KEARNEY — Burdette Chappell of Kearney served in four different wars spanning several decades.
The retired U.S. Army National Guard pilot flew Medevac Blackhawks in Iraq for one year from 2006-2007 and in the Gulf War for six months from 1990-1991.
He piloted airplanes and transported VIPs, such as army generals, while serving in Afghanistan for six months from 2008-2009.
Decades before that, Chappell, a Gordon native, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1970. He decided to enlist as a technician and was trained to work on avionics.
Why, this specialty?
Chappell, a man of few words, said, “I didn’t want to be a grunt I guess.”
During Chappell’s service in Vietnam for one year from 1971-1972, he wirelessly shot telephone transmissions through a radio.
When the war ended, Chappell flew cable company, Charter USA, executives from Scottsbluff to wherever they wanted to go. Chappell eventually relocated to Kearney where Charter USA had moved.
“We’d leave here and be in White Plains New York, in two hours,” he said. “And leave White Plains, New York, and one fuel stop, have dinner in San Diego and we’d come back home.”
Chappell loved to fly. It offered him freedom and a way to see the country and the world.
He decided he wanted to expand his ability to fly helicopters, and the Army National Guard would pay for his training. So, he re-enlisted in about 1985.
Chappell’s first deployment was in 2005 in El Salvador where the Army National Guard provided helicopter support for the U.S. Air Force. He was there for 30 days.
“They’d go down there and build schools and all that stuff down there,” Chappell said of the Air Force’s service in El Salvador.
Then war was declared in Iraq in 1990. Chappell picked up injured soldiers from the field and flew them to military hospitals during Operation Desert Storm. He said the number of injured soldiers wasn’t as high as during the Iraq War.
The Iraq War was the worst Chappell had seen.
“It’s just a lot of casualties, a lot of roadside bombs,” he said.
But Chappell said he didn’t let it bother him when helping injured soldiers.
“You went on with your job,” he said. “You just didn’t think about it.”
His war experience was intense though.
Chappell’s Blackhawk had been “shot down” three times, but never to the point where his helicopter crashed.
The first time, the helicopter was shot he was heading to a base. The crew chief and medic were on board at the time, Chappell said, but they landed safely.
The second time he was hit, he was carrying a “boatload of patients” (three stretchers and three ambulatory) out of Baghdad. But again he found a safe place to land.
That was his job, he said, to transport patients safely from point A to point B.
The last time he was hit, it was more serious.
The enemy had shot his wheel strut while he was flying into Baghdad, but he called his home base where they set out pallets for him to land on. There was another pilot, crew chief and medic on board that time.
When it came time to serving in Afghanistan, Chappell enjoyed flying VIPs on airplanes.
“Afghanistan was more fun because you got to see more country,” he said. “I used to go into Islamabad twice a month, sometimes three times a month. Once or twice a month we would leave and go to Kuwait City.”
Eventually though, Chappell became tired of flying. The now 68-year-old retired in 2011.
Today, he enjoys the freedom of riding his motorcycle cross-country and traveling in his motor home with his wife, Lila.
“After 30 years it was enough,” he said of his flying career. “I’d much rather get on a motorcylce and go ride 55, 60 mile an hour.”
Chappell is also a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and American Legion Post 52.
Army PFC Abood served in Vietnam 1963-1966. Elise says, "Thank you for serving our country and defending our flag. With respect, honor and gratitude your family salutes you."
Corporal Anderson is with the 1st Armored Division - 3rd Armored Brigade Combat team and has served since 2017, including a deployment in South Korea in 2018 and 2019.
E4 Antillon served aboard the USS Nimitz from 2005 to 2011. Bonnie wrote, "Just wanted you to know how proud we are to have a son who served our country with honor. Thank you for your service, and happy Veteran's Day! Love Mom & Denver."
E4 3rd Class Petty Officer Baack is a Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman, serving on the USS Helena Submarine. He enlisted in 2017.
Navy E-5 Second Class Petty Officer Barry did 3 Wes-Pac tours 1971-1975. Jean says, "our family is so proud of you go giving your time and talents to serve and protect our country. Your integrity and patriotism inspires all of us."
