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Class Notes Forth Quarter 2019

USMA 1965 Class Notes – Despatches #58 – 191712 -- MSWord

Interment of Steve Darrah

Dear Classmates,

Below is Bob Radcliffe’s report on the interment of Steve Darrah in Arlington National Cemetery on 12 December. Steve’s celebration of life was reported earlier.


Our Classmate Stephen C. Darrah was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery on 12 December. Classmates and others attended the Memorial Service at the Old Post Chapel and the honors at graveside. Steve’s son’s Clark and Greg walked over a mile with the caisson to the gravesite. They said their Dad would call them “wimps” if they didn’t walk it! We all enjoyed time with Steve’s wife Wanda and her family members at the reception following the services. It was a cold but beautiful day at Fort Myer and the Old Guard did their customary wonderful job with the honors!

Fitttingly, Steve’s two Beast Barracks roommates (Bob Clover and Bob Frank) were present for the funeral service and burial. The Class has lost another of our most memorable Classmates!

L-R: Terry Ryan, Jim Wood, Bob Harter, Pete Cahill, Bob Frank (back), Steve Ammon (partially hidden), Larry Neal, Jack Koletty, Bob Cato, Barrie Zais, Jim Ferguson, George Bell, Dan Christman, Jim Murphy, Chuck McCloskey, Mike Applin, Ric Shinseki, Bob Radcliffe, and Walt Kulbacki. Absent from the picture: Bob Clover

John C. Thompson Memorial Service

Dear Classmates,

This issue of Despatches is entirely devoted to Bob Frank’s report on the memorial service held for our much lamented Classmate, the late John C. Thompson, MG, USA (Ret’d.), on 4 December at Ft. Myer. Also appended are three eulogies delivered by Sonny Ray, a young journalist who knew John, and one of his daughters.

A number of you have contacted me asking the circumstances of John’s death. In that it was made a matter of public record, I feel that I violate no confidence in stating that he was struck by a car on upper Duke Street in Alexandria, VA, while negotiating a crosswalk. John was but the most recent in a series of Classmates whom we have lost due to accident or misadventure: Mike Berdy (helo crash, RVN), Charlie Brown (struck by prematurely released sling load while guiding in ammo resupply, RVN), Tony Borrego (killed by misdirected friendly artillery fire, RVN), Wayne Scholl (lost at sea, presumed drowned), Mike Thompson (house fire), Jaimie Bryant (helo crash, Ranger training mission), Jim Echols (plane crash, Alaska), and Marv Jeffcoat (lost with elements of his battalion shortly after takeoff from Gander, NFLD) come immediately to mind.

Life is a hazardous business, though acknowledging that in no way assuages the pain of losing a friend and Classmate of John’s caliber. I take some comfort in the knowledge that when John was among us, he was there 100%, ready to do anything he could to make our lives easier and more pleasant. Envisioning his beaming face will make many a taxing hour more bearable for me.


On 4 December, family, Classmates and friends gathered in the Ft. Myer Memorial Chapel to pay respects to our Classmate John C. Thompson. While it was a deeply sad occasion because of the tragic nature of John’s passing, the mood was tempered by the many people who turned out to honor John and to support the family. Linda Thompson, bolstered by her two daughters, Heather and Johanna, and their families, was strong in her grief and took some comfort from the many who gathered. The service began at 0930 hours with the West Point Alumni Glee Club singing ‘Mansions of the Lord.’ This was followed by those present singing ‘Amazing Grace.’ The service included two pieces that were dear to John: ‘I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry’ and ‘Bring Him Home’ (from Les Misérables).

Three eulogies were delivered and are attached below. Sonny Ray delivered the first one, testifying to the special affection in which John was held by his Classmates and the Army. The second eulogy came from Mary Anastasia O’Grady, a journalist with whom John had forged a bond through their work on Latin America (especially, Colombia).
Johanna Thompson Wynne spoke last, recalling the dad her sister and she loved and admired. All three talks brought home how John lived his life in a truly remarkable way.

The reception was held at the Army Navy Country Club, of which John and Linda were members. Nearly 200 people attended, including numerous individuals from Latin American militaries. Linda greeted everyone and spoke briefly about the gift that John gave her and the family by lives he touched, as embodied by those present and those unable to attend.

Above: Johanna Thompson Wynne and John C. Thompson

Left to right: Mike Applin (partially hidden), Nick Principe, Pete Linn, Ric Shinseki, Dan Christman, Sonny Ray, Ray Hawkins, Pete Cahill, John Salomone (partially hidden), Ed Simpson, Joe Sanchez, Jim Murpphy, Barrie Zais, Karl Savatiel, Bob Frank, Terry Ryan.

