Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 8, 2013

Vets share stories at informal meeting

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — At one point, conversations about aircraft, submarines and infantry duties overlapped as coffee flowed freely Friday morning during an informal monthly gathering of local veterans at the Lamp Post Café.

“I want every one of you to write down a little something about yourself. Everybody’s got a story, right?” said Jim Fields, who organized the First Friday group along with fellow veteran Wayne Davison. Fields spotted Davison at the back of the room and encouraged him to write about his experiences serving aboard submarines, adding such personal stories will be shared with the group in the months ahead.

“Pick one of the older guys — I’m pretty young,” Davison replied, earning a laugh from the friendly crowd and starting another conversation with a nearby Navy vet about their time aboard diesel-powered “pig boats,” as well as missile-bearing “boomers.”

Davison said he still hopes to involve more female veterans in the organization.

Brenda Drolet of Chicago was the only woman in the crowd, although she was quick to say she was there in a support role accompanying Navy veterans Isaac Mullins, Paul Worthington and Chris Geise.

“As a female and not a veteran, I think this is something a lot of females would be interested in,” Drolet said. “I’m sure there’s lot of stories right here in this room. And, as a civilian it gives us a chance to say ‘thank you.’”

Matt Potter of the Eastern Kentucky Military Historical Society said he spent the morning passing along information, signing people up for a proposed bus trip to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB and enjoying the casual conversations.

“The personal stories ... that’s what I miss. Our group has kind of gotten away from that,” Potter observed, later noting society board member Bill Martin has arranged an affordable excursion to the museum, with an optional overnight stay in the old officers’ barracks on base. Of the eight who signed up for the September journey to Ohio, Potter said six indicated they want to take advantage of the overnight option.

Wearing a “combat Infantryman” cap, James Fields of Ashland shared an album of photos and documents with Potter, pointing out a 1953 photo from Time magazine that captured a mass of casualties at “Outpost Harry,” where he served. The Korean War veteran spent a few minutes describing the incredible cold that greeted fellow soldiers and him upon arrival and later observed that may have been the most comfortable part of his year in that country.

“I was there when it ended,” James Fields told Potter, explaining he and others near the front line were advised to “just keep our heads down for 12 hours” despite enemy fire while awaiting the negotiated cease fire.

The group will meet again at 9 a.m. May 3 at the restaurant at the corner of 15th Street and Greenup Avenue.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.