Bates first served in the US Navy aboard the USS Belleau Wood from 1994 to 1997, and then in the Nebraska National Guard from 1998 to the present- including a deployment to Iraq with the 1075th in 2006 and 2007.
Petty Officer 3rd Brandorff was active from 1953-1957, and served in Japan for 2 years of his enlisted time.
Army 1195th Sergeant Brill served in the Army from 2003 to 2007, and the Nebraska National Guard from 2007 to 2010. He spent time in Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Colleen said, "we are so very proud of your service, and grateful you are home!"
E5 SGT Brock served in the Army Signal Corps from November 1973 to December 1979, including Panama.
Navy E-5 Cady served from 1965 to 1969, including in Vietnam. Joan says, "in appreciation of your love of God, family, and country. I treasure your years of service and our almost 50 years of marriage. Thanks for letting me ride along!"
Joel V. Carlson
Private Carlson enlisted in the Nebraska National Guard this year. Nancy said, "Thank you for choosing to serve, we are proud of you!"
John D. Carlson
Army 1st Lieutenant Carlson served with the 654th Regional Support Group from 2014 to 2018, including a tour in Kuwait. He joined the Reserves in 2018. Nancy says, " thank you for loving and serving God and the USA. We are proud and honored to be your family."
Wayne R. Carlson
Corporal Carlson served from 1951 to 1953. Nancy says, "you honored your family, community and God with your service. You are loved, respected, and valued."
E-4 Carman served from 1959 to 1962, including an 18 month deployment to Italy.
E4 Casper served from 1964 to 1968 with the 1035 Field Activities Group at Command HQ in Korea.
Colonel Covi served from 1966 to 1993. Kimberly wrote, "You are my hero for many reasons - thanks Dad!"
Air Force E-7 Cross served at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson AZ at the Tactical Command Wing from 1955-1978. He also did 2 tours in Vietnam and served in the Phillipines.
Staff Sergeant Curren served in WWII from 1942-1945 with deployments to New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, Guam, Okinawa, and Korea. Linda said, "thank you so much for your service! You are the best husband, father and grandfather ever. We are all so proud of you and blessed to be your family."
DeLaet served from 1951 to 1955. Thank you for your service!
James E. (Jed) Dimon
Colonel Dimon, a graduate of West Point '94, is currently serving defense at Offutt Air Force Base. Since 1994, he's been Commander of Ft Wainwright AK, plus deployments to Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Bette wrote, "We are so proud of you, and appreciate all you have done for our country. We thank you for your service to all of us. Congrats on your honor, duty, and service. We love you!"
Dineen served from 1944 to 1946 aboard the USS United Victory. A Purple Heart recipient, he served across the south Pacific, including Okinawa.
Albert (Shorty) Dobberstein
Cole served from 1944 to 1946.
Glen served from 1942-1945.
Jack served from 1951 to 1955.
James served from 1941 to 1945.
Wayne served from 1956 to 1960.
Sergeant Edson served with B Company 1/327 1st Brigade 101st Airborne from 1966 to 1969. Beverly says, "it is with the greatest respect and love, your family thanks you for your bravery and sacrifices while serving in Vietnam to defend our country!"
WT2 Erikson served in the South Pacific from 1943 to 1946. Linda said, "Thank you for your service. You fought for your flag and for your country. Love from your family."
Army E-5 Freeman served in the 2nd Battalion, 51st Infantry - 4th Armored division from 1968 to 1970, including Illeshiem, Germany.
Sergeant Spec 5 Gillming served in the Infantry from 1958 to 1966, including tours in Germany, Korea, and Vietnam.
PFC Hand served from 1951 to 1953. Gisel writes, "Your family couldn't be more proud of you! Thank you for your service."
Chief Hatcher has served since 2003. Kimberly wrote, "Thank you for defending our freedom."
E4 Headlee served in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. Cathy says, "thank you for your service for God and our country. We love you!"
Heaston served from 1962 to 1965 at Thule Air Base in Greenland. "We are proud of you, thank you for your service! -Cynthia, John, Shawn & Barbara"
Petty Officer 3rd Class Hehner served 1954 to 1958, aboard the USS Skagit AKA-105 and Ft Marion LSD-22. He was a gyro man for the ships, and steamed across the Pacific including stops in the Phillipines, Japan & Hong Kong.
