Nov. 07, 2011 — The University of Utah has added a student award to its annual Veterans Day celebration this year. On Thursday, Nov. 10 at 4:30 p.m., business student James Cunningham will be awarded the first-ever Student Veteran of the Year medallion and a cash stipend.
Cunningham was deployed in 2007, as part of the troop surge to Iraq and based out of Sadr City. During the 15 months he was overseas, he was essentially embedded with Iraqi police and military personnel. His unit was tasked with helping train Iraqi security officers in tactical operations, reading maps and improving techniques for firing weapons. He also actively built relationships with the local Iraqis, and provided security when the unit was tasked with handing out medical supplies and sports equipment to the people of Sadr City. Following his service, Cunningham enrolled at the University of Utah, where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Finance and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
Cunningham was nominated by professors and selected by a process that included review by a student veteran group and the final decision made by a subset of the university’s Veterans Day committee. The selection was based on Cunningham’s military service, continued commitment to helping veterans through activities with the VFW and his academic achievement. He will be honored at a reception as part of the university’s inaugural Student Veteran Recognition Night. The reception, in the student lounge of the Olpin Union building, will be followed by a free screening of the movie “Independence Day,” sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Utah and the Veterans Support Center.
On Friday, Nov. 11 at 11:00 a.m. in the Olpin Union Ballroom, the University of Utah will honor 11 other Utah veterans at its 14th-annual Veterans Day celebration. They will be awarded medallions in a full-dress military ceremony with the university ROTC honor guard and cannon salute.
Prior to the medallion ceremony, at 9 a.m. a morning panel discussion entitled, “Military Intelligence: Looking for the Bad Guys” will be held in the Union Theatre. A panel of experts – including U Law Professor Amos Guiora; Lieutenant Colonel Matt Price, Commander of 141st Military Intelligence Battalion; and a platoon sergeant with the Ranger Regiment – will discuss how military intelligence techniques have been utilized in the War on Terror in such operations as the capture of Saddam Hussein and the killing of Osama Bin Laden. The panel discussion will be moderated by Roger Perkins, director of the university’s Veterans Support Center.
Later that night at 7:00 p.m., the Utah National Guard 23rd Army Band and Combined Granite School District High School Choir will perform an array of patriotic songs at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The concert is always free and open to the public. For more information about the evening concert, call 801-432-4407.
The 11 honorees are selected by a committee from nominations submitted by friends and family. Six of this year’s honorees served in World War II, one in WWII and Korea, four in Vietnam, and one in Desert Storm. Two of the honorees – Richard Coleman and RKay Mower – passed away since they were chosen for the honor. Members of their families will be on hand to accept the medallion.
The following 11 veterans will be honored at the Nov. 11 ceremony.
U.S. Air Force, Vietnam
Ben Bowthorpe enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1953 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1955. He served in the 334 Tac Fighter Squadron. During a mission over North Vietnam, Bowthorpe was the flight commander of a four-plane formation to bomb a target about 50 miles west of Hanoi. As they got close, they descended to 500 feet to fly below enemy radar. Ten minutes from the target, Bowthorpe’s plane was hit by ground fire and the rear of his aircraft ignited. His wingman urged Bowthorpe to bail out. Bowthorpe decided to take his chances with his damaged plane rather than risk death on the ground or imprisonment in the “Hanoi Hilton.” With the target in sight, Bowthorpe successfully dropped his bomb load and somehow managed to gain altitude and make it back to crash-land at Udorn AFB in Thailand. Bowthorpe has been honored with an exhibit at the USAF Museum at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, as the first fighter pilot to fly 100 missions in the F-105 Thunderchief over North Vietnam.