Not shown: Lynne DeFrancisco, Linda Concannon, Steve Ammon, Jack Koletty, Colin Halvorson

Sonny Ray’s Remarks:

It is with a heavy heart and an immense sense of honor and responsibility that I speak at John’s memorial service. I was John’s classmate and roommate at West Point and also his ranger buddy during Ranger School. He was most of all my friend. Although I never had the opportunity to serve with John in the army, we stayed in touch over the years, particularly after retirement. Among classmates, roommates and ranger buddies there can be no airs, pretensions or arrogance. We knew each other too well and these facades were quickly extinguished with a quick barb or if the circumstances required a more graphic and base reply.

During the entire time of knowing John, I found him to be the same person he was as my roommate and ranger buddy some 54 years ago with an absolute devotion to the country, sensitive and concerned about those less fortunate, a deep love of his family. And yes, he loved animals, especially his little white Westies, liza and

Walter. His passion for life itself permeated his every undertaking. Those of you who knew John well know that he did not fit the pattern for a personal eulogy. He lived his life to the fullest and the usual euphemisms are not sufficiently descriptive.

John and I first met as plebes at West Point. I can’t recall the details of the meeting but it was most likely hurried with very little information being exchanged. We did however establish that we were both from Alabama, John from Mobile and i from the small country town of Red Bay. This small tenuous thread led us to embark on a lifelong friendship.

From the very beginning I realized that John was much more polished and confident than I and he exuded a sense of optimism that appeared stronger during difficult times. This sense of optimism exceed the normal boundaries of what could be expressed as mere optimism. As I gathered information for this eulogy, many people with whom I spoke had observed the same characteristic under a number of different circumstances. As I struggled with this speech, I realized that this trait of John could only be expressed not as mere optimism or an unusually effervescent personality. John delighted to be in the moment and playing the cards that he had been dealt. And along the way spreading to all around him the same confidence and optimism to play their own cards. Many people are described as working hard and playing hard. But John worked and played hard at the same time, because for him there was only a small difference between the two.

Growing up in Mobile, John was involved in numerous after school activities. One of these was a love of popular music. As part of his fraternity responsibilities he often scouted up and coming bands and booked them for events. In 1961 John recorded a live event performed by Slim Harpo in the school gymnasium. He used primitive school equipment to record the event which won a Grammy in the hall of fame category in 2008.....some 57 years after it was recorded.

Coming to West Point was a perfect fit for John. The Academy provided numerous voluntary activities to keep cadets busy and John availed himself to a startling number of these activities ranging from Spanish club to sky diving and from mathematics forum to skeet shooting.

John’s exuberance was not dampened even in what was dubbed the gloom period of January, February and March. While many of us struggled to meet only the required activities such as academics, parades, inspections and physical training, John found time to instruct classmates in his room after taps. These were cadets who had been relegated to the elephant squad (these were cadets who had been auditioned by the cadet hostess and found lacking in social graces).

Coming from Mobile and Louisiana John had rhythm and knew every popular song of the time including the lyrics and could sing it, dance to it, hum it. And with his personality could infect other more reticent students to the point that they felt with John’s ad hoc instruction they were budding Fred Astaires and became comfortable doing the twist on Saturday night in the Weapons Room with actual young ladies.

Upon graduation, John was commissioned into armor branch and entered airborne and ranger schools. During ranger school even in the most daunting and exhaustive circumstances, John could inspire others to “”drive on”, “keep it together “and most of all “continue the mission”. One incident of this type sticks particularly in mind— after completing 8 weeks of ranger school with another week to go we were all exhausted as we busied ourselves getting ready for one of our last patrols suddenly out this gloomy and solemn group, John breaks into an acapella rendition of “save the last dance for me” using a c ration can as a microphone. John was quickly joined by another classmate, Denny Lewis singing backup and tapping on a c-ration can to keep the rhythm. Everyone stopped their preparations and stood dumbstruck as we listened delightedly to this spontaneous display of pure joy. John was just enjoying the experience. He did not wait around for an invitation to be happy himself or to spread this happiness to the entire platoon and as always it was just John being himself.

After entering the Army John went to his first assignment as an armor platoon leader in the 4th Division in Europe and had successive assignments within the Division until he rotated to Vietnam. There he joined the 4th Calvary of the 25th division and received an unusual mission (for an armored cav platoon), to leave their tanks and load up helicopters and conduct an air assault to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter. John's flexibility, leadership and improvisational skills were amply demonstrated in that mission. He received a bronze star with v for his actions. John became the aide-de-camp to the deputy division commander and then moved up to become the aide-de-camp to the division commander.

Upon returning from Vietnam, John held a variety of command and staff positions at Fort Meade Maryland before reporting to Middlebury College to study Spanish for a graduate degree and become an assistant professor of Spanish at West Point for three years. This tour in turn predicted his career later on as a Latin American specialist. And during this time he met a lovely young graduate student, Linda Limbacher, whom he wooed and married some two years later.