Army SSG Hinton served at Fort Pickett VA and in Korea as a Surgical technician in 1950 and 1951.
Army Captain Hobbs served for 9 years total, serving with the 8th Reconnaissance & 893rd Trans Company.
SPEC 4 Houska served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971. Pat says, "thank you for your service to our great country, and for being a great husband, dad, and grandpa!"
Sergeant Karschner served with the 374th Tactical Air Wing from 1972 to 1975, including a deployment at CCK Taiwan. Monie writes, "Even though you were not thanked for many years, we want you to now know how much the service you gave is appreciated."
Currently assigned to Fort Bragg, Master Sergeant Kotschwar has served since 2003 and has been deployed to Iraq 3 times. Virginia says, "your integrity and patriotism are an inspiration to your family and all who know you. Thank you for your service & sacrifice."
E7 Krueger served from 1972 to 1976 and was aboard the USS Constellation / CVA64.
Army SPEC 4 Krueger served from 1970 to 1972, including a Germany deployment. Cheryl says, "because of you, and so many others - America is GREAT and getting GREATER all the time. Thanks and love- your family."
Colonel Lear served in the Reserves C/1-322d CAV from 1990 to 1994, and then Army JAG from 1994 to current. He has served in Germany, Iraq, and Korea. Janet said, "Thank you for your service, your sincere dedication to family and to America. Your willingness to protect all Americans is appreciated. You are loved."
E4 Lumbard served from 1958 to 1961 in Europe with the 6th Ord Co 71 Ord HHD.
Dale and Benjamin McCammon
Chief (CSE) Dale McCammon, left, served 1940 to 1946 in WWII, and MM1 Benjamin McCammon (right) served from 1941 to 1951 in WWII and Korea. Gail wrote, "Honoring our two favorite Navy vets - fly your flag on November 11. As dad would say, "Keep 'em flyin'." - Nancy, Gail, and Lori
Army Captain Messbarger served from 1966 to 1968. Judy says, "with 5 children under the age of 7, you answered the call to serve in your profession. Your family appreciates you!"
Private Meyer served with the First Battalion in 1942 and 1943. He was killed on Normandy Beach, and rests in the Lexington Cemetery.
Sergeant Mickelsen served with the 21st Pilot Training Squad from 1957 to 1964. Joan says, "thank you for your service - I love you!"
SP5 Mitchell served from 1958-1960 including a deployment in Germany.
Captain Muller has been in the Marine Corps since 2006, and is currently serving in San Diego. His career includes 2 deployments to Kuwait.
Master Sergeant Nelson has served with the Air National Guard since 2000. Jill wrote, "Thank you for your dedication and sacrifice. You are a true American."
E5 2nd Class Petty Officer Nickerson served aboard the USS John F Kennedy / VAQ-140 from 1984 to 1988, including a steam through the Mediterranean Sea in 1986 and 1987. He's been a city letter carrier since 1989.
Eldon E. Peck
Eldon E. Peck served from 1952 to 1956. Elaine wrote, "Your family is proud of you for your 4 years of Navy service, and for your 56 years as a dedicated volunteer fireman and EMT."
Specialist 4 Peterson served with the 185th from 1966 to 1968 in Korea and Vietnam. "You served your country with honor and have served your family with love. We are honored to have you as our father. Love, Krista and Kara."
Navy Yeoman 2nd Class Pocock served from 1968 to 1972 aboard the USS San Jose AFS7, including a stint at the Naval Air Station in Guam.
Corporal Poland served from 1959 to 1963 with 3rd Battalion, Platoon 325, Maintenance Division. Lisa said, "thank you for your service to your country, God and your Family. Semper Fi is just your way of life! Your family loves and appreciates you always!"
Staff Sergeant Quintana has served with the Maintenance Squadron since 2011, including at Al Udeid Air Force Base in Qatar. Cathy wrote, "You have helped to make this world a better place. We are proud of you and your dedication to our country."
Army Specialist 2 Rademacher served from 1954-1956, including time in Japan. JoAnn says, "I feel that it makes one stronger and more patriotic. I feel serving makes you a better citizen."
SFC Raney has served since 1978, including deployments to Okinawa and Germany. Jean says, "your dad and I are proud of you and for all the years you served our nation!"
