Leonardo Lucio was born September 11, 1972 in Chicago Heights, Illinois. His family had a history of working with the railroad: his father worked for the Union Pacific Railroad, and his grandfather and younger brothers also both worked for the railroad. Coming from a big family—his father was the oldest of 13 kids; his mother the youngest of 8— Mr. Lucio remembers fondly his father taking him and his siblings to Mexico every couple of years to get to know their extended family and to learn the language—and these visits may be one reason Mr. Lucio had learned to love to travel. Mr. Lucio attended Bloom High School, where he participated in tennis, swimming, and was a member of the Glee club. Because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after he graduated, he listened to the different military recruiters that came to his school, only to find that the Navy offered him something he really wanted. “Key word: Travel. That’s what I wanted to do; I wanted to see the world.” Identifying a career path was something else Mr. Lucio remembers about his recruiting experience: he didn’t really know what he wanted to do in the Navy.
Because he didn’t know anyone in the service prior to joining, he didn’t have any previous exposure to military occupations. As a result, he signed up to be a deck seaman. After basic training, Mr. Lucio went straight to his first ship the USS Oldendorf (DD-972) as an undesignated seaman—only to find himself being sent to the middle of a war zone. The USS Oldendorf, home ported in Yokosuka, Japan was forward deployed as part of the Midway Battle Group in preparation for Operation Desert Storm. Mr. Lucio recalls patrolling the waters of the Persian Gulf with the Midway Battle Group. “It was in the height of the war so when the Iraqis were burning the Kuwaiti oil fields we could see the oil fields burning. We could smell it. We could see it in the water. We were that close.” As an 18 year-old deck seaman he remembers his thinking at the time: “…I do not want to be here and I do not believe in war. But I had no choice. I signed up. I raised my hand and I had to fulfil my duty.” It wasn’t until later in his tour onboard the Oldendorf that Leo was allowed to “strike” for a rating outside of the arduous deck department. As a deck seaman in 1st division he was exposed to various jobs in the Navy and he got lucky in discovering the rate of Postal Clerk. It was in this rate where Mr. Lucio found his calling in the Navy.
Today Mr. Lucio is part of the Navy Funeral Honor Guard, after Congress passed legislation providing every U.S. military veteran the ability to receive a funeral with military honors in 1999. Mr. Lucio performs 3 to 4 funerals per week on average. Over the last 14 years he has performed close to 2,000 funerals with honors. He loves doing it and considers it not only a part of his naval career, but part of who he is – it has been a truly rewarding experience.
We honor you, Leonardo Lucio.
Born in Maryland, Sergeant Major Mary Aurtrey was an eighteen-year-old living in small-town South Carolina, craving travel and adventure, when she made the decision in 1969 to join the Army. In her roles as typist, stenographer, and administrator, her service during the Vietnam and Persian Gulf eras led her around the world–from locations stateside to Korea, Germany, and Belgium–and to support high-ranking officers such as General Alexander Haig. Beyond simply providing her with an education, she cites personal interactions as one of the highlights of her military career; as she explains, serving in the Army taught her to appreciate people, fundamentally changing her outlook on life. Aurtrey served a total of 22 years.
Aurtrey continued in a lifetime of public service, both as the current chaplain for the American Legion Women’s Post #438 and a Systems Accountant at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Center, Indianapolis.
(#Repost @ Veteran’s History Project and US Army Reserve)
Alex graduated for Clearfield High School in June of 1965 and enlisted in the US Army two months later. He went to Basic Training in Ft. Polk, Louisiana and then Combat Medic Training at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. He trained as Neuropsychiatric specialist and Brooke Army Medical Center Sand Antonio Texas. Alex received on the job training at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco, California, followed by a 3 year station at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. in the Psych Department, NCOIC.
Alex took a 14 year break in service and then re-enlisted into the Utah National Guard 144th Evacuation Hospital where he worked through the ranks from Spec. 5 to Spec. 6, converted to Staff Sergeant.
During his service in the National Guard, Alex was deployed to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield, and remained there through Desert Storm and Desert Calm. As Chief Wardmaster, he was tasked with establishing a 400 bed hospital in 14 days, and was able to achieve it in 12 days!
Alex returned home in 1991 where he attended another Academy and was promoted to First Sergeant. Due to Reduction of Forces, he was transferred to the 625th Military Police as First Sergeant and went TDY to the Panama Canal to conduct a law and order mission.
He retired from the Utah National Guard in September 1999 and has since been involved with the American Legion for the past 12 years and held many leadership positions including 2nd Vice Commander, 1st Vice Commander, and Post Commander for Post 132 for 2 years. He was the 2nd Vice Commander, 1st Vice Commander and District Commander for 2 years for District 8. Alex is currently the Department of Utah Commander for the American Legion.
He is also a life member with the VFW, and has been involved with the Knights of Columbus and The Boy Scouts of America.
We honor you, Alex Aerts.
(Submission by: Ninzel Rasmuson)
Recruited by the Air Force, Meg Parrish Miner joined the military straight out of high school, enticed by the chance to leave her small town, get an education, and hold the impressive-sounding title of “jet engine mechanic”–despite having zero background in any kind of mechanics. The sixteen years she spent in the military–including with the famous Thunderbird division, and then working on F-16s while stationed in Turkey following the Gulf War–proved to be eye-opening, as she had hoped.
Meg was in the Air Force from 1979-1995. During that time, she served at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho; Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma; Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada; Hahn Air Base and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; and Turkey.
We honor you, Meg Miner.
(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)
Entering the military through ROTC, Captain Josephine Taylor enjoyed the way in which basic training both challenged and also instilled confidence in her. While she did not anticipate having to deploy to Saudi Arabia, she rose to the challenge as a transportation company commander (762nd Transportation Company). Constantly worrying about the welfare of her unit took a toll, as did the Scud missile attacks, the “breathtaking” heat, and the daily sandstorms. She returned home “emotionally drained,” though grateful for the strength of character that the military had helped her to develop.
We honor you, Josephine Taylor.
SSgt Ninzel Horsley Rasmuson enlisted in the Air National Guard just a couple weeks after her 18th birthday. She served from 1989-2001. She recalls the impression left on her after visiting the Air Force Academy in Colorado as a child and the impact of attending Military Balls through the Military Order of World Wars (MOWW) with her grandfather, Lt Col Robert Horsley (Ret). She felt a deep commitment to serve her country from her early childhood experiences.
Ninzel went to Basic Training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX and graduated as an Honor Graduate. She completed three Administrative Management Technical Schools at Keesler, AFB in Biloxi, MS.
Ninzel mostly served at Camp Murray and McChord AFB, HQ Det 1, although she did serve one year for the Montana Air Guard. Ninzel worked as a GI Education Specialist and was a member of the Mishap Investigation team.
Awards: Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, Gulf War Campaign Medal, and Airman of the Year.
After an honorable discharge in 2001, Ninzel went on to pursue her dreams of completing her education, including a B.A. in Human Services from Western Washington University, a M.S. in Human and Community Services from Capella University, and a PhD in Education, specializing in Post-Secondary Adult Education and Professional Studies from Capella University.
Currently, she dedicates her time as Founder & President to the grassroots non-profit organization, Operation Veteran Support. She has a deep commitment to God, Family, Veterans, and Country.
We honor you, Ninzel Rasmuson.
(Submission by: Katrina Parry)