John then entered the second phase of his career attending the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and upon graduation held several staff jobs with the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood Texas. During this time at Fort Hood, John and Linda’s first child, Heather, was born. He left Fort Hood for an assignment to the army personnel management center here in Arlington.

He left this position on the army staff to become commander of First Battalion 68th Armored Regiment at Wildflecken, Germany. In the era of the cold war, John’s battalion was truly the tip of the spear because their mission was to plug the Fulda Gap in the event of war. This was a tense and ominous responsibility that John undertook in stride but never changing his personality. A member of an infantry battalion also stationed at Wildflicken observed that 1-68 Armor always seemed to be walking a thin line between a unit commendation and a court martial. This was John being John, testing boundaries in order to do the best job he could with what he had.

Not for his own aggrandizement but for the unit and the country. A review of John’s actions over his career might lead one to erroneously conclude that he had a knack for coming down on the right side of the line but upon a more expansive examination one could only conclude that it was not a knack at all but hard work derived from his tenacious passion to achieve a goal.

The birth of John’s second daughter Johanna occurred during this tour. The Soviets must also have known about John’s passionate pursuit of his goals because they stayed on their side of the line.

This tour of duty ended for John when he was selected to attend the National War College and be a senior fellow at the National Defense University. Upon graduation, John had a very short tour as director of evaluation and standardization at Fort Knox before becoming commander of first brigade of the Second Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas.

Upon completion of this tour, he held positions at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas as Deputy Director of Leader Development Study and Deputy Director and Chief of Staff for the Command and Staff College, before becoming Deputy Director for Operations (J-3) for the National Military Command center in the Pentagon. During this tour, John was promoted to Brigadier General and was sent to Fort Polk Louisiana as the Assistant Division Commander.

The next tour of duty took John to Panama to become the Director of Operations (J-
3) for the Southern Command, where he worked tirelessly on a number of successful counter drug operations. He returned to Washington DC and became Commanding General of the Total Army Personnel Command.

From this post John went to his last assignment as chairman the Inter American defense board (IADB) This assignment was John’s long lasting contribution to the security and freedom of South and Central American countries. The IADB is committed to ensuring its students a higher education that contributes to the future of multidimensional defense and security in the Americas and supports the four pillars of democracy, human rights, security, and development.

John worked tirelessly in this effort, by meeting with nearly every president in South and Central America to personally deliver the message of the IADB and obtain their support for the four pillars of the organization. He fought for democracy and the people of all countries in concert with the complicated political relationships in the area.. Within this framework John made an indelible imprint on the region.

John retired four years later in June 2000.

I hope that in this short time i have conveyed John’s special character and the enormity of his contribution to the security of his nation and many others. We will all miss John ... may he rest in peace.

Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s Remarks

I’m a journalist who had the good fortune of getting to know General Thompson because of his work in Latin America. I’d like to share a few thoughts about this remarkable man who leaves an indelible legacy in the world he touched.

The first time I met General Thompson was back in the early 2000s, on a trip to Pereira, in the western coffee growing region of Colombia. A Colombian businessman from Bogota who was in the army reserves had organized a conference, and we were both invited. The conference was designed to highlight the realities of living, as Colombians do, with the extreme cruelty of the country’s Marxist guerrillas. In truth I remember very little about the conference itself.

What sticks in my mind is the way in which the Colombian military rolled out the red carpet for General Thompson. They showed him the greatest admiration and respect and went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure his safety. Over the years I came to understand why that was.

General Thompson was an accomplished student of history and language. But what I saw in him, and what made me trust him, was his lived humility, something frankly that is too often missing in people who rise to levels of power. When Americans travel in the region they have a reputation for looking down on our neighbors. Not General Thompson.

He was self-assured and he always seemed to me confident, not only in himself but in the eventuality that good in the end would triumph over evil--even when good seemed to be losing badly. But with that self-confidence, there was a genuine humility that allowed him to encounter others as equal in their humanity, regardless of their stature in life. I think this must have made him an inspirational leader.

When I first met General Thompson I was trying to learn fast and on my feet, as we journalists often have to do.    I came from a finance background. But Colombia was on my beat and that meant learning about things like guerrilla warfare and fighting organized crime and military history and strategy and human rights.

How lucky was I to meet General Thompson, who readily shared with me his knowledge and insights but also his accumulated, intangible wisdom from years in the field. That’s not something you can look up in a book. You only get access to it if those who come before you are willing to take the time to invest in you.

He was unselfish with his time, I think because he so believed in the importance of getting to the truth and telling the story. He took the time to understand the countries where his work took him. In the end, for Gen. Thompson, it was about the lives of real people, most of whom he would never meet but all of whom he believed deserved to live in peace and freedom.

