Local veteran recalls service as a U.S. Marine
Bob Westgate was 19 when he graduated from high school at Blissfield,
Mich. With school behind him, he was ready and willing to take
that next step. The Marine Corps was the chosen military branch.
There wasn't any thinking on Bob's part as far as should he enlist or not. The youngest child of five siblings, Bob had two older brothers who had served in the Marines, and his great-grandfather was a Civil War veteran.
"At the time I enlisted the military was still popular, maybe carried over from WWII era. I never thought about doing anything else but enlisting as soon as I graduated. Where I came from the mentality of joining the military was a sense of duty. It was my obligation to serve my country," he said.
By June 1962, Bob and three classmates who also enlisted in the Marines left for boot camp in San Diego, Calif. The first step was reporting to Detroit and then they were flown to San Diego. What an eye opening experience boot camp turned out to be.
"My initial thoughts were pure and simple, shock. What did I do? Discipline was strict. I can still see the drill instructors. The discipline and training I needed I received and it has carried on throughout my life. The physical part of the Marines is tough, they don't give it to you, you earn it. Quit does not exist, just plain and simple it doesn't exist in the Marine's vocabulary," said Bob. Boot camp was finished in September.
Following boot camp, every Marine, regardless of where they were sent later, was sent to Camp Pendelton, Calif., for basic infantry training. There they were considered a rifleman regardless.
"By mid October and having completed my basic, I was on leave and had gone back home for a visit when the Cuban Missile Crisis hit. My group was slated to go to but I had already left on leave. The Marines that hadn't yet left for their leave had them canceled.
I didn't think to much about it. I was on leave. Until 10 or 12 years later, seeing it on TV I realized how crucial it was," said Bob.
After his leave, Bob returned to Pendelton to the staging department. In mid January he received orders and shipped out to Hawaii. He served with the 3rd Battalion 4th Marines. Hawaii is where he remained for the next two years. One of the guys from Blissfield that enlisted at the same time Bob did ended up on the same base.
At Kanoehe Bay in Hawaii, Bob was assigned to the machine gun section. They spent a lot of their time in the field on different training maneuvers, particularly in the rain forest.
"Before our group came back, my buddies and I figured up and out of the two years we were stationed in Hawaii, we were out in the field over night for over one year of the total time we were stationed there," said Bob.
The worst part of the time in the field were battling the mosquitoes. "They ate you alive. You were issued head nets and they gave us spray to use, and it worked," said Bob. While in the field, they lived on C rations.
Why was he chosen for the machine gun section?
"It was the need of the Marine Corps. My high score was in artillery, administration and infantry," said Bob.
When on leave in Hawaii, Bob took the opportunity of looking around the islands. The Arizona Memorial had been completed and the same Japanese ships were in Pearl Harbor. He visited the "punch bowl" National Cemetery for veterans.
Christmas in Hawaii was quite different, no snow and the temperatures weren't what Bob was use to as far as Christmas time.
November 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated, Bob just happened to be in a classroom when the announcement was made.
"I didn't believe it, everything just shut down. A memorial service was held that afternoon in the chapel and it was packed, with standing room only," said Bob.
August 1964, Tonkin Time. North Vietnam fired on U.S. destroyers and it started escalating from there.
"We were within a heart beat of going to Nam," said Bob.
New Year's Eve 1965, Bob returned from Hawaii to San Diego. March 1965 the first combat troops went to Nam, 3rd Regiment went and the 4th Regiment went later.
Bob was at the Marine barracks in San Diego which is where the Navy Brig is. When he arrived the Navy had 200 in jail. The population doubled quickly because of guys not wanting to go to Nam. From January 1965 to September 1966, this is where Bob served his time, watching the Navy guys that were in jail.
"I did what I had to do, planned for today, not tomorrow," said Bob.
January 1965 the government started building things up, "I think due to the Vietnam situation," said Bob.
In the Spring 1966, 5th Marine Division was reactivated, and anyone who had at least a year left to serve in the Marines was sent to Nam. Bob didn't meet that standard, so he couldn't go.
"That bothered me for quit a while because I felt I let the Marine Corps down, I didn't do my part," said Bob.
One of Bob's commanders in the corps had made the statement that always stayed with him: stay in the Marines; don't get married until you are out of the corps; get an education.
For the remainder of his time in the service with the Marines, Bob continued to serve at the Navy brig. His schedule was one day on and then one day off, so he started taking night courses at the college in San Diego, thinking maybe he wanted to go to college "to see if I could do it."
In September 1966, Bob was off active duty.
"After I was out of the service they wanted me to reenlist. Would pay me $4,500 a month and I was guaranteed a trip to Nam. I almost did it," said Bob.
Thinking maybe police work as a career would be okay he applied at different police departments and couldn't pass the tests, he wasn't ready for it.