Patron Four ATN3 Rikli served from 1964 to 1970. He served during the Vietnam conflict, aboard P3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft. Sue says, "thank you for your service to our God, our United States of America, and for our freedom."
Ramey Rivera Sr.
Rivera served with the Army from 1955 to 1957.
Ramey Rivera Jr
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Rivera served at NAS Miramar from 1988 to 1992.
Sergeant Rivera served with the 1st Cav Division in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967.
Sergeant Sakurada served with the 442nd from 1942 to 1945, including a stint in Italy. Colleen writes, "We are so proud of you!"
Sergeant Schmidt served with the 1st Marines Mike Co 3/1 from 1969 to 1972.
E3 Sheldon served from 1994 to 1997, including 2 WES-PACs in the Persian Gulf. Cathy says, "thank you for your service and dedication. Your family is very proud and loves you very much!"
Serving in the US Army Signal Corps from 1985-2006, E-8/MSG Sheldon-Shank spent 10 years in Europe and 11 years stateside. Krista says, "your service and faithfulness to our great country and our freedom is priceless! Thanks for your many known and unknown sacrifices, there have been many! Love you and God bless!"
Sergeant Smith served in the 25th Infantry "Tropic Lightning" Division from 1965 to 1967 in Vietnam.
Navy E4/EOCN Stoppkotte has served 2016 to now, including 2 years on the USS Carl Vinson, and he was deployed in the Pacific touring Guam, Milan, and Vietnam. In July he completed Seabee training and is stationed in Gulfport, MS.
SPC4 Streeter served in the 9th Infantry in Vietnam in 1970-1971. Krista says, "words cannot convey how grateful we are for the sacrifices you made. You are our hero!"
Sergeant Sutton served at Strategic Air Command Sergeant from 1972 to 1975, and has been a city letter carrier since 1982.
Petty Officer 2nd Class D. Theis served from 1957-1961 aboard the USS Coral Sea CV-43 and Naval Air Station Moffett CA.
A1C Theis has served at Tinker Air Force Base since 2017. Gisel writes, "Your family couldn't be more proud of you! Thank you for your service."
Petty Officer 2nd Class R. Theis served from 1956 to 1960 with Air Development Squadron Five, including a deployment in Kadena, Okinawa.
Petty Officer 2nd Class R. Theis served 1957-1961, attached to a fighter squadron based out of Moffett, CA, then stationed at Barber's Point in Hawaii.
Sergeant Thomsen served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969, and was recognized with a Purple Heart. Carla said, "he was only 19 when he was there. I admire what he did and who he is."
Frank E. Vacha
Corporal Vacha served in England from 1942 to 1945.
Spec 5 Vance served with 88 HEM from 1967 to 1970 in Germany. Charlene wrote, "Proudly continuing the family tradition of military service to the United States of America since 1777."
Marine Corps E4 Ward first served in the Nebraska National Guard from 1989 to 1991, and then the Marine Corps from 1991 to 1997, including a deployment at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan. Leola says, "Son, thank you for serving our country."
RM1 Wenburg served from 1953-1962, in the Korean War and at The Fort Knox. Launa says, "For every day of grace. For every moment of peace. All that came from your sacrifices, we have you to thank. Today, we celebrate you. We love you, our hero."
Chief Petty Officer Lutz served from 1982 to 2003 aboard the USS Lewis B Puller FFG-23, USS Ticonderoga CG-47, and USS Monterey CG-61. He cruised the Western Pacific 1984, North Atlantic 1985, Mediterranean 1986, Mediterranean, North Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf 1987-88, Mediterranean 1993-94 and 1995-1996. Deployments included hostile operations at Libya, Persian Gulf, Bosnia, and Somalia.
J Robert Rizer
US Army 1942-1945. Purple Heart recipient, awarded the Bronze Star.
Specialist 4 Klone served from 1963 to 1965 at the Army Garrison in Fort Hood, TX. Scott wrote, "Thank you for your service to our great country. We love you!"
Major Wilson joined in 2005 and has had multiple deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, and Kuwait and served as the Operations Officer for the 1-7th from 2016 to 2018. He currently serves at the Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, VA. Betty writes, "We are so proud of you. Thank you for your service."