I lost track of how many times I asked him for a contact or a piece of information and he would get it for me. He introduced me to countless sources and very often just let me bounce a thought off of him or vent about the political class in some far-off country in the region.

Some people do this sort of thing for me because they think it may advance their book, or their name or fund raising for their latest project. He did it because he cared about justice.

Over the last two weeks I’ve seen a lot of people who knew General Thompson commenting in cyber space on how he was always there in time of need. I think he just hated to see suffering and if he could think of something to do to ease pain, he would get right on it.

My father was an officer in the U.S. Navy in World War II. When General Thompson learned my father had passed away in 2003, he immediately offered to help my family get recognition at his funeral for his Navy service. It was a kindness that brought the tiniest sliver of light to a dark moment.

The truest measure of generosity is doing something for someone who can never pay you back. General Thompson met that test and soared above it. His passing leaves a hole in our hearts. May we be comforted in the hope we all have that he is at peace and enjoying a much-deserved reward.

Johanna Thompson Wynne’s Remarks

Dear Family, Friends and esteemed guests from all reaches – My mother, Heather and I thank you for being here today as we celebrate the life our father, dear mentor, and now guardian angel known to most of you as John Thompson. As his daughters, obviously we knew him as Dad and to him we were “Sugar,” “Sug,” or number one or number two daughter – the latter characterization he would use to lovingly tease us.

Our father was lots of things to lots of people...devoted American, accomplished Officer, dear friend, teacher. Yet his most proud role was that of father. He loved our mother, Heather and me with every fiber in his being and was incredibly proud of us and our families to include all three of his amazing grandchildren Emma, Anneke and John.
Those are the only things I’m certain of in the confusion of all of this.

I don’t want to be here. None of us do. The way he was taken makes no sense and is in such direct opposition to the way he lived. This fact makes bearing his loss and the trauma of it all the more devastatingly difficult. But here we are and in these recent days where the world has seemingly stood still I’ve repeatedly asked myself what my father would want, how he would expect me to behave and what he would tell me if he were here.

I don’t know for sure but I do know that he would want us to be grateful. That’s who he was. Grateful. He would be grateful for the lengths you’ve traveled and the roles that each and every one of you have played in his and his loved ones lives. He would want us to keep our shoulders back and down and head held high. And he’d want to comfort each of us, he would hate to see any of us sad and yet he would also understand. I know that he is trying in every way he can from up high to try make us all feel better.

And moving forward, he’d want us to make the most of each day, to treat people with love, to always be kind and to help people at every opportunity. If there any phrase I could capture from him to Heather and me outside of “I love you” it would be “how can I help?”

On my flight here from Texas I spent a few minutes writing down all that I was thankful for when reflecting upon my father and his life. With little effort and in a matter of minutes I had over twelve pages of thoughts – front and back and was just getting started.

From the seemingly insignificant acts like helping me put on my swim cap before I could do it on my own and driving us to offensively early swim practices, cutting us bowls of oranges for breakfast or personally designing a smiley face with icing on a toaster strudel before driving me to school almost every morning….To the more complex, like relearning algebraic equations after he got home from a long day of work to reteach me things I couldn’t quite get the hang of, or taking precise splits of our swim races at our meets to track our performance over time, everything he did was out of love and to make us better. He was kind to our friends and engaged with our coaches, teachers and colleagues. And always, he was so sincere, so genuine.

I’ll carry with me the bad jokes we loved sharing, and memories of dancing together in our many and various living and dining rooms – him steadying me with his hands as he moved me along with my feet atop his, his encouragement teaching me how to ride my bike or his attempts to build my confidence and ability to execute Army land navigation. To him, the importance of knowing how to read a map could never be overstated.

Heather and I cherish his reading of his favorite poems to us, singing us his favorite songs, sharing with us his love of so many other things – from football and baseball to red beans and rice and Latin American short stories, literature and most importantly, people. And while all of those things brought him happiness, service to others and improvements to the processes to help them reach their true potential brought him the greatest joy.

Our Dad had an unfaltering belief in the goodness and potential of all humans whatever their fortune in life. I saw that and continue to see that in the eyes of people who knew him. In love for him, people always took great care to share wonderful stories of how special they found him to be when they learned we were his daughters.

He was always looking out for us – I’ll never forget getting called into the offices of former West Point students of his, Generals Freakley and Rodriguez on my first deployment to Afghanistan where they served as Combined Joint Task Force Commanders – I’ll never be certain what exactly my Dad said but I’m pretty sure in the case of contacting General Freakley he said that he’d sent ME to look after him. I recall both the slight embarrassment but mostly pride and relief associated with my Dad making sure I knew he was there best he could be. Heather has many a similar story from her volunteer time serving in the Peace Corps in Honduras. He never sought out special treatment for us but he always appreciated the sacrifices we made as children in support of his career and wanted us to know he had our backs always and no matter what.

