Memories of Operation Barrel Roll

by Fred Apgar

Forty years ago I lost a dear friend in a senseless motor vehicle accident on an icy road in Montana. His name was Anonn Puanyathio, he was Thai, and he was a courageous warrior. His call sign was Hilltop. We became friends during my tour in Southeast Asia. We were both involved in the ground war in Northern Laos (Barrel Roll).

Fred Apgar, then

Fred Apgar, then

The ground war in Laos was waged by a US sponsored army, comprised almost exclusively by Hmong, a native Laotian ethnic minority. Operations relied on a network of road watch teams (RWT) and forward air guides (FAG).

Hilltop was a FAG, a fearless trooper who accompanied Hmong soldiers and served as a link between ground forces and our airborne command center. Hilltop was among the best of our FAGs. We worked together for a year and became life-long friends. His friendship was a gift. Anonn had a wonderful sense of humor and was one of those individuals who thrived in combat. He was born to be a warrior.

Fred Apgar, now

Fred Apgar, now

Hilltop’s hometown was close to the base at which I was stationed in Thailand. When our schedules permitted, he took me to his world. We shared some memorable experiences. Anonn was a quiet and gentle person, but in the field he was a respected leader; assertive, and confident, who exuded a command presence. On numerous occasions, Hilltop engaged in firefights with the North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao, suffering several wounds, and forced to recede into the depths of the jungle, evading the bad guys to await pick-up at first light.

Memories of Operation Barrel Roll Anonn Puanyathio

Anonn Puanyathio

I was honored to have Anonn attend our Squadron’s Sawadee Party for those of us whose deployment was over and were returning home. It was at that party, our last time together, when Anonn presented me with a gift of two pictures; one of him at Long Tieng and one of himself sitting on top of a captured Soviet made PT-76 tank. He also presented me with a Soviet made watch he salvaged from the wreckage. The successful ambush took place in the Ban Ban Valley.

It took more than a year after the war ended, but finally, Hilltop received permission to fulfill his life-long dream and immigrated to the United States. After surviving the war, it was ironic that Hilltop’s life would end on a snow covered Montana highway.

Memories of Operation Barrel Roll Anonn Puanyathio

Anonn Puanyathio

Three years ago, I was privileged to return to the battlefields of Barrel Roll. One of my destinations was the Ban Ban Valley in search of a connection to Hilltop. Of course, I will never know if the tank I found was the very same tank that Hilltop had stood upon in 1969. I like to think it was.

In Memoriam: George H.W. Bush President, Navy Veteran, VFW Life Member

In Memoriam: George H.W. Bush President, Navy Veteran, VFW Life MemberLike many wartime pilots, Lt. j.g. George H.W. Bush named his airplane after a girl back home. But he had to call it “Barbara III,” since he lost his first two planes — one during training and one to enemy fire. That’s how dangerous flying was in World War II. There were 16 pilots in George H.W. Bush’s squadron, according to retired Adm. Samuel Cox, director of Naval History and Heritage Command. “Half of them were killed or captured before the end of the war,” Cox said.

He flew the TBM “Avenger”, a carrier based torpedo/ bomber which had a three-man crew. His target on Sept. 2, 1944, was a Japanese radio transmitter on the island of Chichi Jima.

His plane was hit as he began his run into the target but he stayed with it until he dropped his bombs. Out over the water, Mr. Bush told his crew to bail out.

“The Japanese came out after him. Some fighters from the flight were able to strafe the Japanese boats and keep them away during the four hours that Bush was actually in the water,” Cox said. A U.S. submarine got to him before the Japanese could. A 20-year-old George H.W. Bush spent 30 days on that submarine thinking, as he later told the author James Bradley, “Later, I learned that neither Jack Delaney nor Ted White had survived. One went down with the plane; the other was seen jumping but his parachute failed to open.” Bush has been quoted as saying “I think about White and Delaney every day”

George H. W. Bush was one of eight VFW members who have become U.S. Preseidents.

Source: CBS NEWS December 4, 2018, 6:41 PM 

The Commander’s Corner

Commander’s Corner - can and didNow and then, I run across little things on the internet that give me pause and this graphic on the difference between “can and did” is one of them. Indeed there are some who “can’t”, which we certainly understand, but there are a lot more who simply “don’t” and that is what separates veterans from the rest. It is good to be counted among the small percentage of our fellow Americans who “did”.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and best wishes for the new year. 

Notes from the Auxiliary

by Valerie Ehlers  

At the November District 1 meeting I met Department VFW Commander Linda Fairbank and received one of her pins. I also met Department President Ruth Lamoureux and Department Junior Vice President Marjorie Stetson. All the Auxiliaries were thanked for all the hard work we’ve done this year. Membership goals were discussed and we were told that we will be getting a new auxiliary in the district very soon! We contributed 10 hygiene kits for homeless veterans to District President Mary Davenport along with some other auxiliaries. We also gave some extra supplies that could be used in making more kits.

We have set up our display in the lobby of Edmonds Senior Center. Come by, take a look, and let me know your thoughts about it. You can call me at 206-853-5673, or send me an email at .

We are always happy to welcome new members to the Edmonds Auxiliary to VFW Post 8870. If you are interested in joining us, give a call or send an email to Valerie at the phone number or email address above.

