“How can I make your job easier” was the directive that guided Nick Zallas through a 40-year career in the military. He served with National Guard and Reserve units in the Army and Air Force in communications and military police. Zallas was part of a response unit during the Blizzard of 1978 in Boston, as well as the Ramstein Air Show disaster in Germany in 1988. He retired from the Air Force Reserves in 2009 with the rank of colonel.
Vernon Amundson joined the Air Force right after high school in 1954. He would spend 25 years in the USAF, mostly as a navigator on a variety of aircraft, including B-52s, C130s and AC 119s. Amundson served in Europe during the height of the Cold War, as well as in Vietnam. He retired in 1979 with the rank of major.
Wade Tambor joined the Navy in 1955, and was sent to Officers Candidates School in Newport, R.I. After earning his ensign’s commission, Tambor was sent to Adak in the Aleutian Islands for his first duty station. There, Tambor handled administrative duties. Tambor would also serve in San Francisco and the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. He would leave active service in 1958 with the rank of lieutenant.
Born and raised in South Boston, Bill Martin was drafted into the Navy in 1966 despite poor eyesight. Because he was a college graduate, he was sent to Officer Candidates School in Newport, R.I. Trained as a supply officer, Martin would serve in active duty and the Reserves for 30 years; he would see action off the coast of Vietnam and take part in Desert Storm. He retired from the Navy in 1997 with the rank of captain. As of this interview in 2019, Martin is the Veterans Services Officer for Kingston, Mass.
Raffael deGruttola enlisted in the Army in 1953, shortly after graduating from Somerville High School. Because of his talents as a musician, he earned a spot in the 18th U.S. Army Band in Fort Devens. He would also earn a spot in the 1st U.S. Army Band in New York City, as well as attending the Naval School of Music Conservatory in Washington, D.C.
Arnold Bopp joined some friends and enlisted into the Army in 1954. He served for 20 years in the Army’s Security Agency as a teletype operator and teletype interceptor. He served twice in Alaska, as well as Berlin, Fort Devens and Vietnam.
Jacob Darnel enlisted in the Marines shortly after graduating from high school in Kentucky. He learned cryptography, and was assigned to Paris to help establish the Defense Command Agency. He would also be assigned to Vietnam to help run a message center near Da Nang Harbor.
This interview was recorded at the Bedford VA Medical Center; interview conducted by volunteer Jim Ramsey.
John Lobberecht didn’t study much during high school and college, so he joined the Marines in 1983. He learned how to fly, and became a loadmaster on a C130; he served mostly in the United States, with a tour of duty in Okinawa. He said although he was a Marine serving in peacetime, he trained constantly in case he was called in action.
This interview was part of a program conducted by students at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Bob Wright was born and raised in Natick. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1966 to see the world and have some adventure. He became a “plane captain” working the flight decks on the USS Yorktown, USS Constellation and the USS Ranger during the height of the Vietnam War and the Cold War.
Dawn Ross was born in a family where military service was valued – her father and brother both served long terms in the Navy. She joined the Navy in 1981 and helped track Russian submarines in the Pacific. She remains a strong proponent for veterans and military service.