SCJH Veterans Day project

Editor’s Note: The Stark County News is pleased to coordinate with Stark County Junior High School to publish the following articles written in 8th grade English class. Over the next few weeks leading up to Veterans Day, we will publish the student’s articles on the veteran they interviewed. We hope our readers will enjoy them.

The Draft of an American Hero
By Hayleelizabeth Leverette

Ronnie L. Rice served in the Army. He ranked as a Specialist 4th Class as a Mechanic/tank driver. He was drafted and served in Vietnam.

Ronnie grew up in Elmore, Illinois, along with two brothers. He attended Lorea and Williamsfield schools. Ronnie grew up along the Spoon River, so he enjoyed fishing, trapping, and hunting. Ronnie compares his youth to Tom Sawyer.

Ronnie was drafted at the age of 19. He had never thought about joining the military. He knew he was going to be drafted so he awaited the letter. The war had been going on 3 years before he was drafted. Ronnie felt proud to be serving his country. He said, “In my eyes if I didn’t go, someone else would go in my place.” Ronnie received his basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. It was hard training and long hours. He was trained for the job of tank driver and mechanic. Before entering the military, he was already pretty skilled in mechanics, so it helped him get the job. The hours of training consisted of basic training 8-10 weeks, go home for one week, then more training, and go home for 1 month before being shipped overseas. They had 2 uniforms issued to them. One being dress and the other fatigue (work uniform). Weather during training was freezing. It was during February and everyone was catching pneumonia.

Ronnie flew to his warzone in October of 1968. He landed in Fairbanks, Alaska, then was shipped to Vietnam. It was his first time in a foreign country. His first impression after getting off the plane was the smell. It was very hot and the sanitation was non-existent. He was stationed in L-Z Bannonnet Chew like Province. His unit was named the 17th Gallory, it was a company sized unit. Ronnie liked the commanding officers he had; he never really had a problem with them. He said one was a little gung ho; he gave some orders that looking back now knew they shouldn’t do but, other than that, he liked the ones he had. Ronnie stated that his most frightening experience was getting complacent. He laid down one afternoon because he was so used to war that he could hear them coming, but he didn’t even go to the bunker.

During the war Ronnie had heard some news from home. He had heard that there were protesters back home. Ronnie was disappointed because the protesters blamed the individual soldiers instead of the government. While in the war, Ronnie never really had long thoughts about how he might not survive. He knew that there was a chance he wouldn’t, but he knew he was there for a good reason. Ronnie came down with malaria; his temp went up to 106 F. He started to hallucinate; he got really bad. Medics ordered an ice bath to try to get his temp down. He was out two weeks before he could return to duty.

The most impressive place Ronnie saw was basically the whole country. It was beautiful, but mildly hot. The first 6 months, Ronnie and his crew went to a village; the civilians were good to them but, they had to be suspicious because they always wanted something. About once a week Ronnie would write to his fiancée Judy who was at home waiting for him. At the end of the tour there was an overwhelming sadness; he couldn’t wait to get his uniform off. He was proud of his service, but ashamed of his country for the amount of protests back home.

After the war Ronnie went home; he still belonged to the military for seven years. He was in what was called the Inactive Reserves, meaning since the war was over he was able to go home, but if things got bad again he would have to go back into service. The highest rank he received was Specialist 4th Class. Right when Ronnie got home, he went to buy civilian clothes so he would blend in since the protesters were so bad.

His first job after being released was a factory in Galesburg, in which he used the fact that he drove the tank to help him get the job. Ronnie L. Rice met Judy Rice in the 7th grade when Judy was just in the 5th in Elmore. Ronnie and Judy married in 1969. They have one son Ryan Rice and a daughter-in-law Kari. They have 3 grandchildren: Enderly, Kaley, and Andrew.

Ronnie has belonged to three organizations including the United Mine Workers, Operation Engineer, and the American Legion. Ronnie’s hobbies include antique cars and monster trucks; he owns The Incinerator monster jam truck with son Ryan Rice. Ronnie often goes to his veteran reunions. Ronnie L. Rice is a very warm-hearted, strong and hardworking man, and he is my American hero.