I see that in each of you here. You’re here because you either loved him or you love us and the latter is the direct result of the affection and direction both he and my mother provided us and a testament to the formidable partnership they shared in raising us.

I remember the tears he would shed when saying goodbye to me or my sister when he wasn’t sure how long it would be before he saw us again. Much to the frustration of potential suitors, it wasn’t abnormal for us to prefer hanging out with our parents than going out. Whatever the circumstance, Dad never hesitated to drop or pick my sister or me up wherever we needed to go. Day or night, there was truly never such a thing as an inconvenient phone call, he was always happy to hear from us and always ready to be there. I will say, the 2 AM calls were never his preference – but if they were made, he would come running.

Other funny things come to mind, for example, that he had me convinced that push- ups were fun and that running ten miles was an easy day. In fact, we did multiple Army ten milers together (Judy Bauer can attest to this) and his favorite was certainly just a few years ago when my sister and I and both our husbands all ran together. Somehow I’m reminded of the time he conspired with my sister to convince six year old me that dog treats were tasty. If he were here he would probably say “oh Jobie – we never did that” and chuckle heartily. And the point is, he loved to joke, to laugh and teach us to never take anything, especially ourselves, too seriously.

The more I attempt to go on, the more I realize I will never do these remarks justice because there is simply far too much to say about how wonderful a man, father and friend he was to every person and organization he touched, and arguably, the world.

Dad, I am at such a loss right now. At the moment, all of our lives seem so much lesser without you physically in them. I promise that we will do our best to stay strong and continue to live for you and for all those you promised to live on for.

You will always be remembered for your warmth and generosity, your commitment to others, your brilliance, larger than life optimism, and your great big heart. Thank you for teaching us how to appreciate the full range of human experience - both life’s complexities and its simple pleasures; that there are rarely any easy answers but there are always ways to make a difference.

Dad, even in this time of unbelievable loss and pain, please know that with every vibration of our hearts, Heather and I feel our profound fortune to be your daughters. And simply that through your love, you have given us the world.

God Speed, Dad – Heaven only knows what’s in store for you next.

Well Done Dan Speilman

The Class of 1965 bade farewell to one of its most distinguished members, Dan Speilman … soldier, physician, loving husband, doting father, faithful friend. Mike Applin and Oleh Koropey, who visited Dan during the final phase of his illness, also volunteered to serve as co-POCs, representing the Class and rendering such assistance to the family as was needed. Mike and Oleh filed the report below:

“Dan's funeral was held with full honors at the Old Post Chapel at Joint Base Meyer - Henderson Hall on Wednesday the 20th of November, with burial in Arlington National Cemetery not far from Nancy's family on the hill above.

“Classmates attending included Mike Applin, Joe Barkley, Pete Cahill, Joe DeFrancisco, Jim Ferguson, Bob Frank, Bob Harter, Oleh Koropey, Pete Linn, Jim Murphy, Ric Shinseki, Mike Viani, Bob Wolff, and Bernie Ziegler. “Pete Linn and Pete Cahill participated as members of the Alumni Glee Club under the able direction of Jim Ferguson.

“Nancy and family are deeply appreciative of the Class of 65’s participation.”

L-R, Joe DeFrancisco, Mike Applin, Bob Wolff, Joe Barkley, Bernie Ziegler, Mike Viani, Bob Frank, Bob Harter, Oleh Koropey, Jim Murphy and Jim Ferguson. Attending but not pictured were Rick Shinseki, Pete Linn, and Pete Cahill.

Our profound thanks to Mike and Oleh for their help.
Grip hands!

USMA1965 Class Notes – Despatches #55 – 191120

Crossing the Bar. It was a month for bittersweet remembrance, as three of our number joined the Long Grey Line.

Denny Hawker Remembered

Denny Hawker was remembered in his Arizona homeland by a collection of Classmates from near and far. Fred Laughlin, our POC, reports below:

“It was a brief, but thoughtful ceremony, which included a testimony from LtGen John Regni, the former Supe at USAFA. He and Denny had worked together on John McCain’s committee for vetting candidates for the various academies. USMA ’65 was well- represented, including one Jim Murphy, who flew to Phoenix from Virginia just to honor his company-mate. Unfortunately, Jim, who deserved a much more prominent profile, is seen in the photo protruding only slightly from Bob Hill’s right ear.

“Diane Hawker was especially touched by the response from the class, including Terry Ryan’s ensuring the flag arrived on time.

“Another example of the Distinguished Class of ’65 showing why it is so labeled.”

L-R, Ed Foehl, the Laughlins, the Lawsons, Jim Murphy (behind Bob Hill), Bob Hill, the Ellenbogens, the Paleys, and the Hagies.

