When Fourth of July parade honorees are chosen, it makes for a tough selection with so many outstanding local residents to select from.
This year's parade chairman, Tom Yates from the Heights Business Association, was drawn once again to seek his hometown grand marshal heroes from the long list of military veterans who call Hood River home.
"We are a stronger nation when we serve our country and our community - whether that is in the military or as volunteers in hospitals, schools or the Peace Corps," said Yates. "I see that there is no greater sacrifice than to serve your country."
"No Greater Sacrifice" is the theme for the 2001 Fourth of July parade and four veterans spanning four American wars will be riding in the grand marshal mobile, and who offer us models of the best human qualities of humility, strength, dedication, perseverance, humility, courage and loyalty.
World War II - Bob Janes:
101st Airborne Division, #506 Parachute Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army, 1942-45; two-time Purple Heart recipient
Janes joined the army at 20 and holds the distinction of being part of the famous Fox Company unit who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Landing behind enemy lines Janes fought with his unit to hold the Nazi forces back from planned advances outside city limits.
His personal experiences bear witness to the great losses incurred in any war, and Janes can recount with great respect and reverence the names and ranks of his fellow company members and friends lost during their battles in France and later in the Netherlands.
"I'm riding in the parade for my fellow soldiers; for my friend Manning G. Haney, who died in Holland. They are the real heroes; the ones who didn't come home. I'm just a survivor," said Janes.
Only eight days into his Normandy assignment, Janes took shrapnel to his knee and thigh when a shell exploded behind him.
Janes was sent to England and once recovered, was sent out again on Sept. 17 to parachute as part of Operation Market Garden in Holland.
His division was sent to relieve a British infantry unit and ended up in a 72-day non-stop battle. Anyone who has seen the movie "A Bridge too Far" has watched Janes' personal experience as he fought to control bridges and roadways from Nazi occupation.
Janes helped to extricate his remaining company members after being surrounded by German soldiers and nearly missed being killed by a grenade which exploded behind him as he jumped from a farmhouse window where he and another soldier had been holding out.
"If I had to do it over again, I'd do the exact same thing. I didn't talk about these things for years, but it has helped to not keep it all in my gut," said Janes.
Reaching the rank of staff sergeant, Janes returned in 1945 to his original home town of White Salmon, where he went back to join the timber business. He later joined the forest service and continued his lifelong love of hiking, camping and skiing - including a seven-year assignment as a ski patrolman for Mt. Hood Meadows.
He has lived in Hood River since 1975 with his wife, Nadene, to whom he has been married almost 69 years. They have three children: Greg, Denise and Gale. Janes was honored with an extensive article in the Oregonian about his personal experiences during D-Day and his son returned to Normandy at the 50th anniversary to visit the site of his father's service.
Korean War - Nellie Hjaltalin:
Supply Corps U.S. Navy, multiple U.S. locations 1951-55; Naval Reserves 1955-85
Splitting her youth between Gresham and Hood River, Hjaltalin learned to work hard on her grandparents' Icy Road farm. When it came time to serve her country, Hjaltalin stepped right up. She didn't mind the non-traditional role she chose.
"Someone has to do the paperwork and run the offices back home," said Hjaltalin. "I wasn't a hero but I did what I could."
Hjaltalin trained in Bainbridge, Md., and served there training recruits. But managing supplies - food, clothing and anything else U.S. sailors might need - was her specialty. She spent the majority of her time at the Oakland, Calif., Naval Supply Center as a supply corps commander.
After leaving active duty in 1955 Hjaltalin stayed on with the Naval Reserves until 1985. In her civilian life, she used her supply training to return to work at Meier & Frank in Portland and work her way up to the position of buyer and sales auditor over a 32-year career in their employment.
In her Hood River "retirement," Hjaltalin remains active as a volunteer with the Hood River Valley Adult Center and continues connections with other local women veterans. She has been an integral part of the local historical society and supports The History Museum of Hood River County.
Vietnam War - Paul Thompson:
U.S.S Constitution, Gulf of Tonkin and Naval Air Station-Lemoore, Calif., U.S. Navy, 1968-72
Joining up at the age of 20, before the lottery was instituted, Thompson chose a military career as an aviation electronics technician.
Following boot camp in San Diego, Thompson completed his training in Memphis and spent a large part of his service at the Lemoore Naval Air Station in California where he worked on A-7 Corsair airplanes.
In his later assignment on the aircraft carrier USS Constellation, Thompson joined the "Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club," he noted with irony. "That's what we called ourselves as navy men in Tonkin, where we would see Chinese junks every day."
"I don't see myself as the grand marshal type. There are so many other guys - but really I am honored to have been asked," said Thompson.
Thompson has quietly gone about making his appreciation of other servicemen and women known though his active involvement in developing the Overlook Park veterans memorial.
"Paul has really done so much to make that happen," said Hjaltalin. "He's helped turn that spot into a really nice focal point for special services and ceremonies."
"I know Nellie and it will be an honor to ride along with her and Mr. Janes and our current serviceman, John Winters," added Thompson.
Beyond parades and memorials, Thompson spends his work time as a realtor in Hood River.
"I think Hood River is the gem of the Gorge and it is a wonderful place to live," he said, noting that he arrived here on July 4, 1976.
Thompson is married to Elaine, and they have one daughter, Allison, who is 10. Thompson has four other adult children and lost one son to a motorcycle accident.
Iraq - John Winters:
Alpha Company 3-116 Cavalry out of The Dalles, Oregon National Guard-U.S. Army
Scheduled to arrive on furlough from Joint Base Balad July 2, Winters is serving as an information specialist, gunner and unit administrative assistant on his current deployment.
A graduate of Horizon Christian School in 2003, Winters is the son of Scott and Debbie Winters, now of The Dalles.
"John always wanted to be in the military," said Debbie Winters, who spoke to the News on behalf of her son who has limited communications at this time.
"John enlisted July 7, 2008. He went to basic training and shattered his leg during a jump from the eagle's nest (tower). He was so determined to return; even though he was told he would never run again," said Winters.
Apparently, gunner Winters did not get the memo.
His injury spurred him to work extremely hard at his physical recovery so that he could pass the rigorous physical challenges set out by his superiors in order to prove he was fit to return.
Return he did, sporting metal plates and screws to secure his bones. But that didn't slow him down much. He has lost just 15 seconds off of his 2-mile run time set prior to his injury.
Winters now serves in Iraq, his first deployment, and is enlisted until July 2012. His parents indicate that some of their son's duties are confidential; however, his enthusiasm for his work is something that he regularly shares with his parents back home.
"John has been supported by so many people through the Shepherd of the Valley Bible Church and the Nazarene Church. They send him care boxes along with the kids at Horizon and the Sonrise Academy.
"Several of his classmates from Horizon are now teachers elsewhere and even their classes are sending him things. It is so good to be surrounded by such support."