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Celebrating our Idaho BLM Veterans

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During this Veterans Day holiday, we are recognizing and celebrating our colleagues throughout the Idaho State Office and across the BLM in Idaho who have so honorably, and with dignity, served our nation in the military. In recognition of their service, below are stories submitted by Idaho BLM employees about their military service or the service of a friend, relative or loved one.
These people and the sacrifices they made to serve our country and protect our freedoms, before joining us as colleagues in land and resource management, give each of us yet another reason to take pride in their work and in our agency. 

Jayson Murgoitio
Jayson Murgoitio in Afghanistan

Served in Iraq and Afghanistan and Grandfather was at Pearl Harbor

Submitted by Jayson Murgoitio, Idaho State Office


My grandfather, Lee Griat, served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He was at Pearl Harbor the day of the "big show" as he liked to say. Although he rarely, if ever, talked about what he saw during his time in the service, I believe he carried a sort of guilt about making it through the war physically unharmed when so many young men and women weren't as lucky. 

I never really understood this until I had my own experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans' Day is a wonderful time to honor military service, and the recognition of our veterans is both justified and appreciated. I feel very blessed to work at an organization where military service is held in such high regard, with people who are truly thankful for the sacrifices made by our veterans. And yet I think I speak for many vets who would say that all the honor and recognition really should be for the true heroes – those who didn't make it home.



Operation Crossroads, the Atomic Bomb Test at Bikini Atoll

Submitted by Melanie Kielty Keyes (Idaho State Office) – Daughter of William Kielty

The most memorable happening during my time of service in the Navy was, without a doubt, when my ship the USS Henrico APA 45 was chosen as flagship for the Third amphibious Fleet in May of 1946.  This meant The Henrico, with the fleet admiral aboard, would be the lead ship for Operation Crossroads, the atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll. 
There were two tests:  Able Bomb would be in the air, and a Baker bomb would be underwater. We arrived at Bikini about June, 15, 1946 and helped install the onshore camera platforms for the remote cameras and other testing equipment.
On June 29, 1946, we were in position, about 12 miles away from the blast site, setting up the equipment to test blast intensity and sensors to test radiation activity, etc.  There were about 50 scientists on board setting up their equipment too.  I can recall speaking to one of the scientists and asking him, “Do we know for certain what’s going to happen here?”  His answer was “Heck no”, (actual words edited) that was reassuring.
On July 1, 1946 at 06:00, we were given the memorandum for the day, the release time for Able bomb would be by flag signal.  We were cautioned to close and cover our eyes and face away from the blast.  I had been working with the scientists and had received permission to view the blast by wearing a welder’s helmet.  The brightness of the blast and intensity of the sound and the rush of air was absolutely spectacular.  I saw a 1-mile-wide and 6-mile-high mushroom cloud form in the air above the blast site. 
The Baker bomb was detonated on July 25, 1946 at 50 feet below the surface.  There were about 50 vessels in the blast area.  When the bomb detonated, the Battleship Arkansas was literally lifted out of the water; the Aircraft Carrier Saratoga, the Japanese Battleship Nagota, along with many others were destroyed to determine the effect of the blast. 
Hopefully we will never again witness atomic, hydrogen or other bomb dropped on humanity.
William A. Kielty

United States Navy

Atomic Bomb Testing
Bikini Atoll Testing

Dad Served in the U.S. Army Air Corps and the Navy

Submitted by: Scott D. Barker, Burley Field Office

My Dad, Lieutenant Commander Douglas L. Barker, U.S. Navy (deceased), was a fighter pilot. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1946 and flew in Italy during World War II. He joined the Navy in 1948 and while assigned to fighter squadron VF-63 was deployed twice during the Korean War aboard the aircraft carriers USS Boxer and USS Yorktown. He served in the Navy until 1960 when he was killed in a plane crash in Japan while deployed on the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany. I have always been proud of my Dad’s service and very thankful for the sacrifice of all of those whose service preserves our freedom.

USS Boxer

USS Boxer in 1953. Imagine landing on this at night with the deck pitching 30 feet.
USA Flag


Served in the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1968
Submitted by: C. Richard Stivers, Pocatello Field Office 


I was in the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1968 in the central highland area of Dak To, Vietnam, assisting a Green Beret unit that was training a battalion of Vietnamese and Mountangyard men to fight the Vietcong Infantry. I know that many people have bad memories of their time overseas, but that was not my case!  I had no choice but to learn to eat, sleep, speak and live like a Vietnamese!  For someone from a country farm-side life in Decatur, Illinois to be suddenly put in that type of situation was a chance of a lifetime!  I saw a lot that a 21-year-old should probably not have seen, but what I learned from the Vietnamese way of life and manners I have kept with me always.  If you get a chance, try some Vietnamese food; you will love it!


