Born in 1940 on a farm in Maries County, Arnold Sandbothe came of age in a family of seven brothers and three sisters, watching as two of his older brothers left for service in World War II while another was wounded during the Korean War. As the years passed and he went on to graduate from Vienna High School in 1958, it seemed like only a matter of time before he and his other brothers would fulfill the family legacy of serving in military.
“After high school, I spent some time working construction jobs in St. Louis,” said Sandbothe. “While I was up there, I decided that I would also serve and joined a local engineering unit of the Army Reserve,” he added.
Completing his boot camp at Ft. Leonard Wood, the young soldier anticipated receiving orders to remain at the fort to complete advanced training in a military engineering specialty; instead, he was handed orders for finance school at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana.
“I was shocked that I wasn’t staying for engineering school, but when one of the officer’s asked me who I knew to get in that school, I realized it would be alright,” he grinned.
He returned to St. Louis for a few months after completing his finance training but soon decided to return closer to home, moving to Jefferson City when he was hired full-time at the former McGraw-Edison Company. In April 1960, he transferred to the Missouri National Guard and was assigned to Company B, 735th Ordnance Battalion, which in late 1962 transitioned to the 1035th Ordnance Company.
“My older brother Ray, who had been wounded in Korea, was working full-time in the state headquarters for the Missouri Guard and told me about a full-time job as a federal technician in the warehouse. I applied and was hired, and worked there for about a year when I was offered a promotion to work in the stock control section for the United States Property and Fiscal Office for the Guard.”
Continuing his full-time work for the National Guard while taking college accounting courses in the evenings and drilling with the 1035th on weekends, he was encouraged to consider Officer Candidate School (OCS). He was accepted for OCS and completed his training in June of 1966. Receiving his commission as a second lieutenant, he had to make a critical career decision.
“There was not a compatible officer slot for my full-time federal technician job at that time … and if I waited for one to come available, I might be passed over for appointment,” he said. “So, I became a second lieutenant with the 1035th as my drilling unit, and was eventually hired full-time with the Missouri Credit Union League.”
His full-time employment with the credit union required him to relocate to Kansas City and, for a number of years, he commuted to Jefferson City to drill with his unit on the weekends. When a command and control headquarters element was organized in Kansas City, he received a transfer to a slot as a captain in the early 1970s. While living in Kansas City, he met and married Linda Nolker Huyett in 1977. Throughout the next few years, his military career continued to progress while he fulfilled several leadership roles until receiving appointment as commander of the 205th Military Police Battalion in the summer of 1986.
“I had completed my branch training as an ordnance officer but the new position required that I take my basic and advanced course as a military policeman,” said Sandbothe. “I became a major and eventually a lieutenant colonel before leaving the MP Corps of the Missouri National Guard in 1989.”
Working full-time with the credit union and performing his part-time military duties as a commander with the military police, Sandbothe realized he would have to be at least halfway finished with Command and General Staff College (CGSC) if he wished to qualify for promotion to colonel.
“During my battalion command time with the MP Corps, I spent many of the few free weekends I had taking CGSC courses and, by the time I left my command there, I had finished a college degree in addition to CGSC.”
Although qualified and selected for promotion to colonel, the state did not have any available officer slots at that grade. Sandbothe then made a decision that led him back to where his military career began—the Army Reserve.
“I transferred to the Army Reserve and was able to receive promotion to colonel,” he said. “I stayed with them until retiring from the military in 1994 with credit for 30 years of service. Also,” he added, “I worked for the Missouri Credit Union Association for 32 years before retiring as senior vice-president in 1998.”
The veteran has come to recognize the distinct moments that appear to define the differences between the years he spent as an enlisted soldier and those as a commissioned officer, each of which seems to provide him with specific types of memories.
“As an enlisted soldier in my early-to-mid-20s, I was a typical enlisted soldier who had quite a bit of fun but did what I had to do,” he said. “But I really didn’t grow up until I went to OCS and they made a gentleman out of me—if that was possible!” he laughed. “I am proud of my fellow Guard members who I met and served with over the years. Working together made each of us better citizens.
However, the most important aspect of his military career has not been the climb through the various ranks, but fulfilling a legacy that began with his father and has been carried forth by he and his brothers.
“My father was in WWI and each of my six brothers served in the military in some capacity,” he said. With a chuckle, he added, “When you think about that, I had no choice because what an embarrassment it would be if I hadn’t served as well.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
After graduating high school in Kansas City, a young Lon Gilbert Amick followed his older brother’s footsteps by attending William Jewell College in nearby Liberty. Two years later, he made the decision to transfer to the University of Missouri in Columbia, where he participated in the ROTC program and gained valuable experience as an actor that would benefit him during World War II.
Enlisting in the U.S. Army on July 31, 1942, Amick was granted a deferment until the following year so that he could complete his bachelor’s degree in journalism. His military records indicate he entered active service on March 23, 1943.
“My oldest brother, Eugene, was killed August 9, 1942, while serving as a communications officer on the USS Astoria during the invasion of the Solomon Islands,” said Amick’s younger sister, Joanne Comer. “They commissioned the USS Amick (destroyer escort) in his honor and Lon was able to get leave from his training to attend the launching on May 27, 1943.”
Amick traveled to Camp Wolters, Texas, in the spring of 1943, spending several months in training to prepare him as an infantryman to replace those lost in combat—a military specialty that he would leave behind shortly after his arrival overseas. The 21-year-old soldier boarded a troopship in early July 1944, making the two-week journey across the ocean. In an undated letter sent home during the war, Amick provided a candid description regarding the unpleasant conditions of his two-week trip across the Atlantic.
“The ship was crowded, terribly crowded,” wrote the soldier. “Dice, thick smoke, field equipment, sentiment, homesickness, dirty stories, raucous laughter, and ever-present loneliness amid thousands was much in evidence.”