Jack Thomasson’s life Remembered

Jack Thomasson’s life was remembered in North Carolina by another contingent from among the many Classmates who loved him, as John Malpass, our POC, recounts. The celebration of Jack’s life was held at the clubhouse at Pinehurst #9, a venue where Jack was not unknown by any means. A photo is on the next page.

L-R, Sonny Ray, John Malpass, Karl Savatiel, Sandy Hallenbeck, Chuck Mosely, John Vann, Steve Harmon, Larry Neal, Dean Loftin, Bob Wolf, Bill Bradburn, Ric Shinseki, George Bell, Bob Radcliffe, Bill Tillman

Omar Rood

Though Omar specified that no ceremony for him be held, and will be inurned at a later date in the Veterans’ Cemetery in Ft. Snelling, MN, Jay Vaughn, our Arizona POC, has sent along an obituary that appeared in the local paper in Crookston, MN, Omar’s home town:

Omar Edwin Rood Jr.

1943 - 2019

Omar Edwin Rood Jr., age 75, of Arivaca, AZ and formerly of Crookston, MN, passed away October 24th, 2019 with his beloved friend Monica Manning by his side.

Omar is preceded in death by his parents Florence and Omar Rood Sr and brother Richard Rood. He is survived by his daughter Erika (Paul) Rood-Regier, son Charles (Sarah) Chevalier Rood, siblings Judith (John) Sundvor, Joel (Leslye) Rood, Cynthia Rood and Lori (David) Larson, beloved friend Monica Manning and many loving nieces, nephews and cousins.

Omar was born in Crookston Minnesota on December 14, 1943, the son of Omar and Florence (Steer) Rood. He spent his childhood and youth in Crookston. He attended Crookston Central High School, and participated in speech, debate and served as Senior Class President. He graduated from Central High School in 1961.

During his high school years, he worked for his father's company and a local floral company. He spent the summer of 1960 working at an island resort in Lake of the Woods, just a short swim from the Canadian border.

He entered West Point Military Academy graduating in 1965 with the Army engineer officer's commission.

His military assignments included the University of Illinois Civil Engineering Graduate School where he was awarded a Masters Degree in the spring of 1967. He then attended Army Ranger School and a short two-month assignment at Fort Carson Colorado en route to Vietnam.

Sent to Vietnam in September 1967, he was a combat engineer platoon leader for the 9th Infantry Division supporting a mechanized infantry battalion south of Saigon. Upon promotion to captain he became a construction company commander. These forces were based around the Mekong Delta and all came under attack during the Tet Offensive in 1968. He served as the advisor to the civilian province engineer, and he also worked with village elders on small projects to improve their communities.

Upon returning to the United States he was assigned to teach bridge design and structural engineering at the US Army Engineer School, Fort Belvoir.

After Thai language school, he arrived in Thailand in February 1970 as an advisor to the royal army engineers in Northeast Thailand where he spent a year.

In the spring of 1971, he resigned his commission when he came back to the United States.

That fall, he went to work at the Construction Engineering Research Lab (CERL), a new Army research lab associated with the University of Illinois.

In 1974, Omar was awarded the Engineer of the Year by CERL and also was awarded his PhD from the University of Illinois.

In the fall of 1977, during an Executive Development Assignment in Washington DC, he decided to take a year off and return to his home town of Crookston, MN.

In the spring of 1979, he decided to stay in Crookston and took a job at WSN Engineers. In 1980, he ran unsuccessfully for the Minnesota State Legislature. Two years later, he was elected to the Crookston School Board and served two terms from 1983-1989. During this time period, he also served six years on the governing board of Prairie Public (TV and Radio).

Omar started JOR engineering in 1987 as an engineering consulting company to provide water resources engineering to local units of government.

He joined MTS Systems Corporation in 1995 as an international project manager for custom earthquake simulation test equipment. It was the perfect job for him because each project was custom and therefore provided unique challenges. He enjoyed the international travel and working in foreign research laboratories (governments and academic institutions).

In this position, he served as MTS' representative as a subcontractor on the world's largest 6DoF seismic simulator in Japan.

It was from that position that he retired in 2009 and moved to Arizona in January 2010. In retirement, he lived in the countryside near the small village of Arivaca. Just nine miles from the Mexican border, Arivaca is a wonderful, eclectic, tight-knit community of people with amazing backgrounds from around the country. He was proud to serve on the Arivaca Fire District Board and loved helping his community.

Omar was so proud of his children, Erika Regier-Rood and Charlie Chevalier Rood. He was the oldest of five siblings, who all knew he was there for them no matter what was needed. Omar's brilliant intellect was a marvel to all who knew him. He was a loyal friend and loved his family and friends deeply. Omar loved to read, play cards, ski and putter in his garage.

