A lifetime of service
July 30, 2018
Three members of Fallon's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1002 each gave Oasis Academy fifth graders a different perspective of their experience with the military and how it has affected them.
Vietnam veteran Mike Terry, who served in the U.S. Navy, organizes local student essay and speech contests and teacher-of-the-year applications for patriotic educators. Along with fellow Vietnam veteran Richard "Mac" McLean and Melissa Nusi, a wife of a Navy veteran and current president of the VFW post's auxiliary, Terry said he wanted to give students an overview of military service. They spoke last month to the fifth-grade classes of Pam Duarte and Nicole Hyde.
Terry, a native of Texas who later moved to Colorado where he graduated from high school in 1966, retired in Fallon. He detailed his early years of military service and also told students that he has enjoyed Nevada since retiring here.
"I've enjoyed the camaraderie with fellow veterans since moving to Fallon," he said.
The camaraderie has developed with his involvement on a ceremonial honor guard that consists of members who served in the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines and taking part in Memorial Day ceremonies. Over the years, however, Terry admitted he didn't keep in close contact with the sailors who he first knew 40 and 50 years ago.
As a young recruit, Terry attended boot camp and once he graduated, he was assigned to the Brown Water Navy or swift boats that patrolled the rivers and deltas of South Vietnam. Terry said during the Vietnam War, he also served on the destroyer USS Loftberg, which was part of a carrier strike force that provided gunfire support and responded if a pilot's jet was shot down.
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"We went after a jet that was shot down and exploded," Terry said. "The ships and helicopters spent hours searching. Our job was to recover the pilot."
During their search, Terry said the smell of jet fuel permeated the area where the search crews found debris.
"That was a sad time when we lost a pilot," he said.
On Jan. 23, 1968, Terry said the North Korean navy captured a U.S. intelligence-gathering ship, the USS Pueblo and its 83-member crew, near the coastline but in international waters. Ships assigned for Vietnam began to move toward the Korean peninsula, Terry said, but the ships encountered foul weather and high swells that rushed over the decks.
"We went from the warm waters to the cold waters of the Sea of Japan," Terry said of the assignment change.
Terry said he also met his wife in the Navy, and one of her duty stations was at Naval Air Station Fallon's Naval Strike and Airfare Warfare Center. She was also stationed in Cuba at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. When Mike Terry retired as a master chief, he worked for Banner Churchill Community Hospital for 14 years as an engineer repairing heating and air conditioning units.
McLean retired as a lieutenant commander after a 30-year career. He joined the Navy during the Vietnam War.
"I've seen more of the world than the U.S.," he said.
McLean said the Navy provided him great opportunity in both Vietnam, where he was involved with the evacuation of Saigon, South Vietnam's capital, in April 1975, and Desert Shield/Desert Storm in Southwest Asia in 1990-1991. McLean showed students his shadow box, which displayed ribbons and medals.
"This shows everything I've done in my adult life," he told students, while pointing toward several medals.
One assignment stood out for McLean in 1986-87 when the Navy sent him to the South Pole as part of Operation Deep Freeze to support scientists. McLean said the South Pole was the geographical center and it gave him a unique experience.
"I walked around the world, five times forward and five times backward," he said. "It took me about four minutes."
McLean said he met his wife, a native of Ireland, in England when he was assigned to RAF Mendenhall after his tour in Vietnam; however, he said his wife died five years ago. Nevertheless, he said it's important for the service members to have both family and spousal support.
The Michigan native retired from the Navy in 2003 and said he has held several civilian jobs in Fallon.
Nusi gave her perspective of military life from a different viewpoint. She met her husband in Hawaii, and they have been married for 32 years. During their early years of marriage, they corresponded by telephone and surface mail unlike today's couples who communicate via the Internet.
"It was very exciting when the mail came," she said.
After her husband, Henry, deployed, Nusi said she relied on his family for support. When he was stationed for shore duty, she told students she didn't have to worry about him as much. Involving the family was important.
"When he was home, we tried a lot of things that were family oriented," she said, adding deployments, though, were difficult for everyone in the family. "We had a lot of deployments where we had to say our goodbyes."
Melissa Nusi mentioned her son and daughter have each been on a Tiger Cruise that gives family and friends a better idea of what the Navy and their sailors do on a day-to-day basis. She said her daughter wanted to go on a Tiger Cruise because she was proud of what her father did in the Navy.
"We had a lot of good times," she added.
Henry Nusi retired from the Navy after serving 30 years. He and Melissa moved to Fallon three years ago where he is the fuel director at NAS Fallon.
When their children were growing up, she said both her son and daughter didn't want anything to do with the military, but that changed when they became older. Their son joined the Navy and remained for 10 years, and their daughter married a soldier.