News: Neillsville Am. Legion Honors Bryan/Gassen (Sep 2017)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

----Surnames: Bryan, Gassen

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark, Co) 8/30/2017

American Legion Honors Bryan and Gassen (Military Service - 2017)

American Legion Honors Bryan and Gassen For Military Service

Neillsville American Legion Post 73 will be honoring Bob Bryan for his military service during a special presentation Monday, Sept. 4. Bryan served in the U. S. Army from 1960 to 1966. (Contributed Photos)

By Todd Schmidt

Neillsville American Legion Post 73 is honoring veterans Bob Bryan and John Gassen for their military service with a special event Monday, Sept. 4. Social hour begins at 4:30 p.m. with a potluck meal and the recognition program to follow at 5:30 p.m. Legion members, family members and community supporters are cordially invited to attend.

Robert L. (Bob) Bryan was born in Black River Falls. He was raised on the family farm, and graduated from the one room Riverside Grade School.

In 1960, while attending Neillsville High School, Bryan volunteered for the draft at the age of 18, and enlisted in the U. S. Army. He was sent to Ft. Riley, KS for basic training, living in the Custer Hill barracks.

After basic training, Bryan was sent to Ft. Hood, TX for additional training in mechanics. After training, he was shipped to Nellingen, Germany to the 124th Ord. Co. Prior to reaching the destination, they stopped off for a tour of England.

Bryan worked as a heavy artillery repairman, and a 50-calliber machine gunner. He ended up staying on past his tour of duty, because of the Berlin Wall Crisis. He was stationed there until 1962.

Bryan returned to Neillsville to serve in the Active Reserves.

“There was much distress during this time, including the Kennedy assassination, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam War,” Bryan noted.

In 1966, he was honorably discharged from the Army. He worked for Rollahome and was a milk hauler.

Bryan moved to Beloit and worked at Gardner Machine Co. for six years. He then moved to Douglas, WY, and worked in the oil fields, and the natural gas fields.

While in Wyoming, Bryan received his GED from Casper College.

He traveled a lot between Wyoming and Neillsville. When he finally moved back home, he worked at the Neillsville Foundry until it closed.

Bryan then worked at the Nelson Muffler Plant, until that closed. Due to health conditions, he retired at this time. He always helped out on the family farm.

Bryan currently resides on his own acre on the old family farm, where he grew up. He met Elvira (Berta) of Douglas WY. They were married in 1979.

Prior to their marriage, he had two children and Berta had three children. They added two children of their own. They lost a daughter, Brenda, at 5 days old.

Their remaining children are Kim, Kelly, Julie, Donna, Susie, and Amanda. They have 11 grandchildren. Their granddaughter Mercedes serves in the Air Force in New Jersey.

Bryan enjoys hunting and fishing. He and Berta work together at gardening, and canning the produce. They enjoy the family while sitting around the campfire at home.

Bryan has volunteered at the Legion for fish fry’s and is currently a member of the Color Guard and the Firing Squad.

Neillsville American Legion Post 73 will be honoring John Gassen for his military service during a special presentation Monday, Sept. 4. Gassen served in the U. S. Air Force from 1967 to 1971. (Contributed Photos)

Mathias “John” Gassen was born at the Marshfield Hospital. His parents lived in Neillsville.

Gassen graduated from St. Mary’s Catholic Grade School. He graduated from Neillsville High School in 1965, and then attended UW-Marshfield for pre-med.

In 1967, he joined the U. S. Air Force and went to basic training at Lackland AFB in Texas. While he was in basic training, Gassen shot a perfect score with the M-16, the only one to do that in his squadron.

He was then assigned to Medic School at Shepard AFB in Wichita Falls, TX. He never saw another gun. His grades were good enough in the medical field, that he went to advanced training as an x-ray technician.

In December 1967, Gassen was transferred to Mountain Home AFB, ID. In November 1968, he moved on to Kadena AFB in Okinawa as a member of the 824th Dispensary, the largest one in the USAF. He arrived at Kadena during the TET Offensive in Vietnam.

Gassen was on an 18-month tour of duty, but because of the shortage of manpower, he was extended to 31 months. He was assigned to augment the 500-bed hospital in Naha. His unit worked on the wounded from Nam Bach.

Gassen went from the lowest airman to staff sergeant, and became the non-commissioned officer in charge of x-ray. Their mission was supporting USAF personnel, Department of Defense personnel, dependents, teachers and the 68,000 troops at Kadena.

They also took x-rays of sentry dogs going to Vietnam, at night, after sick call.

“I x-rayed everyone from prisoners to generals,” Gassen said. “I x-rayed 28 Chinese pilots from the SR 71 spy planes, no names, no ages, they were ‘A’ or ‘B’.”

He also x-rayed pilots with repaired collapsed lungs to see if they were fit to fly.

They also had a squadron at Kadena called “15PTF” (phycological training force). This group flew B. S. bombers, dropping bales of leaflets calling for any G.I. to surrender for safe haven in Vietnam.

“My commander called me up one day and wanted to know how I had missed 29 commanders’ calls in a row,” Gassen recalled. “I told him I was too busy.” He said it was a mandatory thing, and he told me to attend the meeting the next day.”

Gassen was presented with an Outstanding Service Award June 1, 1971. Two days later, he separated from the USAF at Travis AFB, CA. he went home for 68 days awaiting a passport, to return to Okinawa to marry Leiko.

Gassen returned to Neillsville and worked for his father at B-Line Body Shop. In 1992, he worked at the Neillsville Post Office, and in 1999 he began working as a painter at Leeson Motors. He had to quit working in 2004 due to his health and because he was having heart surgery.

He and Leiko have three children, Mayumi, Angela, and James, who is in the USAF. They have five grandchildren.

Gassen is an avid trap shooter. He shoots at the Neillsville Gun Club and also at Black River Falls, and has many trophies to show for it.

While in Okinawa, his main hobby was taking pictures. He amassed over 4,000 slides.

Gassen is grateful for the assistance provided to him by the American Legion.

“The American Legion in Neillsville was my representative for my disability claim, from the USAF,” he said. “I was awarded this because of the Legion’s help on my behalf.”



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