"I can look back and I know without a doubt I wasn't ready for that kind of job. I wasn't what you would call a good student while I was in high school, and vowed that I was never going to be a teacher. I had enjoyed my time taking classes at the college in San Diego and knew that I had always liked history," said Bob.
For the next two years, Bob attended college at Mesa, Ariz., "I'd rate this college as one of the best," said Bob. While at this college Bob had a professor that he really related to and admired. He gave Bob the desire to go into teaching.
Out of the Marine Corps and into college life was a real challenge.
"This time period was against everything I stood for. They were trying to destroy everything I held of value. It was the beginning of the hippy unit, protesting, anti war. I had enough, didn't like it at all and had to get away from the west coast area," said Bob.
Late in 1968 Bob met and married his wife, Sandy. They attended the same church. Sandy was from Colby. Following their marriage they came back to the Wichita area where in the fall of 1969 Bob enrolled at Wichita State University and graduated in 1972 with a history degree, which allowed him to teach.
His first teaching job was in Colby. With inflation what it was Bob knew he would have to supplement his income to feed his family, so he went into the Marine Corps Reserves and had to travel to Denver or Topeka on weekends. Later he would join the Army Reserves in Scott City where he received training to give armor protection. With this group he traveled all over for training and to conduct training of other reserves for the armor protection unit. He also joined the National Guards for three or four years but they wanted him to work in mechanics and Bob knew that was not for him.
1981 found Bob taking a teaching job in Jewell. He continued to stay connected with the Scott City unit until 1993. While in the reserves, Bob spent time in Italy for training and Sandy went with him to Germany when he had training there. He traveled all over the United States with the reserves. Bob attained the rank of 1st sergeant. By this time he was also with the Army Reserves in Fairbury.
"My experience with the Army Reserves was enjoyable. I got to see lots of people and do lots of things," said Bob.
Retirement from teaching history came in 2001. When Ed Owen was sheriff of Jewell County, Bob worked part time with the drug and alcohol unit here in Jewell County and in Cloud County. Now he works just part time for Cloud County making transfers. The Westgates are members of a camping group, and also enjoy just camping and fishing on their own. Bob is active in several veterans organizations.
One of Bob's friends, "one of the classmates I had enlisted with, Kenneth MacBeth, was KIA June 8, 1966, in Nam. He was in a helicopter and they went out on a mission and took ground fire. The copter was hit and he died. He had two weeks left before returning to the states. He was not only a classmate we ran around together and had lots of good times. I saw him while I was home on leave," said Bob. "This situation bothered me for a long time. I let him down maybe."
As life went on, Bob decided he needed to do something about his feelings concerning his friend Kenneth "Butch" and one of the persons who helped him was Mac McAtee, who was a fellow Marine himself. About 10 years ago Bob joined the Marine Corps League unit in Salina. Bob decided to go on the local Honor Flight that is offered through Concordia and this in itself was very humbling. Spending three or four days in Washington, visiting the Vietnam Wall, Iwajima Flag raising statue, WWII Wall, was an experience of a life time. Also on this same Honor Flight were WWII Iwajima veterans.
"After locating Butch's name on the Vietnam Wall I had a gentleman trace his name from the wall for me," said Bob. "Now what am I going to do with it?" Bob found out that a VA marker had never been placed on his grave so he made arrangements to have that done. Mac McAtee made a picture frame for Bob. Through the Marine Corps unit in Salina, Bob was able to obtain all of the patches and medals that Butch would have had and now all of those items, as well as the traced name of his friend Kenneth MacBeth, have been placed inside the frame and hang of Bob's Memorial Wall in his own home.
"Reading the book, Vietnam, by Stanley Karnow has helped settle my personal feelings," stated Bob.
1917 Formoso yearbook donated to historical society
With this being 2017, it is an opportune time to honor the 1917 Formoso High School graduating class. All information was taken from the 1917 Formoso High School yearbook.
Members of the graduating class were Edward O. Blakeley, Ruth A. Ellsworth, Vernon Ellsworth, Verne May, Ralph R. Greenburg, Agnes Nelson, Elsie A. Workman, William F. Joerg, Edna Laura Workman, William Lester Frye and Lucy A. Mohler.
Class officers were Agnes Nelson, president, Verne May, vice president, Lucy Mohler, secretary, Ruth Ellsworth, treasurer. Class motto: "Graduatium." Class colors: blue and white. Class flower was a white rose.
Faculty consisted of A.G. Gore, B.S., supt., State Normal, Emporia. Paul Robinson, B.S. K.S.A.C., Manhattan. Mark Baker, State Manual Training Normal, Pittsburg. Mr. A.A. Bailey, A.B. Kansas Wesleyan, Salina. Julia Blair, A.B., Principal, Bethany College, Lindsborg.
Board of education was A.H. Miller, president; A.W. Cunningham, clerk; Peter Ramsey, Sr., treasurer.