The Life of A Veteran!
By Olivia Hopp

Kerry Allen Copeland was a former veteran from Desert Storm. Kerry was an E5 Sergeant and was in the Army! Knowing someone risked their life for America is amazing!
Kerry was born in Kewanee, Illinois, and has a father, mother, two brothers (one is a twin) and three sisters. He grew up in La Fayette, Illinois, and attended Toulon High School. Kerry was an average student and enjoyed working on the farm and hunting.
Kerry enlisted in 1986 and began in July of that same year. He was 18 and his dad thought it would be a good idea to enlist! Kerry’s dad and all of his uncles were veterans so he had thought about serving before. It was a very scary, nervous time entering the military. Kerry’s basic training was held in Fort Dix, New Jersey. “Basic training was scary and sucked,” Copeland explained. Copeland was trained for driving a truck and qualified to drive anything except aircrafts! Before entering the military, Kerry already had his semi-truck license and class C driver’s license. Copeland went to advanced training which is where you learn your job after basic training. Kerry had a close friend named Brent with him! “The food sucked and they ate ready-to-eat food every day,” told Copeland. Chicken and rice was the only non-military food which was eaten with your hands. The rules were very strict and you couldn’t mess around! However, long the job took was how long Kerry and his crew had to stay out there. There wasn’t a lot of free time, but when they all had free time they slept. They were stationed in the desert so they had the uniform of desert fatigues. Kerry was in the middle of the Saudi Arabian Desert and it was very hot and dry.

Copeland traveled to the war zone in a truck or gun truck and that was very scary and there were landmines everywhere. When Kerry first arrived in the war zone he was in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; Kerry’s first experience in a foreign country, dirty and hot. The unit that Kerry was with was the 724 Transportation Company and that was attached to an infantry division. Copeland drove a truck, hauled fuel, prisoners, and ammunition. There was 128 people in his unit. Kerry was 15 clicks or 15 miles from the front lines and as they moved forward, Kerry and his crew followed. Kerry did see the enemy and it was very scary. The most frightening experience was when his unit got hit by a scud missile in the middle of the night. The most interesting experience was when they let the men go into Saudi Arabia; how poorly they treated women. The most exhausting experience was when he had a 72-hour mission. The most exciting experience was when they told them they all got to go home! Kerry was a qualified expert in marksmanship and also got an award for that! Kerry especially enjoyed protecting his country! Something that Kerry was not especially good at was trying to keep a good attitude! He especially didn’t enjoy having a hot meal.

Copeland’s commanding officer was a good guy and kept them all safe! Kerry was involved in Desert Storm and the Liberation of Kuwait. Kerry lived in a tent the whole time. Kerry had contacted friends when he came back, but not very many are left. Every day he thought about survival. “Every day and night sounded like the Fourth of July,” Kerry explained. He has met some POW’s but none of them were really that close. The most impressive allied weapon he ever saw was the M1 A1 Abram Tank. The most impressive enemy weapon he ever saw was the anti-aircraft gun. The most impressive place he ever saw was the city of Rydah. Copeland never met anyone famous nor ever attended a USO show. When the tour ended Kerry felt relieved and drank beer and partied! The highest rank he ever achieved was an E5. There were no ceremonies in combat, but all they did was shake hands and got a lapel button. Kerry’s unit all flew on an aircraft and drove to the port when it was time to go home. In March 1991, the unit all found out they were leaving and didn’t get home until May of 1991. When his unit got back into the United States there was a parade in Maine and then Kerry flew to Chicago.

Right after Copeland was discharged, his family and he had a family “get together” and then went to the tavern! His first job after discharge was Alcoa in Princeville. Kerry met his spouse in a tavern and got married in 1992 and divorced in 2009.

