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U Celebrates Vets


Nov. 6, 2014 – The University of Utah will honor 11 Utah veterans, including Raymond Yoss who spent more than three years as a prisoner of war during the Korean War, at its 17th annual Veterans Day Commemoration Ceremony, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, in the ballroom in the A. Ray Olpin Union Building. The tribute includes a panel discussion, a 21-cannon salute, an awards ceremony and a concert.

The panel discussion, “Drones as Intelligence Gathering Devices,” begins at 8:45 a.m. and focuses on how advancements in drone technology have expedited the intelligence-gathering process.

“Today, more than ever, unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, are an integral tool in our military’s arsenal of reconnaissance techniques,” said Audra Thompson, student veteran and Army Reserve soldier who will moderate the discussion. “However, despite their rise in popularity, the use of UAVs raises a number of questions, which will be addressed during this discussion.”

The awards ceremony beings at 11 a.m., symbolic of the history of Veterans Day, which celebrates the armistice that ended World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Nominations came from across the state, and the 11 veterans chosen to be honored will receive a commemorative medallion onstage at the ceremony. An additional award, the Student Veteran of the Year, will be awarded to a current U student. The ceremony will conclude with a 21-cannon salute at noon.

The final event, the Veterans Day concert, begins at 7 p.m. in the Jon. M. Huntsman Center, 1825 S. Campus Drive. This is the 59th annual Veterans Day concert and features the Utah National Guard, 23rd Army Band and Granite School District High School Choirs performing an array of patriotic songs. For more information about the concert, call 801-432-4407.

All events are free and open to the public. For a complete list of honors and events, visit

The following veterans will be honored:

Raymond L. Yoss, Army, Korean War
Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, Prisoner of War Medal and other awards
Raymond L. Yoss joined the Army in 1949, completed basic training and volunteered for Korea. Yoss was assigned to the 24th Infantry Division, 34th Infantry Regiment, 3rd BN, “K” Company as a light weapons infantryman. On July 20, 1950, Yoss and his platoon were on patrol on the main road going north out of Teajon when they were confronted by two Russian T-34 tanks and the accompanying infantry patrol. Yoss’ sergeant sacrificed himself so his men could escape. Yoss and a buddy ran from the North Koreans but were captured. Yoss spent 37 months, one week and three days as a prisoner of war of the North Koreans, then of the Chinese. Yoss was released on Aug. 26, 1953. Only about 275 of the original 800 POWs from the camp survived and returned to the U.S. He spent a week in an army hospital near Seoul, Korea, and then another couple of weeks at an army hospital in the San Francisco area.

Zachary Jacobs, Air Force, Operation Enduring Freedom
Bronze Star with Valor, Purple Heart, Airborne Wings and other awards
Zachary Jacobs joined the Air Force in 2005, and was deployed to Afghanistan three times over four years. During his first deployment, Jacobs ordered airstrikes in support of combat missions and served as the liaison between ground combat troops and the Air Force as a Joint Terminal Air Controller to provide air assistance and cover when needed. For his second deployment, he was first at forward operating base Apache in the east Kandahar region then was moved to FOB Todd in the Bala Murghab Valley. All supplies had to be air dropped to any U.S. troops. During one mission, the Taliban engaged Jacobs’ unit in gunfire, and two soldiers were wounded. Jacobs called for a medical evacuation helicopter but had to expose himself to enemy fire again to throw signal smoke marking the extraction point. For these actions, Jacobs was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” for Valor. His third deployment was with a unit of the 10th Mountain Division at combat outpost Sharch. Jacobs received a Purple Heart after being knocked unconscious by an explosion from an improvised explosive device while on patrol.

William “Bill” Baucom, Marine Corps, Korean War
Purple Heart and other awards
William Baucom joined the 12th Marine Corps reserve in 1948 and was called to active duty in 1950. Baucom was assigned to the 1st Marine Division, 5th Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Fox Company where he served as a mortarman, a machine gunner and a sniper in Korea. During one mission, Baucom and his spotter were taken prisoner by the Chinese and escaped on the way to the prisoner of war camp. On another mission, a land mine went off behind him. Baucom was awarded his second Purple Heart for this incident. After he was released from active duty, Baucom played semi-professional football, attended the University of California at Berkley and became an X-ray technician. He later moved to Provo, where he started a portable radiology business.

Eugene K. England, Army, World War II
Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge and other awards
Eugene K. England was in Operation Iceberg, the battle for Okinawa, as a member of the 77th Infantry Division. England’s division was ordered to push back Japanese lines and were hit with small arms, mortar and artillery fire. England volunteered as a medical aide because all the medics had been killed. He was awarded the Bronze Star for exposing himself to gunfire while rescuing a wounded soldier. After the battle of Okinawa, England was sent to the Philippines to train for the invasion of Japan. However, the atomic bomb ended the fighting, so he was sent to Japan as part of the occupation forces. England finally returned home to his wife and son in the spring of 1946.