Course of study offered at Formoso High School were broken down into three different parts: college preparatory, normal training and general. Courses offered were English, algebra, Latin, elementary science, agriculture, ancient history, modern history, American history, geometry, manual training, domestic science, psychology and physiology, civics, physics, arithmetic and bookkeeping.
Class history states in 1913 when the now graduating seniors entered Formoso High School they were the brightest and most promising class that even entered that institution. There were 14 in the class. The upper classmen always respected the freshman highly and never pitied them as most freshmen are pitied. As sophomores the class was represented in basket ball by Joerg, Leydig, Frye and Dugger and the same ones in base ball. By the beginning of their junior year the class numbers depleted until there were but 10 left.
"At the beginning of the final year the class of '17 had decided to make its exit with as much honor as possible. It was each members' goal to make his last year more successful than any former year. They were well represented in all departments of the school. Three of the first team basket ball players were chosen from our class; three of the orchestra players as well as being represented in debate."
May 2 was the junior-senior banquet with the juniors entertaining the seniors and faculty at the high school. The program consisted of a vocal solo by Mattie Jacobson; reading by Hazel Countryman; piano solo by Mildred Thornburg; and senior class prophesy by Lenora Leydig. The banquet consisted of three courses. Miss Corneila Gertson acted as toastmistress and Ralph Cunningham, Iva Tanner and Edythe Burnham gave toasts.
Listed on the course of study it was required of all students that "music must be taken each year." The music teacher was Miss Julia Blair, who also in 1917 directed the operetta, "Bulbul," and the orchestra. Members of the orchestra were Mildred Thornburg, piano; Eugene Shadboldt, Oran Hyde, Vernon Cunningham, Meryl Thornburg, Vernon Ellsworth, violins; Ernest Hyde, trombone; Ruth Ellsworth and Harry Fink, drums; Ralph Cunningham and Ethel Kingsley, cornets.
Manual training work was studied under Prof. A.A. Bailey. The training was quite successful and this was witnessed in the exhibit entered at the county festival in Mankato in October, with Formoso High School taking first place on two projects. The purpose of the manual training is for the general development of the students faculties and powers to do construction work while receiving this training, obtains a broader knowledge of materials, wider range of expression, and a more extensive knowledge of tools.
The 1917 boys basketball season was the most successful in the history of FHS with A.A. Bailey as the coach. Out of 17 games played Formoso won 13 with losses to Jewell City, Superior, and two games to Cawker City. First team members were Willie Joerg, mgr., Glenn Dugger, Lester Frye, capt., forwards; Charles Frye, center; James Fogle and Leo Blanding, guards.
The 1917 girls basketball season consisted of five games and they lost two and won three with Miss Mary Baker as their coach. The two games lost were both played with Mankato a much heavier team as well as one that had much more experience and training than FHS. Members of the team were: Estella Hedrick, Opal Gertson, Edythe Burnham, guards; Susan Alderson and Ethel Appleby, center; Louise Bowles, Lenora Leydig, Iva Tanner, forwards.
A joke listed in the 1917 annual. Miss Blair: How long did you boil these eggs? Florence: Just as long as you told me to. Miss Baker: Impossible, they are as hard as bricks. Florence: I boiled them 12 minutes. Miss Baker: Why? I told you three minutes was long enough for any egg. Florence: Yes, but there are four of them.
Acknowledgment. This 1917 Formoso High School annual was donated to the Jewell County Historical Society by Audrey Diamond. Audrey obtained the unbound book, which is put together with two holes punched on the side of the pages and tied together with navy blue string, through items that were in family storage. Audrey said the annual was in the possession of her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Dean Appleby, rural Formoso, and probably belonged to their daughter, Ethel Appleby Carey, who in 1917 was a sophomore at FHS. When the Applebys died, the annual was among their things and so went on to Howard Appleby, who lived in rural Formoso and was the sister of Ethel. Then when Howard and Argie Appleby died, it was found in their belongings and has been in the possession of their daughter, Audrey (Appleby) Diamond.
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Variety of Memorial
Day, alumni activities planned
A variety of activities is planned for Memorial Day weekend throughout Jewell County.
VFW Post No. 7830 and Auxiliary will conduct Memorial Day services Monday, 9 a.m., at the Jewell County Courthouse, Mankato, followed by Mount Hope Cemetery services. The public is invited to attend all services and then return to the Post Home for coffee and snacks.
American Legion and Auxiliary No. 263 will conduct Memorial Day services Monday, 10 a.m., at the Burr Oak Cemetery. Guest speaker will be Tyler Paulson who served in the Marine Corps. and has been discharged. Samantha Fogo will sing "Amazing Grace," Judy Donley will conduct release of the doves and Jordan Wherry will perform "Taps."