Disembarking the ship in Liverpool, England, in July 1944, his group soon made their way to a marshaling area and days later boarded landing craft bound for Omaha Beach, which, the month previous, served as ground zero for death and devastation during the famed D-Day landings.
“My first job in France was loading ammunition,” the soldier wrote. “They needed it badly and several of the men that came in with me were immediately put to work. The front was six miles away.”
The area along the Normandy coastline continued to buzz with activities to provide service and support for soldiers engaged in combat on the front lines of combat. During a rare break in the action, Amick glanced at an advertisement that captured his attention.
“I noticed a (pamphlet) looking for stage talent and walked down to that building—a tent in the field,” he wrote in a letter to his parents. “(I) demonstrated a few imitations and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and was told to perform in a show—I did, and the rest you know,” he added.
The young soldier was transferred to 6817th Special Service Battalion (with whom film star Mickey Rooney was assigned during the war) and began traveling across Europe with a small performance troupe comprised of actors and band members. Their early shows, he explained, “were laughable” with musicians being recruited from foxholes and bandstands constructed from empty rations crates. Their group quickly blossomed with a full band to compose music for their shows. They provided entertainment in venues ranging from theaters to “bomb-cratered villages” in addition to “a circuit of hospital and Red Cross clubs.” When the war ended the following spring, he was reassigned to duties more aligned with his journalism degree from MU.
“(I) am putting out a paper for the depot now,” wrote Amick to his parents in a letter dated September 22, 1945. “I am enclosing a copy of the paper. I have marked what I have written simply because I know it will interest you... The paper is exactly what the doctor ordered. I am myself again.”
Pfc. Amick remained in Europe for several months after the war, boarding a troopship for his return home in February 1946. On March 2, 1946, he received his discharge from the U.S. Army through the separation center at Fort Dix, New Jersey, having accrued nearly 20 months of overseas service. Integrating back into civilian life, Amick married the former Naomi Campbell in 1950, and the couple raised five children. In the years after the war, he remained somewhat active with local theater groups but this interest appeared to have evaporated when he became president of a national fundraising firm in Kansas City.
According to the November 23, 1972 edition of the Word and Way, “Amick joined the staff of William Jewell College in February 1971, a an officer of the administration. At the college he served as director of development and was in charge of the donor support program, alumni services, and public relations.”
“Lon was killed in an automobile accident on October 23, 1972 when he was 52 years old,” said Joanne (Amick) Comer, the veteran’s sister. “He told me when I was younger to spend two years at William Jewell, like he did, and then get the experience of a big university.” Smiling, she added, “So I ended up at KU, where I met my husband, Ralph.”
The veteran can no longer share direct accounts of his experiences during World War II—a fascinating journey that began as a replacement in the infantry and transitioned to service as an actor and work with a military newspaper. He left a legacy behind through letters and reflections that demonstrate a soldier prepared to embrace his circumstances.
From Camp Wolters, he wrote, “Somewhere there must be a wise man of the mountain that knows why the human race can’t live in peace. What is, is—and I’m prepared for my share of whatever it is to be, without regret, without enthusiasm.” Displaying wisdom beyond his years, he concluded, “Mine is completely a soldier’s inevitable attitude. The future doesn’t worry me, because I’m resigned to what comes … if God has endowed me with what talents I possess, I’ll use them.”
Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America
WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Jake “The Snake” Roberts for decades combatted substance abuse issues. His recovery process, he believes, provides an example of hope to military veterans who may be struggling with addictions. Roberts road to recovery was inspired through the assistance of a friend, Diamond Dallas Page, and his DDPY fitness program. Courtesy of Jake Roberts
When Jake “The Snake” Roberts dragged a lumpy cloth sack into the wrestling ring, many an opponent fearfully trembled while the audience cheered since everyone realized it held a monstrous python named Damian. For years, Roberts’ achievements in the ring—highlighted by his finishing move, the “DDT”—propelled his career to lofty heights while he silently struggled with debilitating addictions. Decades later, the wrestling icon descended into a physical and emotional abyss until a wrestler he had once mentored helped him regain control of his life and health.
“I’ve been there—through the addictions and pains—and believe my experiences help me connect to veterans going through similar situations,” said Roberts during a recent interview. “Many of these troops returning from their service overseas are having problems and just maybe my story, my resurrection, can give them some hope.”
Roberts explained that a history of concussions is one form of injury he has the misfortune of sharing with many veterans. Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center reports there were “nearly 414,000 TBIs among U.S. service members worldwide between 2000 and late 2019.” The center added, “TBI can include a range of comorbidities, from headaches, irritability, and sleep disorders to memory problems, slower thinking, and depression. These symptoms often lead to long-term mental and physical health problems that impair Veterans' employment and family relationships, and their reintegration into their communities.”
“Back in my day of wrestling, they didn’t pay any attention to concussions,” Roberts said. “I wrestled for 35 years and probably had 120 concussions … or maybe more. “We were hit with real metal chairs because they were just a tool of the ring. Let me tell you, I gave and received a lot of punishment in the ring.” He continued, “And that takes its toll on your mind and body. Pretty soon, you start looking for things to help with the pain, and that’s where the addiction really begins to take shape and it has consequences for the entire family.”
For decades, Roberts embraced both drugs and alcohol as an emotional crutch, searching for “that next great thing” that would make him feel even better than before in an effort to suppress the unyielding discomfort.
“I was an adrenaline junkie like so many wrestlers,” said the WWE Hall of Famer. “Many people who serve in the military are adrenaline junkies as well, and when they leave that structure and are away from the service, they look for something to replace that adrenaline that was lost.”
An article on the Department of Veterans Affairs website explains that from “the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 1 in 10 returning veterans seen in VA have a problem with alcohol or others drugs.”