Copeland met his second spouse and got married again August 23rd 2009. Kerry has children: Mark, Hannah, Josh, and Jason. He also has three grandchildren. He is now a maintenance man at Bo/Gar in Wyoming, Illinois. Kerry belongs to the American Legion and La Fayette Fire Department. His hobbies are hunting, fishing, and playing with his grandkids!


As we all know being a veteran is hard. There is lots of training for everything you use and do! Many great people risk their lives for people here in the United States. One of them was Kerry Copeland! Thank you to all veterans that are serving and that have served. Big thanks to Kerry for his service and time!

The Story of the Veteran Burton Andrew LaPayne
By Alexandria Williams

Burton Andrew LaPayne is a man currently living in Wyoming, Illinois. Before that he has lived in many different places and been in the Navy.

Burton was born in Peoria, Illinois. Burton’s family includes his mother, Marcella LaPayne, his father Rex LaPayne, and his six brothers and one sister. He went to Elmira Grade School, Toulon High School, and a Navy College. Burton liked school and was a good student, but outside of school he liked going to drag races and parties.
Before Burton was in the Navy he lived in a small town north of Modena. When Burton joined the Navy he had thought about joining for a while and was twenty-three when he received basic training at Great Lakes, North Chicago, for a job that he did not request, in the engine room. Burton made many close friends in the Navy including men named Brock, Prairie Dog, and Anderson. The food on the ammunition ship that Burton lived on was pretty good, the rules were strict and it was twelve hours on then twelve hours off the job, and when he was off, Burton slept. Burton had to wear four different outfits including dungarees and his ship sailed through one typhoon and two hurricanes.

Burton was stationed in Concord, California, on his ship the U. S. S. Mount Hood, which was three-hundred and seventy-five feet long and used as a cargo hold. Burton ran the distilling plant and once repaired a circulation pump by himself. Burton once had to stay up for thirty-eight hours straight to recover dead bodies from the water, and he got to meet an admiral. Burton was especially good at welding, but he did not like swimming in the bilge or being told what to do by his Captain Burke.

Burton had a six foot by three foot bed that he slept in. The weather conditions while he was on the ship varied. Burton’s friends covered each other’s backs while in the service and communicated a couple times after leaving the Navy. The most impressive allied weapons he saw were three-hundred and fifty-four gun turrets. The most impressive places that Burton saw while in the Navy were the Philippines and Australia. Though Burton did not have contact with civilians he did have lots of funny moments, and at least the food on his ship was good. Burton did have free time, but unfortunately, he never got to meet anyone famous. Even though Burton never got to meet anyone famous he did get to go to USO shows, considering they were on his ship. Burton never really got letters from people while in the Navy, and when he left the Navy he felt very, “released.” The highest rank that Burton achieved was an E4. Burton received an Expeditionary Medal but there was no homecoming waiting for him when he got home.

After leaving the Navy, Burton moved in with a friend and looked for jobs that involved welding or factory work. The first job that Burton had after the Navy was welding. Burton never married or had children, but he did enjoy living in a lot of different places. He joined the Wyoming American Legion and spends his days enjoying the rest of his life.

Burton currently enjoys being with his family and remembering his past. Burton once said, “I want to remember the old times but I also want to enjoy the now.”

The Military Life of Robert Michael Breese
By Caden Daum

Robert Michael Breese is a Wyoming, Illinois, native who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966, to serve his country in Vietnam.


Mike was born in Kewanee, Illinois, at St. Francis Hospital. He grew up his whole life in Wyoming. Illinois. He went to school in Wyoming then attended college at Black Hawk East. In Mike’s youth, he enjoyed fishing, hunting, and playing sports. When he got his license he also enjoyed driving around.

Mike enlisted in the Army at the age of 18 because he felt the need to support the country. The war had been going on for 3 to 4 years before he joined. Mike felt a little scared about joining but he was proud. He received his basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He reported to Chicago, then went to Peoria by bus, then took a train to Kentucky. The thing he remembered the most is getting his hair shaved.

