November 15, 2021
In partnership with the Bristol Historical Society, the Memorial Military Museum and the Bristol Public Library, a panel of three veterans with experience in war zones in the Middle East shared their experiences with members of the public as part of a discussion forum at the library on Saturday.
“You are part of the history of the Memorial Military Museum, we have been here in Bristol for 46 years,” said Carol Denehy, Vice President of the Memorial Military Museum. “There have been countless programs that have been presented to honor veterans and their stories. This is the first we are doing for the 21st century. I think you (the audience) will agree that we are late in recognizing these people in our own hometown and their stories… ”
Denehy thanked US Navy Senior Chief Joe Bogdanki, US Air Force Lt. Amy Johndro and US Army Col. Peter Mack for taking the time to share their experiences with the assembly as as panelists. The event was intended to highlight the voices of veterans who had experienced more recent conflicts in American history.
Denehy and Assistant Library Director Scott Stanton asked the questions at the event.
The veterans discussed at length several points in their lives, from what prompted them to enlist in the military, to the skills they learned and their current professional life.
Bogdanki first joined the Navy in 1988 and was active in the military until 1995, where he served in Operation Desert Storm. He was also part of the Naval Reserve before ending his military career in 2014. The Navy veteran is known to have served in the Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Force during Operation Shock and Awe, then with the 30th Seabees Shipbuilding Regiment in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom. .
Johndro first served in Ecuador in 2003 before serving in Guatemala in 2005. She then joined support efforts during the Hurricane Katrina crisis in 2006 and then served in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2008. For 16 years she served in the Air Force. She worked as an emergency doctor while training to become a nurse.
Mack served many years as a helicopter medevac pilot, first being appointed a second lieutenant in the US Army Medical Service Corps. He received a degree in aerodynamics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1991. Mack flew medical ambulance missions to Korea along the demilitarized zone. He was also a MEDEVAC detachment commander in Honduras for a time before becoming a medical research test pilot with the Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory. He served actively for 10 years before being honorably released after flying Blackhawk helicopters in Japan. He was recalled to service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mack has conducted reconnaissance and medical support missions in the Middle East
All veterans said joining the military was a positive experience for them and made them who they are now.
Bogdanski said when he returned from active duty he knew he wanted to become a firefighter. He is a 23 year veteran of firefighting at Waterbury. He thanked his career in the Navy because he felt it prepared him for firefighting.
“It definitely got me straight into the fire department,” he said. “… A lot of veterans enlist for a lot of reasons. A lot of guys put on a uniform because they want to serve and make a difference. My transition (from military to civilian life) has been so much more. easy because I could still put on a uniform and serve my community as a firefighter. ”
Bogdanski said he knew other people who had not had such an easy transition. The Navy veteran said the fire services helped him continue to make an impact in surrounding communities and he was lucky for it.
Johndro is still a nurse and worked in the emergency room for many years before moving to St. Francis Hospital.
“Military nursing is a bit more intense than civilian nursing, so I was very well trained to deal with trauma, in particular,” she said. “I felt very comfortable in a trauma room with the chaos around me because I was trained for it and it served me very well. I had wonderful mentors who trained me, not only to be a good leader, but also to be a good follower. ”
She said she felt that if she hadn’t had all of these experiences, she didn’t think she would have become as successful a nurse as she is now.
Mack felt that the military taught him how to be a part of a team and what it meant to take care of the people on that team.
“I was writing awards on a Saturday and heard screaming on the radio saying there was a downed plane,” he said of a time he was overseeing his unit’s command. “I thought it was just an exercise, but I heard sirens… I see one of my planes with its nose buried in the sand on the side of the runway and the tail up and a fire engine passing by – down. I knew there were four crew members on board. ”
Mack said he remembers running for the plane and wanting to see all these people come out on their own. He didn’t care about the plane. He saw a firefighter take these people out of the plane. He said those coming out of the crash asked him what was going to happen to them and he replied that nothing was going to happen to them. Equipment can be replaced, people can’t, he said.
“In my civilian job as a pilot now for Raytheon it’s the same,” Mack said. “Put safety first, take care of your people and they will take care of you.”
When asked what it was like to interact with locals in the Middle East, Johndro said they shared more in common than she originally thought.
During her time on active duty, she volunteered at a clinic for women and children of Iraqi soldiers two days a week. Although she is in a wartime area, she remembers coming into contact with these residents.
“One thing I remember very well realizing, and this is true for all the countries I have been to, these children are like my children and these women were like me,” she said of the locals. regions it served. “They laughed. They wanted to play football. They wanted to play board games. They hugged. They loved it. They weren’t ‘them’. They were people. It was hard to think about it. that you are in a combat zone, but these are people like me and people that I see every day. Their love for their family is no different from mine.
Brian Johnson contributed to this story.