The website of the National Veterans Foundation also reveals some alarming realities regarding the challenges faced by many veterans. "Prescription drug abuse is on the rise among veterans because many are treated with powerful narcotic pain medications for injuries. Over time, veterans can become dependent on these drugs and eventually an addiction can develop. Alcohol abuse and addiction is also more common among the military population while some other substances are used far less frequently and are far less of an issue.”
For many years, Roberts has supported members of the military by visiting bases such as Fort Polk, Louisiana; Robins Air Force Base, Georgia; and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, growing in his respect for their service to the country and the sacrifices they have made.
“They really beat themselves up during their service just like I did in the ring … and it catches up to you,” he said. “I had reached a point that I was down and out and was addicted to cocaine and alcohol; I had not felt good about myself in 20 years,” he added.
Living on the brink of despair and hopelessness, his life changed for the better through the assistance of a wrestler he once mentored—Diamond Dallas Page (DDP). His friend moved him to Atlanta and introduced him to a fitness program recently branded DDPY, which resulted in noticeable improvements.
I finally began to like myself—I was spitting out positive words instead of negative ones,” Roberts said. “The exercises got my blood moving and I began to feel better. You do it for a week and you see yourself doing things you couldn’t do before.” He added, “When I do the program, it gives me that spark that I need as an adrenaline junkie and, just like that, your body starts to change; you lose weight and you begin to feel good about yourself!”
His transformation and recovery have been captured in the documentary “The Resurrection of Jake the Snake.” The tumultuous experiences that defined many years of his life culminated in defeat of his most difficult opponent—addiction. Now, he hopes to share his story far and wide, confident it may inspire the recovery of veterans facing similar struggles.
“There was a lady who came up to me and thanked me for sharing my story,” he explained. “Although her husband had died two years earlier, she said that my movie inspired him to put down the bottle and he didn’t drink for the seven years prior to his death. She said it was the best seven years of their entire marriage.” He concluded, “My life has been full of ups and downs, fights and bouts, but it feels good knowing that it can show others, especially veterans, that there is hope for their own recovery.”
DDP supports veterans by offering a 50 percent discount on all DVDs and the DDPYogaNow app. For more information, visit ddpyoga.com or DDPY.com
Veterans seeking crisis assistance and resources can contact the Veterans Crisis Line toll free at 877-273-8255.
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Not defined by disability - U.S. Army veteran overcomes debilitating brain injury incurred in WWII (Part 2)
Leonard Jaegers, who was at the time engaged to the former Helen Wankum, was seriously wounded in combat during WWII. He and Helen were united in marriage in December 1945. Helen stood by her husband for decades, helping him operate a successful retail business in Meta in addition to working diligently to help him recover from a severe injury incurred in WWII. Courtesy of the Jaegers family
Author's note: This article is the final in a two-part series regarding the military experiences of WWII veteran Sergeant Leonard P. Jaegers.
Sergeant Leonard P. Jaegers, after being shot in the skull on April 6, 1945, during combat in World War II, was presumed dead and his body moved to an area and laid among several other soldiers killed in action. Fortunately, a chaplain discovered the wounded Jaegers was still alive and the immediate medical attention he received is credited with saving his life.
“Years later, he told a family friend that while he was on the battlefield in Germany, he made the promise to God that if He let him live, he would work for Him until he died—and he kept that promise,” said Jaegers’ daughter-in-law, Helen.
This period was also very tumultuous for another Helen in Jaegers’ life, Helen Wankum, to whom he was engaged prior to the war. When word was received that the family could come visit the injured Jaegers at Bushnell General Hospital in Brigham, Utah, his mother, fiancée and family friend, Bud Loethen, left their homes in Meta and took a train headed west. The injury left Jaegers with severe memory loss, paralysis on his right side and significant speech limitations. Upon their arrival at the hospital, the recovering soldier did not recognize his visitors, but after a couple more visits, he recalled who they were and was pleased to see them.
Years later, his former fiancée wrote of her time at the hospital, “During one of (our) visits, I told him that we were engaged and his injury didn’t make any difference to me and that one day we would be married. This information improved his attitude.”
Undergoing several surgeries on his skull and brain, the next several months continued an intense regimen of physical and speech therapy followed by his transfer to a hospital in Framingham, Massachusetts. As Helen, his fiancée at the time, explained in some of her later writings and recollections, he would at first walk by pushing a wheelchair since he was unable to grip a cane. Eventually, Jaegers’ abilities improved to the extent he was allowed to return home to Meta, where his fiancée remained true to her commitment. On December 27, 1945, Leonard Jaegers and the former Helen Wankum were united in marriage and, as the years passed, became the parents of seven children.
“One thing that impresses me about our father,” said his son, James, “is that although he received a military pension and didn’t have to work, he wanted to get up in the morning, shave, and get dressed to show his kids that fathers were supposed to have something to do.”
In addition to traveling to locations such as St. Louis to undergo physical, speech and occupational therapy, Jaegers was described as a man that was always on the move and eventually found employment at a drug store in Meta. This job afforded him opportunities to rebuild his confidence while recovering from his injuries. With improvements in his motor skills and speech also came the return of many of his past memories; however, Jaegers would always suffer from headaches and never regained the use of his right arm. As his children explained, although he enjoyed his work at the drug store, he aspired for something more, which was achieved through the help of the love of his life, Helen.
“Our father always wanted to open a store of his own, so he and mom opened Jaegers Shoes and Apparel in August of 1959,” said Robert Jaegers. “They frequently traveled to Springfield (Missouri) and loaded their station wagon with wholesale merchandise that they brought back to the store in Meta to sell.” Pausing he said, “They operated that store for 26 years.”