A Family of Defenders

Submitted by: Eric Pitzer, Idaho State Office

Linda and I have proudly served in the Department of Defense (Active/National Guard) for over 23 years. We have always been proud of serving our country for our rights and freedoms as well those countries that are less fortunate. 
My wife joined the Army in 1979 and served overseas in SW Germany as an army intelligence specialist. Before being shipped overseas, she attended the Defense Language Institute to learn Polish in 47 weeks. When her 5-year enlistment was up, she decided to leave the military until 1985, when she had an opportunity to join the Idaho Air National Guard. During her tenure (for more than 20 years), she worked as a contracting specialist and soon became the base supervisory contracting officer. She was also qualified as a load plan certifier responsible during peacetime and real-world contingencies. While in the military, she also earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration. She retired at the grade of Senior Master Sergeant in November 2004. I’m extremely proud of my wife for all the sacrifices she made for our family and our country.
My journey began in 1983 by enlisting in the United States Air Force straight out of high school. Mountain Home Air Force Base was my first assignment, where I wore many hats as an inventory management specialist for 3 years. I soon went overseas and served 3 years at Sembach Air Base, W. Germany. In 1989, I separated from active duty and joined the Idaho Air National Guard in September 1990. I continued my career path as an inventory manager for an additional 9 years and soon cross-trained into logistics management. Deployments ranged from Saudi Arabia to Turkey during real-world conflicts. I finished my career path as the services superintendent that canvassed an array of responsibilities for food service, lodging, search & recovery, and mortuary affairs. I was promoted to the rank of Senior Master Sergeant and was slotted to make Chief Master Sergeant before taking an offer with the BLM in June 2006.
I met my beautiful wife while in the Air National Guard. During our times away, it was never easy for either of us to leave each other or our children, but it was amazing when we came home! The hardest part for both of us was not leaving each other; rather, it was knowing that one of us might not make it back. We both worked in deployment operations, where we saw many tears of joy and sadness, the unfortunate losses along the way, and the post effects of war.
My true hero is my nephew Ben, who is currently 30 years of age. He joined the Marine Corps in his early 20s and was awarded Corps Honor Man, the highest honor in boot camp. He soon was deployed to Fallujah, where he was involved in numerous firefights and clearings. He lost one of his closest friends while running down the stairs to clear a building that was being hit by sniper fire. His parting words to Ben were, “It was a good day to be a Marine.”  He then passed away in Ben’s arms. My nephew has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from the loss of his comrades as well as the tragedies he experienced from the war and adapting to civilian life. Two years ago, life changed for the better for my nephew. He feels comfortable around groups of family and friends, and he loves life again.  He has met the love of his life and now has a second child on the way. I used to be the hero in Ben’s eyes, and maybe I am to this day. Honestly, he is my hero because he has seen too much tragedy on both sides of a third world country that many of us can only try to comprehend through the mass media. He has made me realize what is important in life and worth fighting for.
My up and coming hero, whom I’m also proud of, is my other nephew John (Ben’s younger brother). Linda and I both recruited him in the Idaho Air National Guard, where he has served as a weapons load specialist for 10 years. He has worked extremely hard at his goal to become a fighter pilot by putting imself through college and obtaining a private pilot’s license. John was accepted for one of the last slots to fly the A-10 Thunderbolt II “Tank Killer.” He left the Idaho Air National Guard on November 2, 2013 for Officer’s School.
I am so proud of my family and friends abroad who have served or are still serving for our freedom. I don’t think about Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day until they’re here and someone pays tribute. It breaks me up every time because it brings back many memories, good and bad, and it reminds me of why I served in the military for this great country we live in.

Linda Pitzer
Linda Pitzer

The Pitzers
The Pitzers and their Nephew Ben


Native Americans have had Highest Number of Veterans Per Capita

Submitted by: Cheryle Cobell Zwang, Idaho State Office

Native Americans have traditionally had the highest number of veterans per capita of any group in America. In my family, all four of my brothers served in the military. One of my brothers, Joe, served in Vietnam. At the time, I was in grade school, and when my brother wrote home early on and said that lots of the people in his unit never received mail, I asked my teacher if our class could send letters once a week to his unit. She agreed and enlisted other teachers and their classes, and they put together a list of service members from our reservation, including Joe, and the letter writing campaign began.   Joe shared the letters he received with his brothers and sisters in arms. Ultimately, a number of kids in my school became pen pals with individual soldiers after that. 
When my brother came home, he was welcomed by our whole family. That summer, we held a ceremony for him where we celebrated his safe return and honored his sacrifice. I know that there were a lot of Vietnam-era veterans who never really felt like their service was appreciated because there were so many who were against the war. It makes me sad to think that is the case. I take pride in the fact that for at least some of these men and women, when the mail arrived, the letters and pictures from me and my classmates helped brighten their day. 
Being a warrior is all about service. Thank you to our veterans and active military and their families!

