougher. The service isn’t only for those who are extra tough or resilient going in. Anyone can make the choice to join up today. But the person that comes out of the service has that extra something. They are a bit tougher, they have a different perspective, and usually a different appreciation for what it means to be OF service to this nation. Today we are saluting a man who has kept up that resilience all the way through life. Today we salute Rayford T Wilson of the United States Army. Rayford served very proudly in the Army during Vietnam. He worked in intelligence and logistics. Much later on Rayford retired from the Army and took that grit to a job at the Post Office where he served the community until he made retirement there. Two retirements in one life is pretty good, but that’s not quite enough here. Wilson went to work as a security guard after the post office, until open heart surgery forced him to give up the beat. Rayford’s granddaughter Ashley Graham wrote to me for this salute because she says her grandfather is the toughest man she knows and he’s her hero every day. Ashley also mentioned that after leaving the security job and the open heart surgery, Rayford still remodeled his entire house alongside his bride of 50 years. And during all of this, Rayford found time to go back to school to earn a degree. For all of this, today we salute Rayford T Wilson of the United States Army.
Joining the US Military has always been one way to get out and see the world. Today we salute Electronics Technician 3rd Class Michael Paveglio of the United States Navy. ET3 Paveglio is experiencing the other side of the globe right now aboard the Arleigh Burke-Class Guided Missile Destroyer USS Mustin in the Indo-Pacific. That’s a long way off from his hometown of Seattle. The USS Mustin is assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15 which is the US 7th Fleet’s principal surface force. From right here in the Pacific Northwest, to the other side of the globe, our Navy is keeping America dominant on the seas, thanks to sailors like Electronics Technician 3rd Class Michael Paveglio.
Today we have a salute from a wife to a husband. This wife wanted to make sure to mention that she is not only saluting her husband who she is very proud of, but also each and every member of his branch of service, because she feels like they don’t get the credit they deserve. Today we salute Boatswains Mate 2nd Class Christopher Labreck of the United States Coast Guard. Christopher’s wife and biggest fan Christine Labreck wrote me for this salute because she says the Guardsmen don’t get nearly enough attention for what they do for us every day. BM2 Christopher Labreck has been in the Coast Guard for Just over 8 years. He has had duty stations all over the US including the very busy Gulf Coast region.
Christine says they are currently stationed up in the North now, and while they miss the weather of Florida, they don’t always miss the action. She wanted to remind us all that Guardsman are really the last line of defense for the US, and they are on high alert every day on the water and in the air, because this is one of the only branches that faces danger every day of the year, even when they can still see home. She is so proud of Christopher and all he has done for her and for the country, and she says their next adventure together is going to be parenthood. Today we salute Boatswain’s Mate 2 Christopher Labreck of the United States Coast Guard
Grandfathers love to tell stories. And when they’re good stories, kids and families look forward to each one. When Grandpa’s real-life stories and experiences read like the best action movie on the big screen, you can bet those grandkids are hanging on every word. Today we are saluting William West of the United States Army Air Corps. William’s Grandson Alan let me know that his grandfather had the most incredible war stories to tell anyone who would listen. William was a pilot during World War II. Through a complex series of events, William ended up getting shot down multiple times during the war.
Each time, West escaped death or major injury. And each time, William fought to get back into the cockpit, and back into the fight. Alan tells me that his Grandfather liked telling anyone who would listen his stories of flying, crashing, narrow escapes, and of course injuries. He would tell Alan about the fear that he faced each time he got back into a warbird after an incident. He also stressed how courage and commitment allowed him to get back into the action, when fear wanted him to stop. William could have gone home after his first downing, but he knew that pilots were in short supply, and he knew every one of them was needed to win the war. The commitment that William West showed to the cause, and to his fellow warriors is what makes him a hero to his grandson, and to all Americans. They are the Greatest Generation for a reason. Today we salute William West of the United States Army Air Corps