Reflecting on the promise the young soldier had made on the World War II battlefields of Europe, the Jaegers’ family explained that he strived to fulfill the promise of service that he had made to God.
“He and mother were always volunteering in some capacity,” said his son, James. “They volunteered at least one day a week at the VA hospital in Columbia and were very involved in the church and community organizations.” He added, “Years later, when he and mother traveled to Texas for the winter months, they volunteered three days a week at the VA hospital in San Antonio.”
In later years, Jaegers enjoyed attending military reunions and, during one such event held in Pennsylvania, met the individual responsible for having saved his life.
“(We) were surprised to meet the Army Medic who helped treat Leonard as he lay wounded on the German battlefield so many years ago,” wrote Jaegers’ wife in a document maintained by the family. “Not only was he surprised Dad had made it, but the fact that he could walk and talk. He stated that it was a miracle.”
The 89-year-old Jaegers lived a rich life, passing away November 2, 2010. His beloved wife, Helen, passed away less than two years later on July 25, 2012. The couple lie at rest in Hawthorn Memorial Gardens in Jefferson City.
The courage and determination of their father has left an indelible impression on his children, but they also realize his success in overcoming great physical challenges was a team effort not achievable without the assistance of their mother.
“Our father always felt blessed with the life that he had been given,” said Robert Jaegers. “He seemed to be on the move all the time and never sat still for very long. “Through great will and determination, he was able to improve.” He concluded, “But it was our mother who was always there for him—it was her devotion and support that truly helped him recover from his war injuries.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America
Author's note: This article is the first in a two-part series regarding the World War II experiences of the late Leonard P. Jaegers.
The mission of the Silver Star Families of America—a Missouri-based non-profit—has always been to remember, honor and assist the wounded, ill or dying of our Armed Forces from all wars. In this spirit, the story of one local veteran truly personifies this endeavor and features a young man suffering a grievous wound in combat during World War II, who was able to overcome adversity and live a long, productive life through the assistance of medical professionals.
His story of love and determination begins in the rural Osage County community of Meta, where a young Leonard P. Jaegers, the oldest of seven children, grew up on his family’s farm.
“When my father received his draft notice and had to report to Jefferson Barracks (St. Louis), he was engaged to my mother, Helen Wankum, who grew up near him on a neighboring farm,” said Jaegers’ son, Robert.
Military records indicate the 21-year-old Jaegers was inducted into the U.S. Army on August 17. 1942, and, after being given a few days to travel home to help his father put up hay on the farm, returned to Jefferson Barracks to complete his basic training. In a summary of Jaegers’ service written by his late wife, it was noted that the young soldier “boarded a train and headed west for Denver.” His wife went on to note that he was assigned to the military police department; however, after volunteering to serve in the kitchen and impressing the mess sergeant with his culinary abilities, Jaegers was sent to cooking school at Ft. Riley, Kansas.
“Dad said that he thought that he had it kind of easy being a cook and decided that he wanted to get into some of the ‘rough’ stuff,” said James, another of Jaegers’ sons. “That’s when he volunteered to be a combat engineer and the Army sent him to Ft. Leonard Wood for more training,” he added.
The new duty assignment provided the soldier with a slate of new skills soon identified as those needed to replace the combat losses from fighting during the Battle of the Bulge. He departed Ft. Leonard Wood on Christmas Eve of 1944, bound for Paris, Texas, for six weeks of infantry training. In early February 1945, Jaegers received a brief delay en route to his next duty assignment, affording him a few days back home to visit with his family and fiancée.
His wife wrote, “On the last night of his leave, we went to a dance and Leonard asked the band to play ‘Over the Way Waltz,’ and we danced and danced. Little did we realize that this would be the last time that we would ever dance together again,” she solemnly explained.
Boarding a train in Jefferson City, Jaegers said his goodbyes to his fiancée and family and made the trip to Camp George E. Meade, Maryland. Two weeks later, he was transferred to Camp Shanks, New York, and boarded a transport ship bound for France. Shortly after his arrival in LeHavre, France, he was processed as a replacement soldier with Company F. 310th Infantry Regiment of the 78th Division.
“Mom’s records state that our father and several of his fellow soldiers boarded box cars and rode the train for several days to the front lines,” said his son, Robert. “He wasn’t there for very long when he became part of a mission that affected him for the rest of his life.”
On April 6, 1945, after the regiment was recovering from an exhausting battle against unwavering German forces, Jaegers was in a foxhole with two of his friends when bullets began whizzing by them. His fellow soldiers were killed while one bullet penetrated Jaegers’ helmet, striking him in his skull. Since Jaegers lay unresponsive and had brain matter dripping from the severe wound to his scalp, he was presumed dead and his body removed from the foxhole and placed next to a group of soldiers who had been killed in battle.
In a fortuitous moment, a chaplain who was blessing the bodies of the deceased observed that Jaegers was still alive, calling for a medic to come and provide immediate assistance. The medic placed the brain matter back into Jaegers’ skull and then wrapped the wound.
“Our father lost his memory when he was wounded and did not recall much of the fighting years later,” said James Jaegers. “Dad’s military records show that he was first evacuated to a field hospital in Germany and was later sent to France and then England for treatment. The chaplain sent the family a letter saying our father was alive but was in serious condition.”
Jaegers was eventually transferred back to the states, arriving in New York and taking a train to Brigham City, Utah, for care at Bushnell General Hospital. The veteran’s wife wrote years later, “The Red Cross nurse wrote to us about his condition.” She further detailed the seriousness of her fiancée’s wound, writing, “He had more surgery on his head. … His right side was paralyzed. He couldn’t talk, walk, read or write. The nurse advised us not to come for a visit until he was a little better.”