Memorial donations may be made to the:
Arivaca Fire District Emergency Services, PO Box 416, Arivaca, AZ 85601, or donor's wishes.

Per Omar's request, no memorial service will be held. Omar will be inurned at Fort Snelling at a later date and we thank him for his dedicated military service.

Jay also sent in the photo below, taken about 1982.

Yet not all was Taps and muffled drums for the Class since the last Despatches.

A group of Southeastern Pennsylvania Classmates that meets on a recurring basis did so recently, as Joe Barkley reports.

“On Monday, November 4, 2019 (a date of no particular historical significance), a small group of ‘65ers who live within about 80 miles of each other gathered to swap lies and take on calories..

“Back in July Fred Smith brought a group of "local '65ers" together for lunch. At that time, we decided that it would be a good idea to get together periodically for lunch at some place that was within about 70 to 80 miles of each of us. There are about 10 of us in the neighborhood, but this time only these 5 could make it.

“This time we gathered at the Yardley Inn in Yardley, PA. It was a good time and we told a lot of old and funny stories. We are going to meet next on Tuesday, March 10, 2020 and will send out invitations to all “in the neighborhood.”

L-R., Chuck McClosky (Glenn Mills, PA), Howie Reed (Egg Harbor, N J), Joe Barkley (Holland, PA), Fred Smith (Downingtown, PA), and Gene Manghi (Mahwah, NJ)

Every chin wiped and all the dirty dishes cleared – good show, lads! And I’m sure the group would be happy to welcome any Classmate who’s just passing through to their next fete.

You kill it, you eat it!

Emory Pylant sends word of a recent hunting trip in which he and Johanna were joined by the Stowells, and these two prairie dyads seem to have harvested their limit.

“I've been making an annual pheasant hunting trip to SD during most of the past sixteen years - missing only the times we lived in Japan and London. Talked Johanna into starting seven years ago and she's been a regular since then. This started as pretty much an office related men only group from Houston, but has diversified over time withretirements, moves, etc. These are real hunts for wild pheasants. Typically we have 16 hunters including three to five ladies. There are usually at least three Grads and a couple more Vets - even Navy from time to time.

Photo Left: Pylants, Stowells, and two pheasants who didn’t fly high enough and fast enough

“After the 50th, Johanna and I detoured by Ord, Nebraska to visit with Bob and Jean Stowell for what was supposed to be a cup of coffee. Several hours and a great meal later we continued driving north. Last year it was full overnight service from the Stowell's, including tour of their farm, ranching and wildlife sanctuary; the vibrant downtown area with neat old courthouse, and fabulous home cooked meals. This year Bob and Jean agreed to meet us in SD for the hunt. You probably need to see the beautiful country where they live to appreciate the aspect of them driving a few hundred miles north to go hunting.

“Johanna and Jean are holding some of the first day results. Pheasant was featured on the menu that night.”

Photo: L-R, Emory & Johanna Pylant, Jean & Bob Stowell

Photo Right: And when you do not fly high and fast enough, you are dinner

O’Grady Sighting

Norm Boyter informs us of a recent hook-up with the Hennigs
and our own Master of Malarky, the venerable Michael O’Grady.

“I want to share this photo of Michael with Guenter and myself, taken during Guenter, Diana, and Michael’s visit with Angie and me at our home in Augusta GA. Contrary to his serious look in the photo, Michael was ‘full of himself’, telling stories about his time as a Cadet, in the 11th ACR, and in his business ventures.”

L-R, Guenter Hennig, Mike O’Grady, Norm Boyter

It’s good to see Mike up and about with his hair all grown in, though he does look serious indeed.


Classmates who taught in the Sosh, History, and (perhaps) English departments in the ‘70s will no doubt remember Joe Beasley, a full colonel Army chaplain who taught historical topics at our Alma Mater for a number of years. Recently, he celebrated his 90th birthday, and Bob Frank sent me the photo below. Joe is not a Classmate, but he is someone many of us knew and liked a great deal back in the day, so I thought it was worthwhile sending his photo along. He certainly looks a lot younger at 90 than I do at 76 11/12!

And so qwe come to the end of another edition of Despatches. I wish good health and good times to all, and end with a fervent


USMA1965 Class Notes – Despatches #54 – 191025

Dear Classmates,

As I begin to assemble the items I have collected for this edition of Despatches, I am listening concurrently to the Army-Georgia State game, courtesy of a $9.95 payment to someone or other. I am getting “headphone ear,” of course, but it’s fourth quarter and Army has a lead of but one point, so I persevere. Georgia’s ball. Eleven minutes remaining. Breathe, Tyner, breathe!

Zut alors! That certainly turned out well! And so back to the drawing board; Gloom Period is coming early this year and I may have to take to my recliner with a bad case of the vapours.

