Joins distinguished list of deceased American patriots in Tualatin Life stories
We lost our Pearl Harbor survivor, Al “Monty” Montague, on the fourth of July. He died in an accident on his property at age 92. He was working on a tractor near his barn when he suffered a traumatic head injury and skull fracture. He was not conscious but still breathing when found by his wife, Opal. Emergency medical personnel took him to Meridian Park Hospital. He was helo flighted to OHSU Trauma Center where he died. Services were held at Young’s funeral Home on July 14 because his church had limited seating space. I had written three columns about his military service beginning with in his Pearl Harbor activities on the day of the attack. The second covered his submarine service in the Pacific. He went through boot camp and then submarine training with two buddies from his home town. His buddies also served in submarines but did not survive the war. The third covered a dangerous mission delivering critical war supplies and American-Filipino commandos to the Philippines. His submarine had to leave the anchor to escape when caught in a bay with Japanese convoys moving between them and open sea. The noise created by pulling the anchor aboard would have alerted the Japanese of their location. There is a war memorial near that area which includes a monument topped with an anchor and chain.
Monty joins a distinguished list of deceased patriots I have written about in Veteran Corner columns in Tualatin Life. Several, including Monty, were personal friends. Probably the most decorated was Al Turner who was a POW in World War II where he participated in the D-Day Normandy landings and was awarded the Bronze Star. A member of the Oregon Military Hall of fame, he is remembered for his smile and endless enthusiasm. He is given credit for successfully encouraging many businesses along I-5 between Portland and Salem to fly the American flag.
Howard Ramsey was the last living World War I combat veteran in America when he died at age 108 in 2007. He also was Oregon’s oldest veteran and also Oregon’s oldest Mason. He had joined Tualatin Post 3452 at my invitation in 2006. His VFW participation resulted in several stories in the Oregonian newspaper. He spent most of his adult life living near Portland’s Mt Tabor reservoir. A bench has been erected and dedicated to him in the park there. His family believes he smiles when mothers pushing baby buggies take a rest on the bench.
I have written about several KIA – veterans killed in action. These include Brian Bushnell who was raised in Tualatin. Brian was first reported as Missing in Action – MIA – at age 21 when serving as a crewmember on an AE2A Hawkeye aircraft. The plane crashed in the ocean soon after launching from the aircraft carrier Coral Sea for a routine mission over Vietnam.
Next was Matthew Lembke, a former Tualatin High football player who was killed on his third Middle East tour of duty. A Marine sniper-scout, Matthew was patrolling in the Taliban-heavy region of Now Zaid, Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded, losing both his legs and suffering heavy internal injuries. He died at age 22. When the local VFW Post moved into their new facility, they named their hall Cpl Matthew R. Lembke Hall.
The return of the body of Andrew J. Keller was part of a story about the Patriot Guard Riders whose mission is to ensure dignity and respect at memorial services honoring Fallen Military Hero’s, First Responders and Honorably Discharged Veterans. Keller was an Army First Class private from Tigard who died at the age of 22 in Charkh, Afghanistan. Additionally, did a story on Army Sergeant Anthony McDowell who was killed by Gresham police in 2011 while displaying aggressive PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms with a rifle. He was a member of the military unit (671st Army Engineers) that Tualatin residents adopted when Operation Iraqi Freedom started in 2003. He joined Tualatin’s VFW Post in appreciation when he returned but had transferred to the VFW post where he lived before he died.
I am not sure if there are any American WWI vets still alive – when Howard Ramsey died, there were six non-combat vets remaining. Of the over 16 million Americans who served in WWII, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that over a million are still living but nearly 700 die every day. Although updated Census data indicates that Oregon has about 19,000 WWII vets, very few are Pearl Harbor survivors or submariners.
There were 5.7 million Americans in the Korean War and 8.7 million in Vietnam. Korean vets are approaching or in their 80’s with most Vietnam vets in their 60’s and 70’s. Their numbers are also dwindling. These heroes have earned a special place in America.