The days ahead were difficult and filled with both burdens and victories for the wounded soldier as he struggled to regain the abilities that had been torn from him. It was also a stressful period for his fiancée and his family, as they tried to determine the roles they would play in ensuring his recovery.
“It was a difficult time for my father and also for our mother,” said Robert Jaegers. “But in the coming years, their perseverance and love were promising in our father’s recovery and greatly improved his quality of life.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Arthur Boorman’s inspirational story has essentially ascended to celebrity status, gaining close to 50 million views on YouTube in recent years. A veteran of the U.S. Army, his health fell into a state of neglect following his discharge and he was on a path to an early grave. He acknowledges that an unintended discovery during an internet search connected him to an individual who helped turn his life around and inspired his achievement of fitness goals once thought unattainable.
A native of Maryland, Boorman enlisted in the U.S. Army in the late 1970s because “it was what my family did,” he remarked of the motivation behind his decision to serve.
Completing his basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, he attended additional training at Ft. Devens, Massachussetts, Ft. Benning, Georgia, and other posts. The soldier participated in multiple overseas tours in Europe and the Middle East in addition to other deployments. Stateside, he served at locations such as Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. As a paratrooper, he served with reconnaissance teams who monitored enemy activity but were not intended to engage the enemy. He added, “Our function was to patrol and conduct surveillance in areas prior to the troops coming in.”
His service continued through the Gulf War; however, the pace of his military activities led to injuries resulting in his disability discharge in the mid-1990s. At the point of discharge, he had invested seventeen years of his life to the U.S. Army.
“I was hurt and had slowed down a lot,” Boorman recalled. “I did not want to get out of the Army but I had no real choice.” Solemnly, he added, “It was a frightening period because the Army was my career and I did not know how I would take care of my family.”
Married with two sons, the next few years were full of ups and downs for the erstwhile soldier while he made the transition to a new career. Possessing a bachelor’s degree, he returned to school to complete a master’s degree in education. He became a certified special educator and a math teacher, a position he holds to this day.
“I was trading one mission for another—leaving the Army and embarking upon a new purpose in teaching,” he said. “The people who I saw making the most difference in the lives of young persons were teachers and that’s something I wanted to do as well.”
Despite the satisfaction that came with pursuing a calling in education, Boorman admittedly struggled with issues related to post-traumatic stress and physical injuries from his military service. Although he did not seek escape through drugs or alcohol, he became sedentary and was eating excessively. His unhealthy lifestyle resulted in the evolution from a former 185-pound soldier to a 390-pound veteran riddled with mobility issues. Within a short period, he reached the point that he required leg braces and other supportive devices to walk and was unable to perform such simple tasks as wrestling around with his children.
“I was eating myself into a grave and making bad choices,” he starkly recalled. “I realized my actions were demonstrating that I valued food more than my family, and I did not like what I was doing … I did not like me.”
In the quest for assistance, he began scouring the internet for methods to relieve the pains he was experiencing and happened upon information regarding a fitness program developed by professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page (often referred to as “DDP”).
“At that time, he had a program called YRG but it has since become DDPY,” he said. “There was an article about the program and how it was helping others so I ordered the DVDs to try it for myself. DDP sent me an email and we began communicating back and forth.”
Initially, DDP requested some pictures of Boorman in his obese condition to garner an idea of his current physical capabilities. DDP then tailored an eating and exercise program that worked around Boorman’s disabilities in addition to ensuring he was committed putting in the work. Within ten months, Boorman was able to shed 100 pounds.
“My body started changing … but it didn’t happen overnight,” he said. “It wasn’t the DDPY fitness program alone; it was the associated eating plan as well. It’s been a battle to keep the weight off and DDPY isn’t a one-time deal, it’s a lifelong commitment.”
Boorman was eventually able to regain his physical independence and no longer requires the supportive braces. His amazing transformation was captured in a YouTube video that has inspired countless others—including disabled veterans—to pursue their own weight loss and fitness goals.
The veteran is now employed as a special education teacher and proudly self-identifies as a “geek,” running a science-fiction club at his school, writing science-fiction stories in his spare time and has even dedicated a room in his home to his massive comic book collection.
When reflecting on the viral YouTube video that has made him an unexpected fitness inspiration, Boorman admits that it has at times felt like a burden; however, he believes he has a responsibility to help others just as he was given assistance during his time of need.
“Diamond Dallas Page saved my life, there’s no doubt about that in my mind,” he said. “When the YouTube video shared my story with the world, it became a little terrifying for me because I started getting all of these phone calls and messages—and I still get them.” Pausing, he added, “I wouldn’t be the person I am now if I hadn’t gone through the pain, but succeeding through DDPY has been a great experience that has encouraged me to help others through their fitness struggles just as Dallas was there for me.”
DDP supports veterans by offering a 50% discount on all DVDs and the DDPYogaNow app. For more information, visit www.ddp.yoga.com or www.DDPY.com.
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
‘Every day is Veterans Day’ - Professional wrestler helps change the lives of veterans through fitness
Diamond Dallas Page (DDP) has never been one to let age define his goals—he entered professional wrestling when he was 35 years old and now, after turning 64, remains an example of fitness potential for everybody from professional athletes to those simply yearning to take control of their lives by regaining strength and flexibility in addition to weight loss.
His daily activities often place him in contact with military members who have not only inspired him to participate in morale visits to military bases overseas, but to offer an unprecedented discount for veterans investing in his enhanced DDP Yoga fitness program (recently branded DDPY), which he describes as “yoga for people who wouldn’t be caught dead doing yoga.”
Page recalled, “My father and grandfather were both veterans. Growing up, I wanted to join the Marines, but like so many things in our lives, it didn’t work out.” He added, “But when I later became involved in professional wrestling, it provided me with several opportunities to give back to our veterans.”