Patrick Watkins, Marine Corps, Army, Vietnam War
Distinguished Services Cross, Purple Heart, Bronze Star and other awards
Just after graduating from high school, Patrick Watkins turned down a track scholarship and enlisted in the Marine Corps. During his seven years in the Marine Corps, Watkins was deployed to Lebanon in 1958 and then in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. After his service in the Corps, Watkins enlisted in the Army and served in the 82nd Airborne with Operation Power Pack in the Dominican Republic and then with the Special Forces. In 1967, Watkins volunteered for Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observations Group, a clandestine operation that conducted classified cross-border operations into Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and North Vietnam. The work was intense and often deadly for the men who were involved. Casualties in Watkins’ unit were extremely high. Watkins served three tours over 27 months in Southeast Asia and led many cross-border operations. He was known for his exceptional skills as a covey rider and for his skills in coordinating air-to-ground assets. He was also a reconnaissance team leader. Watkins was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross for his service during a surprise attack from the Vietnamese in 1968.

Ronald C. Jones, Army, Vietnam War
Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Master Army Aviator Wings and other awards
When Ronald C. Jones began his military training in the ROTC at the University of Nevada in 1955, he intended to serve in the Army for two years as an officer after graduation. Instead, he served two tours in Vietnam as a fixed wing flier and helicopter pilot, and then served for several years as a distinguished Army healthcare administrator. During the Battle of Dong Tre, Jones evacuated over 5,000 patients, performed over 200 hoist missions and logged over 1,400 combat hours during his two tours in Vietnam. For his efforts, he was inducted into the Dustoff Hall of Fame in April 2014. He retired after 30 years of service.

Paul V. Sersland, Army Air Corps, World War II
Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and other awards
After completing his basic training, Paul V. Sersland was sent to Kingman Army Air Base for gunnery school. He was assigned to a B-17 bomber group out of Lincoln, Nebraska. After reaching England, Sersland was assigned to the 303rd bomb group. One day, Sersland’s squadron lost seven out of 12 airplanes that went out. Despite the odds and the fear of flying such dangerous missions, Sersland completed 35 bombing raids between Oct. 17, 2944, and March 4, 1945, including a raid on Christmas Eve that still holds the record for most planes sent out on one mission: 2,899. After completing his 35 missions, Sersland was discharged from the military and became an airplane mechanic. He also took a vow to never fly again after one extremely turbulent flight over the Grand Canyon.

Roy Lee Grover, Army Air Corps, Air Force, World War II
Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medals and other awards
During the summer of 1940, Roy Lee Grover attended ground school at the Civilian Pilot Program at the University of Utah. After completing his sophomore year, he applied for pilot training in the Army Air Corps, as war seemed eminent. He enlisted in 1941 and began flight training at Visalia, California. Grover graduated, received his wings and became a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps in 1942. He was then deployed as a pilot with the 28th Bomb Group to prevent the feared Japanese invasion of Australia. During his time in New Guinea, Grover flew 57 combat missions against the Japanese, and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals. He returned to the United States in October 1943, where he trained combat crews and flew transport missions in the United States, Europe and North Africa. While in the military, Grover was a pilot, comptroller, deputy base commander and management analyst at the Air Defense Command in Colorado. He retired in 1964, as a lieutenant colonel, and then worked in the aerospace industry as an operations research analyst.

Thomas E. Davis, Coast Guard, Vietnam War
Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon and other awards
Thomas E. Davis was assigned to his first vessel, an 82-foot boat named The Point Comfort, in 1968. He and 11 other men patrolled the rivers and coast for 12 to 13 days at a time. They could sometimes go weeks without contact with anyone, but some patrols were more intense. On one patrol, Davis was injured in an exchange of gunfire, earning him a Purple Heart. Near the end of his tour in Vietnam, Davis became the American adviser on The Point Partridge when the U.S. transferred vessels to the Vietnamese Navy. Davis was the only American on the boat and served with 14 Vietnamese soldiers. Once Davis was discharged from active duty with the Coast Guard, he began taking classes at Weber State University. However, he began serving again both in the active reserves and the inactive ready-reserves, until April 2008. In total, he served for over 40 years.

Kenneth B. Hancock, Army Air Corps, World War II
Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and other awards
Kenneth B. Hancock shipped out for Italy in 1944, expecting to fly transport planes during Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France. Instead, he and his fellow pilots were requisitioned by General John K. Cannon, and he found himself flying B-25 Mitchell bombers off of Corsica as part of the 489th Bombardment Squadron of the 340th Bombardment Group. Hancock received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in a February 1945 mission to attack the strategic Vipiteno Bridge in the Brenner Pass area. In addition to the Distinguished Flying Cross, Hancock also received the Purple Heart for wounds sustained on March 7, 1945, in a mission to Peri, Italy. He left active duty in August 1945, but remained in the Air Force Reserve until 1960. After working as a flight instructor for a time, Hancock went on to a career as an air traffic controller and supervisor for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ray H. Bryant, Air Force, Vietnam War
Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross and other awards
At 18 years old, Ray H. Bryant enlisted in the Air Force, then graduated from flight school with his silver pilot wings in 1954 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Over the course of his career, Bryant served as a T-33 flight instructor, an F-86 gunnery trainer at Williams Air Force Base, an F-100 pilot in Japan and did a tour of duty flying the F-105 in West Germany. He continued his education through night classes during his military career. He earned his degree in business management from the Hampton Institute in Virginia. Bryant was awarded a Silver Star and the First Oak Leaf Cluster for his leadership during missions. After his final combat mission, Bryant returned to the U.S., attended the Armed Forces Staff College, served as a staff officer at Langley AFB, served as the commander of a fighter squadron in Korea and was then promoted to colonel at Cannon AFB. He served as the director of resource management and then the base commander at Luke AFB, retiring in 1981.