James “Fritz” Day tells his story about life in the military:
“I turned 18 on July 8, 1967, in small town Durango, Colorado — and just 3 days later, on July 11, I was off to San Diego for boot camp and a new start in life. Navy boot camp was a rude introduction to the real world as the military life goes. I was the fifth squad leader, not because of my organizational skills or great intelligence, but because I was the second tallest in boot camp company 394.
I successfully completed Navy boot camp and was selected for Naval Aviation training. I received Aviation Ordnance training in Jacksonville, Florida and then was stationed at Cecil Field Florida Naval Air Station attached to a training squadron for A-7 Corsair aircraft training. My job involved working on the weapons systems of the A-7 Corsair jet — loading bombs, attack rockets, sidewinder and shrike air-to-air attack missiles. My squadron did attack training in the desert north of Yuma, Arizona, and I spent 1 ½ years working on weapons systems and learning to drink tequila. By this time I had been promoted 3 steps and was an Aviation Ordnance second class petty officer.
As all good things come to an end, often too soon, I was transferred and stationed with Fighter Squadron 194 at Miramar Naval Air Station to be deployed to Viet Nam on a West Pac Cruise in 1970. (Our squadron hangar at Miramar Naval Air Station was the same used in the Top Gun movie, and the aircraft carrier I served on was the same carrier that Maverick’s dad served on, the Oriskany.) I spent almost 9 months on the Oriskany Aircraft Carrier attached to the Seventh Fleet, Task Force 77 on Yankee Station-Viet Nam. Besides Viet Nam, our West Pac cruise took us to lovely Hawaii, Philippine Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and the South China Sea, returning home to Miramar Naval Air Station in December 1970. Returning stateside in late 1970 was during the heart of the protests over our presence in Southeast Asia; as most returnees remember, this was very unpleasant.
I then spent the next 4 months at Miramar Naval Air Station with my squadron and after 3 years, 9 months in the Navy, I took an early discharge to start college at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado where I majored in pre-law, political science, skiing, hunting/fishing and Coors beer. I graduated with a BS (take that for whatever it is worth!).
After graduation from Fort Lewis College, I started a career in security that quickly evolved into law enforcement, working with sheriffs’ offices in Colorado, Arizona and Oregon. I recently retired after 27 years in law enforcement and settled down on the Oregon coast and started learning fly fishing. I’m still learning.
I have spent many years helping veterans in my law enforcement career and will continue to offer them a “Hand Up” and help the veterans help themselves with pride, the same pride the veterans have demonstrated in their military careers. I now also work with the American Legion, our community, and with their efforts to help our veterans.”
RSVP of Lincoln County is teaming up with Hillside House in Lincoln City to begin an outreach program for area veterans through RSVP’s Friendly Visitor program. A national organization with more than 500,000 volunteers, RSVP recruits people who are age 55 and older to use their life skills and experiences to help those in need. In Lincoln County, RSVP’s Friendly Visitor program has helped about 124 seniors remain living independently while staying connected to their community.
Tamara Rosser, RSVP program manager, told the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners that the plan is to expand the Friendly Visitor program by getting local veterans to help other veterans. “Unless you are a veteran and unless you know what they went through, it’s hard,” she said, adding that the Veterans Helping Veterans program is coordinating with the county’s veterans services director, John Reed. Another component of the program is connecting spouses of veterans with one another.
Former Depoe Bay mayor Jim White, a retired combat Marine and RSVP volunteer, said many veterans are not aware of the benefits available to them. “Being a 20-year veteran, I just found out about two weeks ago that being 100-percent disabled, I get free dental care, and I retired in 1982,” he said. “So if I didn’t know what was coming to me, how many veterans out there don’t know what they have coming to them and what they can get. I want to be a voice for those veterans.”
RSVP’s Veterans Helping Veterans program will help educate veterans on the benefits they and their families can get and connect them to the county veterans services office, while also providing a friendly, social connection.
Marsha White, sales manager for Hillside House and Jim White’s daughter, said many of the residents at Hillside House are veterans who benefit from the Veteran Administration’s Aid and Attendance program. “In helping with the Friendly Visitor program and coordinating with RSVP, we want to be able to help those seniors who are homebound and veterans who may eventually need assisted living, but who may think they can’t afford it. But if we can get them their Aid and Attendance, they can.”