In 1998, after being slammed into the mat during a World Championship Wrestling (WCW) match, the future of his career came into question when he discovered he had incurred severe damage to vertebrae in his lower back and might never again wrestle.
“I saw three different spine specialists and each one said my career in wrestling was finished,” said Page. “There was always the possibility of spinal surgery, but that can end up causing severe damage.”
While recuperating at home and pondering his next step, Page’s wife at the time encouraged him to consider trying yoga. Although he affirmed that he was the type of guy that “wouldn’t be caught dead” engaged in such a fitness endeavor, the excruciating pain he experienced helped change his outlook.
“At first, I learned to engage my muscles quite by accident and noticed that it increased my heart rate,” he explained. “Then, I created several modifications along the way and incorporated slow-burn movements and calisthenics into my fitness program. It became a fusion of many approaches and increased my strength, flexibility and endurance.” Excitedly, he added, “Within three months, I was back in the ring.”
Throughout the next several years, Page refined the fitness regimen that helped return him to the ring, eventually morphing into DDPY. The the fitness model has not only helped fellow wrestlers such as Chris Jerico return to ring following injuries, but has introduced him to a veteran whose experiences have inspired countless others in their recovery journeys.
“Several years ago, early in the development of what is now DDPY, I personally contacted everyone through email who invested in the program,” said Page. “In the email, I asked them to respond to six questions, which Arthur Boorman did … and his answers amazed me.”
Page went on to explain that Boorman submitted pictures of himself, revealing he was at the time both morbidly obese and unable to walk without the assistance of crutches and supportive devices. Many of his injuries, Boorman explained, were from his service with the U.S. Army during the Gulf War.
“I didn’t know if I could help him, to be honest with you,” he said. “But I was able to give him a lifestyle change that not only included my fitness program, but an eating plan as well. He certainly changed his life and lost about 140 pounds in ten months … and no longer needs the braces!” he exclaimed.
The weight loss Page has witnessed throughout the years by those using his DDPY is what he describes as a “side effect.” He noted, “I inspired one guy to change his life and Arthur has gone on to inspire millions to change theirs.”
The flexibility and strength Page reclaimed through his tailored fitness endeavors have allowed him to continue his professional wrestling career. Additionally, his popularity as an athlete among members of the armed forces has motivated his participation in several morale visits at military bases overseas.
“I’ve been to Iraq three times and once to Afghanistan,” he explained. “I would take the world title belt with me on the trips and pose for photographs with the troops—I loved doing it!” he enthusiastically remarked.
During one these troop visits, he posed for photographs with a young soldier, Sergeant Christopher C. Simpson, who explained that he was a dedicated fan of the wrestler.
“On a flight home from one of my trips, I got an email from Simpson’s uncle,” Page recalled. “The title of the email read something like ‘Diamond Dallas Page fan killed in the line of duty.’”
The 23-year-old Sgt. Simpson was killed on March 17, 2008, while serving in Iraq. Tears streamed down Page’s face as he read the email from the Simpson’s uncle, inspiring him to contact the fallen soldier’s mother.
“His mother responded to me and I went to visit with her; we helped raise money that was used to dedicate a park in Virginia in his memory,” he said. “There is a picture of him, Sgt. Simpson, hanging in my home and I will never forget him and all that he sacrificed for us.”
Page explained that he is surrounded by veterans on a daily basis and is eager to hear stories of how DDPY has helped many of them reclaim their lives. In respect for the service they performed and the difficulties they have endured while in the military, he gives back through affordable access to his fitness program.
“My program works and the results speak for itself—it’s not a gimmick or a bunch of smoke and mirrors,” he affirmed. “Because of this, I am not one to give a break on the price and am not one inclined to offer discounts.” He continued, “But every day is Veterans Day here at DDPY and I give veterans a 50% discount off the program all of the time.” Pausing, he concluded, “It’s my way of giving back to those who defend our freedoms.”
For more information on DDP Yoga visit www.ddpyoga.com or www.DDPY.com.
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
During her formative years in Centralia, Missouri, Marcella “Marcy” Ng humorously explained that she was raised as a “drug baby”—she was drug into church on Sunday morning or any other time the church doors were open. Raised by her grandparents, Ng affirmed that it was this early immersion in Christian faith that provided her with the foundation to help usher her through difficult times in both her military career and personal life. Graduating from Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri, in 1974, the world began to unfold when she applied for three different universities and received acceptance letters from each one. After visiting with teachers at her former high school, she made the decision to attend University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“There were several people in my family who had served in the medical field as nurses so I wanted to become a doctor,” she said. “That all changed after I became involved in the ROTC program in college,” she added.
Excelling within the military structure, Ng went on to serve as a leader in the cadet corps and was selected to attend U.S. Army Airborne School prior to her senior year at the university. It was during her ROTC training, however, that one of her instructors encouraged her to not only consider a military career, but also contemplate becoming a pilot.
“When I graduated with my English degree in December 1978, I was honored with begin a distinguished military graduate, commissioned a second lieutenant and then sent to Ft. Eustis, Virginia, for the Transportation Officer Basic Course,” she explained. “From there, I traveled to Ft. Rucker (Alabama) to begin flight school.”
It was during her flight training that she was advised that she possessed an unexpected distinction among her training class.
“At some point, I was completing my in-processing at Ft. Rucker and one of the clerks said to me, ‘You’re the first one of you all to come through here,’ which was his way of saying that I was the first African American woman to go through flight school.”
For the next nine months, Ng and her fellow aspiring aviators were introduced to the TH-55 training helicopters before progressing to the larger UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopters that were prevalent in the skies during the Vietnam War. While in flight school, she met Dennis Ng and shortly after her graduation in November 1979, the couple married. With little time to celebrate their recent nuptials, she was sent to Stuttgart, Germany, and received assignment to the 394th Transportation Battalion.