Keeping track

Betty Zadel sent the photo below a few weeks ago, depicting her and her son David, LTC, USMC. As I remarked to her, David appears to have inherited his father’s size and his mother’s good looks, the best of both worlds as it were. Next time the Marines seize a beachhead in your neighborhood, watch for David!

Photo: Betty Zadel and son LTC David Zadel, USMC

Daddy, what does Uncle Joe do?

Some of you doubtless wonder what our man at the AOG, Board of Directors Chairman Joe DeFrancisco, does in that role. Herd cats, for one thing; attend countless, interminable meetings; travel all over on his own dime representing West Point and the AOG before all kinds of audiences.

And then there’s the occasional photo op.

Photo: L-R, Joe DeFrancisco, GEN Dunwoody (first female 4-star & 2019 Thayer Awardee), the Supe

The “new” pinks and greens uniform looks pretty good, doesn’t it? (And so does your suit, Joe, so does your suit).

You can go home again

Ken Cherry (D-1) recently took family members to West Point in what was only his second visit since graduation. One of his grandsons has expressed an interest in attending Hudson School of Violence Management, so that made a perfect excuse to take in a football game and a tour.

“Family members and I recently returned from the Morgan State football week end. My high school freshman grandson has a budding interest in attending our Alma Mater. We did the Grad Insider Tour with members of Classes '60, '79 and '84 on Friday. This was my second visit since graduation. Mike Pompeo was the honored guest at Saturday's parade but no picture survived the sans hat requirement. It was a great trip to share with my family.”

Photo Left: Jason, Hudson, Kenneth and Jeremy Cherry on the library balcony

Hudson, Kenneth, Jeremy and Jason Cherry Michie Stadium game day, unidentified photo bomber in b.g.

Photo Right: Ken Cherry with the CIC trophy

Sounds like a great visit, Ken. Best wishes to your grandson on gaining admission to Woo Poo and here’s hoping that the C-i-C’s Trophy is still there when he graduates!

Back on track!

Tim Timmerman recently visited with a Classmate who has had more than his share of health woes, Lou Csoka.

“We wanted to share a picture from Charlotte. Of interest to the class is that Louis Csoka (Lou to some) is doing well. We were joined at Charlotte’s Ocktoberfest by my son Eric (’91), his wife, and other members of the Csoka/Timmerman crowd.”

This is splendid news. Many of you will remember that Lou suffered a stroke (I believe) while on a business trip far from home, a nightmare under any circumstances, especially for his worried family. Lou specialized in the study of motivation in his later career years, and doubtless during his recuperation had to apply personally a lot of principles he’d previously considered only in an academic context.

Well done, Lou! It’s so good to see you looking so good, if you’ll pardon the redundancy.

Seated, Judy and Lou Csoka. Standing, L-R, Eric & Leigh Timmerman, Matt Csoka, Tim Timmerman


Mini-Reunion, but not in the conventional sense. George Ruggles recently met with one of his FOs from 11th ACR days in RVN. No further details were revealed.

L-R, Bill Austin, unidentified waitress, and George Ruggles, 11 ACR Reunion

The Old man of the Mountain

Jon (“Dad”) Thompson, recently celebrated his 80th birthday! That I have lived so long that I can count an octogenarian amongst my contemporaries amazes me greatly. Almost as amazing is the cake associated with that celebration, pictured below:

Many happy returns, Old Timer!

You wondered what I was on about?

My recent diatribe about baseball caps’ being worn in photographs may have puzzled some, but the photo below will illustrate the problem. Depicted are John Swensson and Jerry Hoffman visiting the San Diego zoo. Or Ben Stiller and Matt Damon. Too bad the giraffes didn’t get my memo; they could have snatched those caps to reveal the handsome faces shadowed by their visors!

L-R, John Swensson (by mathematical induction) and Jerry Hoffman (by process of elimination)

Fall Golf Outing

To date I have but one report from this extravaganza, from Larry Neal. I have several theories why: (1) people are too busy chasing the little white ball;

(2) baseball cap addicts are boycotting Despatches as fake news.
L-R, John Malpass, Harley Moore, Walt Kulbacki, John Harrington, Russ Campbell, Bernie Ziegler, Mitch Bonnett, Larry Neal, Dede Malpass

Whyever the reason, the photo above depicts “Dinner, Tuesday, 15 October, Burton’s Restaurant, Mt. Pleasant SC.”

Thanks, Larry! Not a baseball cap in the crowd.

Omar Rood

And finally … The photo was sent by Cynthia Johnson and was shot on one of the backpacking trips she, Tom, and a rotating host of others used to take in various wilderness areas in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It depicts our latest loss, Omar Rood, in his most typical state: relaxed but ready. It is a good way in which to remember Ohms. Thank you, Cynthia.

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