Mike flew from Oakland and landed in Japan to go to South Vietnam. This was his first time in a foreign country and his first impression of it was that it was hot. He was stationed at Qui Nhon in South Vietnam on the east coast. Mike’s tour began on March 1, 1967. Twelve months later, he went home on March 6, 1968. In that time, he battled in the Tet Offensive.

Mike’s duties were to get up and do what was instructed.

Mike had many interesting experiences during war. His most frightening times were whenever he heard gunfire. His most interesting experience was when he got to take a 6 day vacation in Sydney, Australia. Mike’s most exhausting experience was that the weather exhausted him. Mike’s most exciting experience was to go home.

Mike lived in barracks during war. He made some of his best friends in war including James and Larry. Mike made contact with some civilians and they treated him nice.
When the tour ended, Mike was relieved and happy to be home. The highest rank he ever achieved was an E5 Sergeant. He received an Army Commendation Medal. After the war, he remained in the military for a year. For jobs after the war he worked for Caterpillar Inc. and he also helped on his uncle’s farm. During these times Mike attended night school at Black Hawk East College. Right after Mike was discharged, he went home to his family. His sister introduced him to his spouse. He then married her four years later in 1971. Mike still lives in Wyoming, Illinois, today. He has three children and 9 grandchildren.

I appreciated Mike taking the time to talk with me. I enjoyed talking to him and learning about him. Mike is a very interesting and great man.

Veteran and Inventor
By Thomas William Perrine

Brian E. Carrier was in the service for 10 to 20 years. He was a Green Beret and a firefighter. Brian E. Carrier was born in New Milford, Connecticut. His dad was his best friend and his siblings were annoying. Brian grew up in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Brian went to so many schools he couldn’t count. He liked school and he was a good student in school. Brian liked to have fun with his friends in his youth.
Brian enlisted in the Army at the age of 17. His family had a military background; his father and grandfather were in the Army. Carrier entered the military in 1978, in the Korean War. During this time Carrier was afraid, proud, and excited to enter a different country. Brian Carrier received his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood. Brian said, “It changed my life.”

Carrier’s job in the Army was demolitions. Brian was picked to be in the demolition squad. He said, “The first thing they did was throw a stick of dynamite at me (it wasn’t lit).” Brian Carrier was in school until eighth grade, so he had no high school experience. After basic training he was trained in demolitions, airborne school, and trained to be a drill sergeant. Being trained to be a drill sergeant was hard because if you messed up, you got screamed at. A close friend of Carrier was Jim Cattlas. Brian met Jim in the service. Brian’s fondest moment of Cattlas was when they were boxing without gloves for money and Brian dislocated Jim’s jaw. In the Army, they had to eat rations, but sometimes they had food from Korea. The rules were very strict and the hours were 24/7. In his free time, Brian would write home. Some of the uniforms they were issued were utility, khaki, class AN, and dress blues. Brian lived in what he described, “4 walls and a tin roof.” Brian used the “shoe leather express” (walking) to cross into North Korea 20 times. Brian still remembers when he was on point of the squad, and he heard the sound of an AK-47 being loaded to fire. Brian started walking slowly and started whistling. Brian said, “God was on my side that day.”

Brian arrived in Seoul, Korea. This was Brian’s first experience in a foreign country and he said, “Oh my God, what did I get myself into?” Brian lived in Quonset huts. The weather was extremely hot in the summer, and extremely cold in the winter. Brian said, “Your best friends in the military are your buddies for life.” Brian had a buddy from Korea, but he lost contact with him. At times Brian thought he wasn’t going to survive there because of the bad things that happened there. Brian was trained in every job so if one of his squad mates was wounded in battle he could do their job. Brian had met many World War POW’s. The most impressive weapon that Brian ever saw was the British Bull Pup and the most impressive enemy weapon that he saw was the AK-47. Brian loved Little Big Horn it was the most impressive place that he has ever seen. Brian had contact with civilians and they treated him like anyone else. In Korea, in the dead of winter, Brian was taking a shower about 20 yards away from his hut. His friend, Jim Cattlas, took his clothes from on the shower door and Brian frozen like an icicle. Brian looked forward to having free time to have fun and to make extra money. Brian met General Martin. Brian only got mail two or three times from his mom. Brian was ready to come home from Korea and felt great. Brian was a Staff Sergeant when his tour ended. His promotions weren’t so dramatic. Brian got lots of medals and citations. He had pictures but he gave them to his sister.