The next three years were a medley of intriguing assignments with Ng spending time as an executive officer in the headquarters and headquarters company in addition to fulfilling the duties of motor officer and dining facility officer. However, she recalls that not every aspect of her time in Germany is a glorious memory.
“I learned that I was the first black officer and first woman in the unit,” she said. “I served under a commanding officer who, in the nicest terms, lacked integrity and I was eventually disqualified from flight service because of discrimination … but I let it go because I lacked any solid proof.”
Despite the stresses of this period, Ng maintains that God was always at work in her life and continued to open new doors. She returned to the United States in 1983 to complete the Transportation Officer Advanced Course and within the next year assumed command of her own company at Ft. Hood, Texas. Proving her competency as a leader and demonstrating her organizational abilities in her professional endeavors, her personal life grew as she and her husband became parents to three children and were blessed to remain stationed together during a large part of their individual military careers.
Her progression as an officer continued in the ensuing years while she performed duty in locations such as Korea and, in 1989, was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division (Light) at Ft. Ord, California. During this period, she was sent briefly to Panama in support of infantry brigades shortly before “Operation Just Cause”—the U.S. invasion of Panama.
“In 1991, I was promoted to major and later completed my Command and General Staff Officers Course,” she explained. “I truly had an enjoyable career filled with a number of great duty assignments, but one highlight was when I was selected as executive officer and acting commander for the 24th Transportation Battalion at Ft. Eustis.”
Her career eventually resulted in promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel and included time in command of a transportation battalion at Ft. Hood. Although she continued to enjoy her career and the varied opportunities it offered, in September 2000, she made the decision to retire.
“It was time to settle down with my children,” she said.
She now lives in Texas and enjoys spending time with her husband, who also retired as a lieutenant colonel. Even though she no longer maintains the frenetic schedule of an Army officer, she has gone on to serve as a director of a pregnancy center and currently manages an event venue owned by her family.
Although her life, rich in treasured memories, might serve as a template of encouragement for others, Ng maintains it is her walk with God that has provided her enduring peace and established the path for her career.
“If my experiences of getting through all the hard knocks during my military career can serve as an inspiration for other black women, then that is fantastic,” she said. “But there is someone else responsible for giving me the opportunities I enjoyed. There were many tough times when I wanted to give up, and so I prayed and spoke with the Lord and he then spoke to my heart … he encouraged me to stick it out. When I started praying and following after the Lord,” she added, “that’s when my career and life begin to change for the better.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
All too often, veterans of WWII describe their service in a manner that moderates the importance of the contributions they have made, dismissing any notion of heroism or stellar performance. Though he admits that he is proud of his service as a pilot during the war, Jefferson City, Mo., veteran Charlie Palmer chose to summarize his own military experience with the simple, straightforward assertion, “I did my bit, what I was trained to do.”
Born in Plainfield, New Jersey, in 1924, Palmer explained that the majority of his early years were spent living with his sister and her husband since his father died when he was a child and his mother was in failing health. He went on to graduate from high school in 1942 and, during the heart of World War II, made the decision to take the Air Corps exam “because I wanted to be a pilot,” he affirmed.
“There really is no easy answer as to why, but the best way that I can explain it is that I just liked the idea of flying; I liked airplanes and my heart always seemed to be set on that notion,” he said.
After passing the battery of required military exams and physicals, the aspiring aviator officially entered service at the induction center at Fort Dix, New Jersey, followed by his transfer to the Air Corps Training Command in San Antonio, Texas. It was here, the veteran explained, that he underwent additional testing to determine his suitability for service as a pilot, bombardier or navigator.
“I passed all of the tests and qualified for pilot,” Palmer recalled. “That’s when I started several weeks of pre-flight training and we began to receive instruction in subjects such as math, Morse code, aircraft recognition and map reading.” He continued, “Then they sent me to an airfield in Muskogee, Okla., for several weeks of primary flight training. That’s where I learned to fly a Fairchild PT-19, which was a twin-seat plane with an open cockpit.”
Soloing on this first aircraft after eight hours of instruction, the aspiring pilot’s training progressed when he was transferred to Greenville, Texas, for basic flight training in the Vultee BT-13, learning more advanced techniques including formation flying, cross country and night flying. He progressed to twin-engine training in Houston, Texas, where he earned his wings and was commissioned a second lieutenant. For the next several months, he continued his training aboard additional types of aircraft at several airfields throughout Texas. Eventually, he received assignment to Barksdale Field near Austin, where he refined his aviation skills aboard a Douglas C-47 military transport aircraft.
“Basically, I spent most of my time in the United States training at several different locations for about six to eight weeks at a time,” Palmer said. “I then went overseas from Alliance, Nebraska, to Chalgrove Field in Oxfordshire, England in December 1944.”
As Palmer explained, he was assigned to a Pathfinder unit. This duty, he further noted, required the pilots to take off when visibility was limited, fly a mission that included dropping resupplies or paratroopers, and then returning to their home base, all of this under instrument conditions. This overseas assignment also resulted in their aircraft flying supply missions during which Palmer helped deliver hundreds of five-gallon cans of gasoline for the assorted vehicles and tanks that General Patton’s Third Army used in its relentless push across Southern Germany.
“One mission that I distinctly remember flying was with the 15th Airborne Division and named ‘Operation Varsity,’” he said. “We flew a couple of minutes past the Rhine near Wesel, Germany and dropped paratroopers to reinforce the British troops that were already there and then returned to base.” He added, “There were other groups that had to fly further on to make their drops.” Pausing, he solemnly concluded, “They were getting shot up something terrible. I thought for sure that I was going to get hit on that mission, but we all made it back.”