Following in Family’s Footsteps, Served from 1983 to 1987

Submitted by: Paul Makela, Idaho State Office

My father served as a civilian with the U.S. Navy in WWII at the Bremerton, Washington Naval Shipyard, maintaining antiaircraft gun sights. His two brothers served with the U.S. Army in WWII as well. My brother-in-law made the U.S. Air Force his career and spent a couple of tours in Southeast Asia on C-130s during the Vietnam War. Following that, he spent countless TDY tours around the globe. As a young man, I followed in his footsteps and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as well. I served from 1983 to 1987 and had the providence of serving during a time of relative peace. After about a year of technical training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, I spent the remainder of my enlistment at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Hospital in Tucson, Arizona, as a medical laboratory specialist. Among other duties, I managed the blood bank and transfusion services section of the lab, along with the War Readiness Mobile Blood Donor Center. I left the service as a Staff Sergeant to go to graduate school. It was an honor to serve.


Served During the Last Years of the Vietnam WarBoot Camp Grad

Submitted by: Lydia Ferguison, Idaho State Office

Boot Camp Platoon I spent 4 years in the Marine Corps in Paris Island, SC, Twentynine Palms, CA and San Diego, CA during the last years of the Vietnam War. Then I attended school at Boise State University and achieved my Bachelors of Business Administration, majoring in Computer Information Systems with the help of the G.I. Bill. A few months after I started working for the BLM, I was invited to enlist in the active Army Reserve, where I created the software for the Academic Records section of the 6228th USAR School here in Boise, ID. During the 8 years I spent with the school, I was called to active duty to train soldiers who were preparing to participate in operation Desert Storm of the Gulf War. I want to thank the BLM for saving my job for me during the couple of months I was gone, but it would have been nice if they didn't save all the work that was literally “piled” in my work area when I returned!


At One Point during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, All of Husband’s Immediate Family were Serving in the Air Force

Submitted by: Charlotte Alexander, Idaho State Office

 I served in the USAF from 1984 to 1995. (Go Air Force!) I was a Production Control Specialist with the Civil Engineering Squadron at three different bases. I was stationed at Reese AFB, Lubbock, Texas; Cannon AFB, Clovis, New Mexico; and Luke AFB, Glendale, Arizona. I picked the Air Force because of my grandfather; he retired as a Chief Master Sergeant, and he served in two wars and one conflict. I joined the military to see the world and attain my education. As you can see, I wasn’t lucky enough to accomplish the goal of becoming a world traveler, but I did get my education taken care of. I also was lucky enough to meet and marry my husband Mike. We have one son, Dustin. I joke that the two of them are my souvenirs from my military service. While I was in the Air Force, I supported Desert Shield/Desert Storm. My husband is retired with 20 years, has served overseas many times, as well as doing a short tour in Turkey. At one point during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, all of my husband’s immediate family, including his father, mother and sister, were serving in the Air Force, as well as my brother and I. So we were one big military family! I believe that my military service taught me how to work hard, work for and with any type of person, be flexible, keep an open mind, think outside the box and accomplish the mission at hand. I’m grateful for the opportunity. I feel honored and blessed to have served our country!


 Pursued a Life-Long Dream to be a Helicopter Pilot in the Army

Submitted by: Tim Carrigan, Idaho State Office

 After being a permanent BLM employee for over 7 years, I quit and joined the army. That may seem like a backwards plan, but at the age of 30, I decided to pursue a life-long dream to be a helicopter pilot. I served from 1985 to 1990, achieving the rank of Chief Warrant Officer (CW2)

 After basic training and flight school, I was stationed at beautiful Ft. Polk, Louisiana (not a dream of mine) serving in the peace-time army. Since there were no wars during my military tenure, I would describe my experience as the easiest job I ever had. As a pilot, we just flew and talked about flying. Contrary to what many people may think, in my experience, the majority of people in the military do not want to go and kill people any more than they want to be shot themselves.

 Towards the end of my tenure, the Berlin Wall came down, and we saw the end of the Soviet Union; the “enemy” I was trained to fight. As times rapidly changed, there was a new foe on the horizon, and due to nothing beyond serendipity I was released from the army 1.5 business hours before a hold was placed on discharges. Shortly after my tour of duty was completed, we entered into Operation Desert Storm.

 The Army Prepared Me to Work with a Stellar BLM Team

Submitted by: Aaron Rasmussen, Coeur d’Alene District

I enlisted in the Army in July of 1988. I spent 3 years as a combat engineer with the 6th Infantry Division (Light) in Alaska; 6 years as a paralegal noncommissioned officer with the 101st Airborne Division, US Army Intelligence Center, and Department of the Army; and 15 years as a legal administrator (warrant officer) with the 101st Airborne Division, 7th Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, I Corps, Department of the Army, and US Army Europe.

 24 years with the Army taught me a lot of things that prepared me to work with the stellar team I get to spend my days with now.

Last updated: 01-16-2014