With absolutely no flying experience and a college degree that in no way prepared him in for a military career, Jeff Wagoner drove to Kansas City and applied to be an aviator. At that time, many other people his age were trying to do the same thing. He credits being an Eagle Scout for setting him apart from much of his competition. “Being an Eagle Scout not only looked good on my application, but more importantly, scouting instilled in me a sense of service that is important in serving successfully in the military.”
Captain Wagoner got his commission through Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS), Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida and remained there for flight school. “There was no “Maverick” or “Iceman” in the real Naval aviation.” Captain Wagoner remembers, “ My call sign (nickname) was ‘Cheese’. You got your call sign for doing something stupid or embarrassing or both.”
After 6 years active duty, Captain Wagoner served as a drilling reservist for 17 years. Both provided a variety in missions, including cruising from San Diego around Cape Horn at the tip of South America to Virginia on an aircraft carrier that needed to be overhauled. Flying 43 missions in the Persian Gulf and serving as a lead planner for international security forces during the 2004 Athens Olympics, each offered opportunities to visit many ports of call including Rio de Janeiro and Hong Kong. The military offered life lessons; attention to detail, accepting responsibility for one’s actions and service to others are some that stand out to him.
Wilburn “Bud” Meador
May 24, 1965, was graduation day for Bud Meador, and he enlisted in the Marines that very day. He had known virtually his whole life that he wanted to serve his county and do so in the Marines. He hails from a long line of relatives dating back to the American civil War who also served, and Bud said, “My family was very patriotic. It was almost expected by my parents that I would serve our country, and it was something I gladly chose to do. While growing up, my friends and I would often play Cowboys and Indians, but when I would join them, I would always play the part of a Marine.”
In his first four years of active service, Bud served twenty-four months in Vietnam. To be more precise, Bud said, “I spent twenty-four months, twelve days, two hours, and five minutes in Vietnam.” While there, he spent his first twelve months as a Watch Stander in the U.S. diplomatic community where he and his fellow Marines protected classified material, and U.S. lives and property. It was in this portion of his tour of duty that a significant moment in the war’s history occurred: the Viet Cong attack on the U. S. Embassy during the Tet Offensive at 2:50 a.m., January 31, 1968. He points out that the Embassy chancery was never penetrated by the Viet Cong, and 19 of the known 20 attackers were killed in the fight with the remaining Viet Cong survivor taken captive. Five Americans were lost in that fight, and more than a score wounded. Bud soberly accepts that the U.S. tactical victory was offset by the Viet Cong’s strategic success, particularly as it was presented to the American public by the media.
Moreover, although the size and scale of the attack was insignificant, its political ramifications were huge. The international headlines around the world incorrectly stated that the United States Embassy in Saigon had been seized. This was an enormous political success for the enemy, and proved to be a major consideration in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s decision to leave the presidency at the end of his term.
Bud speaks of how his training during boot camp prepared him and his fellow Marines to handle the events of that day. The Marines, seemingly intuitively, knew how to maneuver, how to cover themselves, how to fight and how to defend. In many ways, he knows he is sitting here today enjoying his life as a result of all he learned during those dog days of boot camp. His unit was never more tightly knit than at the end of that experience.
Dr. Michelle Olson
Dr. Olson was deployed to Iraq in May of 2008 to July of 2009 with the 464th Medical Corp. Her unit was in charge of dental clinics scattered across the southern half of Iraq, in which she was designated as the Officer in Charge at Taji Dental Clinic. She completed the remainder of her active duty service in Germany. Throughout her time in the Army, she was privileged to be surrounded by seasoned dentists who were ready and willing to share their knowledge. “All of my experiences in the Army helped me to become a better dentist and gave me an abundance of experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. In addition, I was able to live in Germany and travel all over Europe, which was an experience that I would only have had from being in the Army.” After completing her four years of active duty, Dr. Olson spent her first year in Virginia Beach, and finally settled in Kansas City in 2011.