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Generations of war: Four local veterans from four foreign wars share their experiences

Kathy Aney

East Oregonian

Published on November 9, 2017 2:32PM

Last changed on November 10, 2017 11:34AM

Veterans J.D. Lambert of Pendleton, Ron Jardine of Hermiston, Tom Tangney of Pendleton and Bob Stangier of Pendleton share their stories with the East Oregonian.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Veterans J.D. Lambert of Pendleton, Ron Jardine of Hermiston, Tom Tangney of Pendleton and Bob Stangier of Pendleton share their stories with the East Oregonian.

World War II veteran Bob Stangier of Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

World War II veteran Bob Stangier of Pendleton.

Bob Stangier stands in front of the Colosseum during World War II.

Contributed photo

Bob Stangier stands in front of the Colosseum during World War II.

Korean War veteran Tom Tangney of Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Korean War veteran Tom Tangney of Pendleton.

Tom Tangney during the Korean War.

Contributed photo

Tom Tangney during the Korean War.

Vietnam veteran Ron Jardine of Hermiston.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Vietnam veteran Ron Jardine of Hermiston.

Ron Jardine at Fort Bliss in 1966.

Contributed photo

Ron Jardine at Fort Bliss in 1966.

Iraq War veteran J.D. Lambert of Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Iraq War veteran J.D. Lambert of Pendleton.

J.D. Lambert in Iraq.

Contributed photo

J.D. Lambert in Iraq.


Going to war has always required courage and loyalty from our country’s warriors. In a quest to truly understand what they have sacrificed, we asked four veterans from four different wars to talk about the differences and similarities in their war experiences. Bob Stangier, Tom Tangney, Ron Jardine and J.D. Lambert talked candidly about living in a war zone, loss, patriotism and coming home.


BOB STANGIER


Bob Stangier flew B-25 bombers in World War II.

Stationed in Italy, the Pendleton native and his six-man Army Air Corps crew destroyed railway and highway bridges as “bridge busters.” They often returned from missions with fresh bullet holes in the plane’s shell.

Unlike fighter pilots, who engaged in dogfights, the B-52s flew in precise patterns. Tight formations included six airplanes flying in double-decker vees. Along with bridges, the planes bombed railroad yards, electrical transformers, personnel and buildings. Needing to fly as close as possible, their wings sometimes overlapped. As Stangier’s plane roared on after the drop, his tail gunner would peer down and report whether the bomb had done its job. Nineteen-year-old Stangier flew 70 missions. He remembers debriefing sessions after each raid during which each crew member received a couple ounces of alcohol to calm the adrenaline levels.

After returning from war, Stangier flew a crop duster for a while before operating various businesses in Pendleton including an ice cream manufacturing plant, children’s clothing store and Hallmark shop. He and wife Mary Jane raised four children.

 


TOM TANGNEY


Tom Tangney was something of a golden boy during high school — standout football player, track star and president of the student body.

Tangney’s life got grittier when he joined the Marines at age 19 and headed to Korea. He served with a regiment that launched mortars. After almost a year, Tangney learned his 21-year-old brother Clarence had died fighting nearby in the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge. Clarence become one of 33 soldiers killed on average each day during the 1,125-day conflict. Tom was pulled out of combat as his family’s sole surviving son. He got the job of identifying his brother, who had lost the left side of his head in the blast, and his dog tags.

Tangney, now 85 and active in Pendleton’s Let ‘er Buck VFW Post 922, wrestled with the war experience. PTSD hadn’t been invented yet, he said, it was either combat fatigue, shell shock “or you were crazy as hell.” He said he “stayed jittery” and drank too much for about six months before he calmed down, married his high school sweetheart, Maxine, and started work at a sawmill. The couple later owned and operated a milk company.

 


RON JARDINE


Ron Jardine celebrated his 21st birthday stationed at a lonely hilltop outpost in Vietnam.

The young Army soldier guarded Marine outposts along the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Nights were spooky. Encircling each outpost was barbed wire with rock-filled pop cans hanging from the wire to provide warning if enemy soldiers attempted to cross. Claymore mines, hung from the wire, exploded outward in a fan-shaped pattern.

Jardine recalls daytime attacks by enemy forces, which launched flurries of six to eight rockets at the outposts. “You could see the smoke when they were fired,” he said. “You knew they were coming. I’d wonder, ‘Is it my turn today?’” F-4 Phantom jets generally arrived quickly to fire on the attackers.

Jardine, who now lives in Hermiston with his wife, Sherrie, returned home to Utah after a year and bought a 1966 GTO with his war earnings. He resumed his job with Union Pacific Railroad as a sheet metal worker and pipe fitter. Jardine has served as commander of Hermiston’s VFW Desert Post 4750 for three years.


J.D. LAMBERT


J.D. Lambert joined the Army after realizing he needed discipline. He got that and more.

Lambert, once a standout athlete at Pendleton High School, deployed to Iraq at age 20. While manning a machine gun mounted to a patrol vehicle, his eyes were opened by the rough living conditions in and around the Iraqi capitol city of Kirkuk. He observed sewage running into streets, filthy living conditions and infrastructure created without building codes.

On the first day of Ramadan in 2004, attacks doubled and Lambert’s company was run ragged for a couple of days straight. In for a short time to sleep and back out, the men were exhausted. The Humvee in which Lambert rode slipped off a narrow bridge and fell 30 feet into an empty canal. Lambert was pinned from his waist down for two hours. His buddy, pinned on the opposite side of the vehicle, died. The gunner, with his thumb nearly torn off and a severe hip injury, couldn’t feel his legs for days.

Looking back at his time of service, Lambert, now a Pendleton police officer, said the experience of war simplified life for him. Things others might think are important “aren’t that big a deal.”

Click here to hear the full interviews



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