Monday, 10:30 a.m., Phil and Lori Menhusen will conduct Memorial Day services at the Pleasant View Cemetery two miles east and one mile south of Montrose.
Jewell American Legion Post No. 12 will conduct a Memorial Day community service Monday, 10:30 a.m., at the Christian Church in Jewell. The guest speaker will be Roger Walls. The American Legion will be participating.
Perry E. Lamb Post No. 368 American Legion will hold Memorial Day services at the Esbon Cemetery, Monday, 11 a.m. Rod Rose will be the guest speaker. Weather permitting Legion members will display flags to honor veterans in the cemeteries of Esbon, St. Elizabeth, Prairie Home, Salem and Union.
Memorial Day services will be held at 11 a.m. at the Webber United Methodist Church. Representatives of the Superior American Legion and VFW Posts will advance the colors. Matt Ehlers will give invocation and Lawrence Bothwell will lead the flag salute followed by the national anthem sung by Neah McMeen. Tributes to fallen soldiers of past wars will be given by Jenna Langer, Lacy Langer, Tyler Marr, Brody Elledge, Mekenzie Ehlers and Zach Renz. A potluck will be served at the church following the ceremony. A free will offering will be received at the lunch.
Saturday, Burr Oak-White Rock will hold their alumni banquet at the Burr Oak Community Center. Social hour starts at 5 p.m. with supper served at 6 p.m.
Saturday, Jewell High School reunion will be held at the Jewell Community Center, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. A catered meal will be served at 6:30 p.m. at the community center, followed by the business meeting. The 50 year class, 1967, will be honored. Alumni officers are Arlan Folsom, president; Annette Burks, vice president; Pat Zentz, secretary-treasurer.
Mankato-Rock Hills alumni banquet will be held Saturday at the Mankato Community Center. Registration and hospitality time will be held 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. followed by a catered meal at 6 p.m. Scholarships will be awarded. The Class of 1967 will host an open house and reception at the former high school, 301 N. West, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and will include a tour of the school and time for visiting. The study hall of the former school houses Mankato High School trophies and other memorabilia and will be open for viewing at this time.
School reunion is planned for Ionia-Athens with a potluck dinner Sunday, 12:30 p.m., at the Ionia United Methodist Annex with service furnished.
Saturday, there will be a Jewell Community Center dinner served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jewell Grocery will provide smoked pork chop or two piece chicken dinner, mashed potatoes, vegetable, salad bar, dinner roll, dessert, ice tea, coffee.
Both Sunday and Monday, the Esbon Community Center will be serving meals. Sunday, 7 a.m., cinnamon rolls and coffee will be served. Then at 11 a.m. a buffet will be served: chicken and noodles, ham, baked steak, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, dessert, rolls and drink. Monday Sacred Heart Altar Society will service cinnamon rolls and coffee at 7 a.m. A buffet will be served at 11 a.m., ham, roast, scalloped potatoes, corn, green beans, salad, dessert, bread, drink.
Sunday morning, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., FBLA will be serving breakfast to the public at Rock Hills Jr-Sr High school. The menu will be biscuits, gravy, sausage, eggs, hashbrowns, pancakes, toast, Danish, fruit salad, coffee, juice.
This is the last weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the Ute Theatre to be open until fall. Show time hasn't changed in years, 7:30 p.m. A great time to stop in and see all the renovations that have been made.
Also on Friday, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., the Mankato Library will be sponsoring their Robert Turner Summer Concert Series in the Mankato City Park on the newly constructed stage. The Dustin Pittsley Band will be performing.
Eldon Pate retiring
Eldon Pate, longtime owner and manager of the Esbon elevator,
Pate has worked for Farmway Co-op, the currrent owner, for the past three years. Eldon and his wife, Delilah, owned and operated the facility for the previous 12 years, when it was known as Esbon Grain.
For 26 years prior to the Pates purchasing the elevator in Esbon, Eldon drove truck, getting his start under the watchful eye of local Raymond Griffith. Later, Eldon drove for a company in Illinois and then finished up his driving days with a company in Nebraska.
For the past 15 years, he has operated the facility on the west side of Grand Ave. The Pates added a new bin and leg on the east side, put in the long scale to the north side of the west facility and made other improvements as needed. The elevator at that time had a 350,000 bushel capacity.
"The grain was shipped out mostly by trucks. During the 12 years we owned the elevator we probably shipped out 10 cars total by rail. Now the railroad has taken out switches so rails are not even accessible to the elevator," said Eldon.
In the first year Farmway Co-op owned the elevator, they put up a 150,000 bushel bin.
Eldon said most of the change he has seen in his years with the elevator has been the farm economy and the way things are done, everything is always changing. Even the marketing of the grain is changing, farming practices, more chemical and less tillage is used now.
Eldon's future plans are to maybe help some of the local farmers at harvest time and also do more hunting and fishing. "Just help where needed," he said.
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