U.S. Navy, World War II, Korea
Don Bush was the leader of a Joint Assault Signal Company (JASCO) assigned to the USS Cavalier. Bush’s men helped the invasions of both Saipan and Leyte, where fighting was fierce and difficult due to the dense mountainous forests where the enemy hid. On January 30, 1945, a torpedo struck the Cavalier, injuring 50 men. The ship stopped dead in the water—its engines and power ruined, propeller destroyed, and a five-foot gash in its side causing the engine room to flood. In mid-March, a tug boat began towing the crippled ship 5,000 miles back to Pearl Harbor. The trip took until May. After a stint with his team in Sasebo, Japan, Bush was separated from the service in March 1946 as a First-Class Petty Officer (E-6). Bush was called back in 1952 to go to Korea. He is most grateful that none of his JASCO team was killed during the time they served together in WWII.
Richard Donald Coleman
U.S. Army Air Corps, European Theater, World War II
Dick Coleman was piloting a B-24 on his 10th mission when they were attacked and the fuel lines behind him and his co-pilot were severed amidst flames. He was badly burned in the fire and had to give the bail-out command over German territory. One of his men was killed and all but three were taken captive and shipped in cattle cars to Stalag Luft 3. In January of 1945, Coleman was ordered with all prisoners to march to Spremberg. From there, they were jammed into cattle cars and taken to Stalag 7a in Moosburg. Coleman survived the terrible conditions of Stalag 7a until Patton’s 3rd Army liberated the camp in April, 1945. Once back in the U.S. Coleman went to work for the Public Health Service. Coleman passed away just short of his 91st birthday, on September 3, 2011. His family says that most of Coleman’s life was spent serving others – as a soldier, a Freemason, and a devoted father and grandfather.
U.S. Marine Corps, Pacific Theater, World War II
John Delliskave was drafted in 1944, assigned to L Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment , 3rd Marine Division. After the Battle of Guam, Delliskave’s regiment landed on Iwo Jima on D-Day +2, and began to work their way toward Motoyama Airfields 1 and 2. Delliskave had many close calls with the enemy and was one of only eight of his platoon members to survive the mission. After he was pulled out, he was called to go back to take a hidden pocket of resisters. Fortunately, this second tour was brief and uneventful. Delliskave returned to Guam to train for the invasion of mainland Japan, but the war ended and he was sent home. Of his time in service, Delliskave notes, “I was there to do a job that had to be done. America is the greatest country in the world. I love the flag and I fly it all the time.”
Russell A. Elder
U.S. Navy, Vietnam
Rus Elder enlisted in the Navy in 1954 as a photographer’s mate. He was assigned to the USS Independence and transferred in 1964 to the Pacific Fleet Combat Camera Group headed for Vietnam. Elder covered Navy Sea Wolf operations from HU1 gunships and river patrol boats while dodging gunfire, rocket fire and floating mines. Once their river boat was hit and caught fire. Even after the commander fled, Elder was badly burned as he stayed to move the ammunition to the front of the boat. Once beached, Elder stood guard at the bow despite his injuries. He signed up for a second tour in October 1968 as a senior photographer stationed in Da Nang. Elder sustained another bullet wound while on a swift boat night mission. He calls his years in Vietnam “the most productive” of his career and says he loves this country and is proud of the good things it has done for people worldwide.
U.S. Army, Desert Storm
Scott Konopasek joined the Army in 1979. After completing counterintelligence and advanced military intelligence officers training, he was assigned to the 4th Battalion 43rd Air Defense Artillery in the Fulda Gap, Germany. In 1990, Konopasek moved to the famous 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment in Iraq, where his unit conducted reconnaissance ahead of the main armored forces to find and engage the Iraqi Republican Guard. He received the Bronze Star for his role in determining where the Republican Guard would be and providing his regiment with the intelligence to engage the enemy in the pivotal Battle of 73 Easting, which resulted in the destruction of two Iraqi brigades of the Tawakalna Division. Konopasek says that he learned great lessons from his wartime experiences; namely, that he can overcome any hardship if he wants to and to “appreciate all the things you really have. All the things you would be complaining about at home become your greatest blessings when you don’t have them.”