Brian came home on an airplane in 1981, and could not wait to get home. When Brian got home no one was waiting for him. Brian remained in the military for six months after his tour ended, and worked as a heavy equipment operator. The highest rank Brian received was Staff Sergeant or an E6. Brian was stationed at Fort Brad and he traveled all over. Brian’s favorite place he was stationed at was Fort Jackson.


One of Brian’s highlights of postwar was his first patent. As soon as Brian got home he lit fireworks off and got thrown in jail because of it. Brian met his spouse in a job interview and married her in 1989. Brian has two children and four grandchildren. Brian worked with the federal government, then as a heavy equipment operator, and then the federal government again. Organizations that Brian belongs to is the National Rifle Association and the Landing Ship, Tank 325. Some hobbies that Brian has are music and inventing. Brian has patented 14 things in 20 years and most of them are *CLASSIFIED*. I have personally seen one of the things he has patented and he said he would let my dad and I drive it.


Brian Carrier is an excellent soldier and a great inventor, he has traveled to the DMZ in North Korea and has invented many things. We should hope he keeps inventing.

The War Life of John Ricknell
By Joshua Kraklow

Today I’m thanking John Ricknell for his service in the Navy. John Ricknell is a veteran who was a signalman on the USS Preston in the Navy during the Korean War.
John was born in Kewanee, Illinois, along with his younger sister, Esther, and went to school at Kewanee High School and entered the Navy at the age of 20 and served for 4 years. He entered the Navy because he wanted to fight in the Korean War and entered in 1950 saying that he was feeling proud of entering and not afraid. John’s basic training was in Chicago and the life there was like everyday life. The food was like every day food and the rules were fair. If you were to do something wrong you had to pay so you always tried to stay on the good side of your officers.

John never experienced any part of the war; he was aboard his ship the whole war and cleaned mothballs from destroyers. He was stationed aboard the USS Preston and his tour began on Long Beach, California. The ship was 285 feet long and had 280 members. His most frightening experience was when he was on his ship; they had to go through five hurricanes, and the part he enjoyed the most was in port. John’s captain of the ship had once been a submarine captain and the most impressive allied weapon he saw was the large carriers. The most impressive enemy weapon he had seen were the missiles, and he had come in contact with civilians at all of his ports of call. John has seen many impressive places but does not have a favorite one and he had food that was not from the military at the places he visited too. John met the celebrity Doris Day and got to listen to her sing. The way it happened was that John and his friend went into a nightclub while wearing their uniforms. The two guards in the place had seen them and told them they could not wear their uniforms in the nightclub.

The guards ended up dragging them out when Doris Day looked over and saw them. She went over and asked the guards why they were taking them out. The guards told her that John and his friend could not be in the nightclub with their uniforms on. Then she stated that their uniforms were their dress clothes, and that if they were not allowed in the club then she would never perform there ever again. The guards did not want that, so they let John and his friend stay. The two stayed there for 2 hours and got all the food and drinks they wanted. John went to see a USO show and 15,000 people attended the movie. Also, during the war, he wrote letters to his wife, mom, and dad and when his tour had ended he said that he was happy about it ending. The highest rank he ever got in the Navy was Special Duty Officer, and he ranked up by taking a test.

John had been in the Navy for 4 years, and he worked at a shoe store for 13 and a half years after the war. He met his wife at a skating rink in Kewanee, Illinois, in 1949. He has 4 children, 2 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren and his hobbies were singing and golf.

John said, “Talking with people about the war is really interesting and a great way to learn about the history of some wars.” The next time you see a veteran you should thank them for their service to our country.

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