By Mary-Justine Lanyon and Mike Brewer
This Veterans Day, Nov. 11, veterans, their families, their friends and community members will gather at the veterans memorial at Arrowhead Ridge at 11 a.m. to honor those who served.
Some of those veterans saw combat; others worked in a supporting role behind the scenes. They all served their country with pride and dignity.
Who are the veterans in the mountain communities? The Alpine Mountaineer spoke with five people who represent a wide spectrum of those who served.
Crestline resident Rebecca Boone enlisted in the Army after leaving an abusive marriage. “I wanted to be able to take care of myself,” the now retired staff sergeant said. She served for 12-1/2 years until she was discharged due to serious health issues.
During her service, Boone spent time in South Korea, in Texas, Germany and Virginia. She was deployed to Iraq twice and also was sent to Pakistan to help with recovery after an earthquake.
She was a fueler, refueling everything from helicopters to fixed-wing aircraft, tanks and ground vehicles. “We would set up 20- and 50-gallon bags of fuel in the middle of the desert,” she said. “The tanks would drive through and get fueled up. Then we’d pack up and move to another spot.”
It was during her first tour in Iraq that her parents – Bill Boone and the late Diane Boone – started sending her care packages. “Where we were stationed, we didn’t have any place to buy shampoo or deodorant,” Boone said. “We were in a remote area outside of Baghdad.” She wrote to her parents, telling them that many soldiers had no family to send them necessary supplies.
That led to the elder Boones forming the nonprofit Touch of Home, through which they sent care packages to all the troops.
Boone noted that she has both good and bad memories of being in the Army. “War is not something anyone likes. It isn’t something anybody wants to do but it’s something that’s part of your job.”
As for the observance at Arrowhead Ridge, Boone will be there. “I like to honor my brothers and sisters in arms,” she said. “I remember all they’ve been through and continue to go through.”
She added that she feels very sad for Vietnam veterans. “They came home to a country that didn’t support them. I always like to give them a hug.” The military, she said, has learned a lot from that era of veterans. “It’s unfortunate they had to learn how important mental health is. Every veteran needs someone to listen to them and someone to support them.”
Barbara Carbajal is not a veteran herself but her late husband, Manuel “Manny,” was as is her son, Michael.
The day Manny turned 18, Barbara said, he and three friends drove to Van Nuys and signed up for the Air Force National Guard. He served from 1948 to 1952. He went through all the necessary training but his troop was never called up.
Barbara was still in high school. “We had been together since we were 15,” she said. The two married the day before her 19th birthday.
Their son, Michael, had dropped out of college and was called up to the Army in 1973 through the lottery. He served until 1976 and was stationed in Germany. “I just found a box of letters he had sent us,” Barbara said, noting that Michael stayed in Europe for eight months after being discharged.
Barbara is a fifth-generation Californian. Her great-great-grandfather was English and ended up on the California coast, where he met his wife.
Because of her long ties to the state, Barbara will have the honor of raising the California state flag at the Nov. 11 observance. She will be assisted by veteran Rodney Gaines.
In 1969, Rodney Gaines was in college. The Vietnam war “was out of control,” he said, “and so I decided to play a part.” He enlisted in the Air Force.
Gaines spent his entire tour – until 1973 – at Castle Air Force Base in Merced where he was in the engineering department. “We maintained the base while others got the planes in the air. I was part of a team – we each had a job to do and we did it well.”
Seeing those B52s take off, knowing he had had a part in getting them into the air, hearing the noise they made, filled Gaines with pride.
“It was great being there and knowing I was doing something for the country,” he said. “I stood bold for four years.
“Veterans – past, present and future – love this country,” he added.
“There’s nothing pretty about war. A lot of veterans lost their lives. For those who didn’t come home, I salute them, stand proud for them.”
Gaines said he wishes he had made a career out of the Air Force. “The Air Force was better than anything I did on the streets after that,” he said.
He is currently the sergeant at arms for American Legion Post 360 on the mountain.
Gaines said he will be proud to raise the California state flag with Barbara Carbajal.
Larry Philippi and his wife, Linda, have been residents of Lake Arrowhead for 28 years and have been married for 57 years. Linda was just 15 when the two met in high school.
At one time Philippi had aspired to be a CPA but soon came to the realization that “I was not meant to be at a desk.” It was then he elected to join the United States Army in February of 1967. He got his requested MOS (military occupational standard) of air conditioning and cold storage and was sent to Fort Belvoir, the home of the Army technical and engineering training center.
“In those days,” Philippi said, “the Vietnam war was escalating and alternating classes were deployed either to Germany or Vietnam. When our unit was up for Vietnam, all went except me,” a fact he found rather puzzling.
Philippi instead was sent to Germany as a married man. He then served in the 83rd Refrigeration Unit, transporting all of the frozen goods and perishables to issue points for missiles sites.
When he returned to the U.S., he functioned as the training NCO for Support Command at Fort Hood. Following that, he spent seven years in the active reserves.
With a solid background in military technical training, Philippi made a logical lateral move to work for the Santa Fe Railroad as an electrician and chair of the IBEW Union, where he retired.
Larry and Linda are actively involved in a variety of charities on the mountain and are members of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church.
“I am honored to have been selected to represent the Army for the flag raising on Veterans Day in Lake Arrowhead,” Philippi said.
Jack Tomich spent 37 years in the Veterans Administration as a director in Medical and Rehabilitation Services after a stint in the Coast Guard.
Tomich was born on July 6, 1938, in San Pedro. His parents ,Jack and Yasnia, were immigrants from Yugoslavia and came to America at 16 and 8 years old. His father was a fisherman and owned a tuna clipper, which he later sold and became a longshoreman. His mom was a homemaker.
He graduated from San Pedro High School in 1957 and immediately enrolled in a trade school in Los Angeles for radio and TV repair. He then took the test to join the United States Coast Guard where he remained until switching to the active-duty reserves.
Tomich selected Cal State Long Beach for his college education where he took his degree in Vocational Rehabilitation. He graduated in 1963 and went to work for the Long Beach VA in 1964. He recalls meeting Ron Kovic, the author of Born on the Fourth of July, in those days.
Armed with his depth of training in the trades, he commenced training veterans in all the shops – electrical, woodworking, ham radio. print, photography – while working in conjunction with the VA doctors, nurses and psychiatrists for eight years prior to being promoted to the supervisor of all vocational rehabilitation programs. He continued to serve in the Reserves, helping man a weather ship that patrolled the coast of California and engaged in search and rescue.
Now having eight therapists working under him, they launched a shelter shop that provided assembly services for private industry. This was called “compensated work therapy” and “incentive therapy work.” These programs had a broad reach in the community including all the shop work, gardening and shared labor for local employers.
Tomich continued in this niche with another promotion to the supervisor of all physical medicine with 15 residents and a staff of 92 to 110. He served as the chair of the EO committee at the hospital and was the chairman of the Orange County Veterans.
He retired in 2001 and resides in Lake Arrowhead with his wife of 60 years, Vicki.
When queried about the meaning of Veterans Day, Jack said, “People underestimate the value of veterans and their contributions to the nation. Many do not grasp the respect and gratitude we should actively show for our veterans.”