Following the war’s end in May 1945, Palmer flew several non-combat missions before returning to the United States in early June 1945. He completed the remainder of his service as a C-47 instructor in Battle Creek, Mich., training new pilots until receiving his discharge on December 5, 1945. The former aviator went on to attend college at the University of Newark (now Rutgers University), earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration. In the ensuing years, he pursued a sales career path, which included working for such companies as Warner Lambert, Monsanto, and Bank Building in St. Louis, 7-Up in Clayton and later as an independent training consultant.
He and his wife have resided in Jefferson City for many years, where he has remained active in the community by volunteering with the Lewis and Clark Task Force (serving seven years as the organization’s chairman), JC Parks and Recreation and Missouri Archives.
The veteran affirms that when reflecting on his service, he does not view himself as having done anything “special” during the war, instead he chooses to lavish credit on his fellow soldiers and aviators who did not make it home. However, he recognizes that the brief time he spent as a military pilot did teach him the significance of preparation.
“There were always things that we had to learn so that all of us would be ready,” Palmer noted. “During the training, I never felt like we were being rushed through; I could tell that they wanted us to be prepared for whatever we might face. That’s demonstrated when I lost an engine on a takeoff and landed safely. You had to master your aircraft and if you weren’t prepared, you had a problem. To that end,” he affirmed, “I am proud to say that I was a pilot—there’s no question about that!”
The 95-year-old Charles "Charlie" Franklin Palmer passed away on November 24, 2019.
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
‘Different backgrounds’ - First generation American served with U.S. Army rocket battalion in Cold War
As a first-generation citizen of the United States, Dennis Oppenheim learned at an early age that opportunities might present themselves in the most unexpected fashion. Raised by Danish immigrants in the bustling city of Chicago, he soon discovered the valuable lessons provided to him through service in the Cold War-era armed forces.
“I started high school in Chicago in 1953 but decided to quit school in 1955 and went to work for a year,” Oppenheim recalled. “On my eighteenth birthday (March 1956), I was required to sign up for the draft but decided to enlist in the U.S. Army the following month,” he added.
As the veteran explained, the Army offered a three-year enlistment period whereas the Navy and Air Force required a new recruit to commit to a term of four years. Shortly after signing his enlistment papers in April 1956, he boarded a bus for Fort Leonard Wood to complete eight weeks of basic training. Upon graduation, he was granted twelve days of leave to return home before reporting to his next duty assignment at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“They placed me in the 550th Field Artillery (Battalion) and I started out training as a launcher crewman with the ‘Honest John’ rocket,” Oppenheim said.
The MGR-1 Honest John was a nuclear-armed surface-to-surface rocket developed in the early 1950s and later adapted to use conventional and chemical warheads. It is considered the first tactical nuclear weapon of the U.S.
Following his arrival at the Texas base, the decision was made to convert his military occupational specialty to that of atomic warhead specialist and he was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to learn the skills associated with his newly appointed duty assignment.
“It was supposed to be a four-week course that they crammed into two weeks,” he said. “In order to launch the rocket, you have to complete a sequence of steps using boxes with switches and lights. During the training, we had to demonstrate that we were able to complete the entire launch sequence in five minutes.”
The young soldier returned to Ft. Bliss for a number of months to continue refining his skills as part of a rocket crew; however, his battalion was sent to White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico, where they spent approximately nine months performing launch exercises. While in New Mexico, he was able to finish the high school studies he had deserted a few years earlier by earning his GED. Once the battalion returned to Ft. Bliss from their training at White Sands, there was little down time to be enjoyed since Oppenheim and a small group of soldiers was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for a unique training assignment.
“They sent us to Fort Bragg to make a training film for the airborne troops to demonstrate the use of the ‘Little John,’” Oppenheim said. The MGR-3 Little John, he explained, was a smaller artillery rocket system designed for deployment in airborne assault operations.
Weeks later, he returned to Ft. Bliss but the battalion was soon on their way to the country of Panama for another unexpected opportunity—the testing of a new warhead design for the Honest John.
“We spent a couple weeks in the middle of the jungle,” he recalled. “The warhead we tested would come apart near the target and shoot out a bunch of smaller balls that flew in different directions and then exploded.” He added, “We had targets set up and fired two separate test rockets while we were there to measure the amount of damage they could inflict on enemy forces.”
The exercise in Panama would become his final temporary duty assignment since he returned to Ft. Bliss and finished out the remainder of his enlistment in April 1959. Despite the offer of reenlistment and travel to Turkey to teach the rocket system to Turkish soldiers, he admitted he was homesick and ready to return to Chicago.
For more than 18 years, Oppenheim was employed by the Chicago Transit Authority and, in 1976, married his fiancée, Jan. Wishing to leave the “rate race” of Chicago life and to raise their children in a quieter environment, the couple moved to Jefferson City in the summer of 1977.
“I worked for the Department of Corrections for about 18 months and then went to work for the old Capital City Water Company, spending 22 years with them,” he said. “In 1981, I enlisted in the Missouri National Guard and became a cook until retiring from there in 1998.”
In addition to having worked part time as a cook at St. Peter Interparish School and with Jefferson City Public Schools, Oppenheim and his wife have volunteered with Operation Bugle Boy—a nonprofit organization that honors veterans, military members and first responders. When asked about the impact of his service with the U.S. Army during a Cold War period that was sandwiched between the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the first-generation American asserts that it was for him an honor to have had the opportunity to serve the nation that was first home to his parents.
“I just love this country and everything it represents,” Oppenheim said. “I loved being in the Army and all of the wonderful people that I came into contact with because of it.” In mirthful reflection, he concluded, “We all came from different backgrounds and communities but learned how to work together to get the job done. To this day, I can still remember all the names of most of the people that I served with.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Jeremy P. Amick is a military historian and author dedicated to preserving our nation's military legacies.