U.S. Army, European Theater, World War II
On December 16, 1944, RKay Mower and the 106th Infantry Division were on the eastern edge of the Ardennes Forest. “The weather was bitter cold and all was quiet,” says Mower. “Then the whole word exploded,” in what would come to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. The German advance came intensely, but Mower continued to fire on the advancing army despite the incoming shells, bitter-cold weather and heavily overcast sky that limited Allied air support. On Christmas Day, Mower received severe internal injuries and had to be evacuated, but not before helping a fellow comrade retreat to the safety of the dense Ardennes Forest. For his valor in the weeks-long battle, Mower was awarded the Bronze Star. Mower passed away on October 21, 2011. He was proud of his service and was happy to be recognized for it. His family is accepting this award on his behalf.
U.S. Army, European Theater, World War II
Lynn Poulsen spent two years in the Utah Army National Guard, assigned to the 222nd Field Artillery Battalion, before being activated for combat duty in World War II. In Granville, France, Poulsen was shot three times, but the hospital had so many casualties he had to be moved to a soccer field, where he was put in a six-man tent. While there, Poulsen was on the operating table when German aircraft bombed the area. The medical personnel fled and left Poulsen alone on the table. Luckily, his best friend rescued him from the bombing. After recovering from his wounds, Poulsen returned to duty in mid-November, 1944. His artillery unit moved through France and into Germany. In 1945, Poulsen was one of 150 GIs, one from each battalion, selected to go home. On the return trip, the ship was fired on, and had to sail down past Cuba and Puerto Rico and then up the east coast to avoid submarines. Poulsen was discharged at Fort Sill on September 25, 1945, and returned to Salt Lake City.
U.S. Marine Corps, Vietnam
At 17 Stuart Shipley enlisted in the Marine Corps and eventually served two tours in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968. He was deployed with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Division and later served in the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Division. As part of a weapons platoon, he conducted night patrols as often as five times a week. He volunteered for a second tour, and served in the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Division. In 1966, while involved in operation “Double Eagle,” Shipley and his buddy were under fire from all directions. While returning fire from their bunker, his friend was killed. He was trapped outside of his bunker, but returned to safety. Shipley originally enlisted in the Marine Corps to serve his country and help the Vietnamese people avoid communism. The reason for his second tour was to support his Marine buddies. He wants to remind today’s generation that freedom is not free; it has been paid for by thousands who have given their lives to defend it.
Winston L. Thatcher
U.S. Army, European Theater, World War II
Winston Thatcher joined the Army in 1943. He completed OCS training and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in the Field Artillery. After a stint in North Africa, Thatcher was shipped to Italy, assigned to the 916th Field Artillery Battalion 91st Infantry Division. In 1944 the 91st attacked north toward the Arno River and Thatcher got his first look at combat. Operating as Forward Observer, Thatcher moved with the frontline infantry units and directed artillery fire in support of their operation. On one assignment near San Bianco, Italy, Thatcher was positioned near a barn in the countryside and could see several American casualties nearby. He and his party found that some soldiers had gone beyond friendly lines and were pinned down by gunfire. Thatcher moved ahead by himself and directed fire to aid the troops. He was under constant enemy fire for 10 hours.
U.S. Marine Corps, Vietnam
Rick Warke, a Canadian citizen, wanted to follow family tradition and join the military, but Canada was not involved in a war when he graduated school so he crossed the border and joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Warke was sent to Vietnam, serving as chief scout in 2nd Force Recon Company and later in special operations, where he would be transported to a “hot spot” and engage the enemy or support ground forces. After leaving the USMC to become a Canadian officer, he came back to the U.S. and served as a diver for the Navy on the USS Sperry. In 1980, he transferred back to the USMC and eventually became a chief instructor at the Sniper School, 3rd Marine Division, where he met a lifelong friend who, years later, he would provide round-the-clock care for. Warke was discharged in 1983. In his persistence at getting into the U.S. military, and his steadfast care for a comrade in arms, Warke embodies the “band of brothers” mentality and lives by that credo to this day.