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Blessed New Year to you all! We look forward to seeing everyone at our January meeting!

Veterans Day 2018

Another successful Poppy Outing 


Nearly 30 members of Post 8870 offered most of two days of their time at four supermarket locations in Edmonds, Mukilteo and Lynnwood, (something in the nature of 250 “man-hours”) distributing the VFW “Buddy Poppy” to residents and asking them to wear the poppy to remember their comrades who fell in combat.

Veterans Day 2018

Jim Murdock and Dan Doyle at QFC on 196th on Saturday.

Many fellow citizens offer a “Thank you for your Service” in response and reach in their pockets for a few dollars to help support our efforts. Even those who have not served in uniform, have family members who have served in this and past generations. The stories of those family member’s service, often shared with participating veterans, are wonderful to hear and make the effort seem worthwhile in and of themselves. Results shown below.

“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row… “


Veterans in the Schools

Eleven Members of Edmonds VFW Post 8870 participated in the Veterans in the Schools project in the run up to Veterans Day.

Jim Blossey kicked off the week by acting as Master of Ceremonies at the Edmonds Community College Veterans Day event, held on Wednesday November 7. The program featured recognition of the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I. There were several other Post members in attendance.

Veterans in the Schools

Jim Traner spoke at Serene Lake Elementary, Mukilteo

Dan Doyle and John Shelton were interviewed by students at Edmonds Elementary School, Jim Traner spoke at Serene Lake Elementary in Mukilteo, Jim Blossey at Westgate Elementary, Chris Mazerolle, Olivia Park Elementary and Mike Denton at Holy Rosary School. Carl Kurfess, Norm Goldstein, Pete Farmer and Phil Sacks formed a committee of interviewees at Meadowdale Middle School. Mike Reagan spoke at at two Kamiak sessions. (Reagan also spoke at several other non-school venues over the past week)

Fewer schools Participated this year. Oothers signed up to speak, but that we were unable to book include:

Tom Hallums
Phil Sacks
Buck Weaver
Jim Adams
Duane Bowman
Paul Russo
Don Whedon
Charlie Gaul
Terry Crabtree

Many thanks to all who volunteered.

Edmonds Veterans Plaza Update

Edmonds Veterans Plaza Update

Photo by Bob Rhinehart

The Edmonds Veterans Plaza continues to develop as the installation of an outdoor interactive kiosk was completed by the City of Edmonds early this month. As you can see from the photo, the kiosk is located adjacent to the dedicated pavers walkway.

All that remains is to install the necessary software to allow functionality, which should happen later in November. A dedication ceremony will be planned as soon as the kiosk is functional.

This device is intended to give veterans and their families easy access to information about veterans aid programs and will eventually offer a list and location guide to all of the dedications located within the plaza.

Donations are being accepted for additional pavers, purchase and installation of which will be scheduled as soon as a sufficient quantity have been ordered.


 Photo by Bob Rhinehart.

The Commander’s Corner

Buddy Poppies 

Post 8870 members have good reason to be proud of their efforts distributing “Buddy Poppies” over the Veterans Day weekend. Pretty much all of our active members who are physically able to participate did so. The result is a healthy boost to our Relief Fund and a great deal of community exposure for the post. I can’t speak for everyone, but I really enjoy meeting people and hearing their stories of their own or their families’ service. It wasn’t always comfortable weather wise, but we hung in there and got the job done.

Our thanks to Past Commander Jim Traner for reaching out to the DAV leadership and making arrangements to avoid conflicts next year. And thank you all for your hard work.


More Poppy Kudos 

On Monday, the Veterans Day observed holiday, I received a call from a teacher at Cedarcrest Elementary School in Marysville who was looking for some poppies for their student assembly to be held on Tuesday Nov 13. It seems that several years ago, Past Commander Fred Apgar had made some poppies available to them and they were out of stock.

The teacher had approached two other VFW Posts (who shall remain nameless) who she said were unable to help her and she found her way to me through Fred. It was already late in the day and my wife had the car, but I told her I had a bag of around 100 poppies in the car if we could find a way to get them to her. This teacher drove all the way down from Marysville to my home in north Lynnwood to pick the poppies up for her school’s event the following day. She also brought a check for the Relief Fund in the amount of $ 50.00 and invited us to speak at her school next year. Thank you, Fred, for helping to make the Post what it is today.

News from the Auxiliary

News From 8870 AuxiliaryWe’re happy to report that another of our annual members has chosen to become a lifetime member.

Our District 1 President, Mary Davenport, is bringing back news for us from Winter Conference this month. We also gave Mary 10 completed bags/”kits” for her “homeless Veterans Project”.

We have contributed items to the District 1 Basket to be auctioned off at Mid-Winter Convention in January 2019. We have also contributed items for the grab bags that are sold at convention to benefit the Hospital Program.

On December 1 of this year we will we will be Decorating the display case at the Edmonds Senior Center. We plan to show some of us working on various projects that we do to raise money for or to do things to say “Thank You” to our veterans including things for holidays like “Valentine’s Day’ and “Christmas”.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and we’ll see you in December. Our next meeting is Thursday, December 13 at the Edmonds Senior Center. Several of us show up to have lunch there, and our meeting starts at 12:00 noon in the “View Room”. I’m planning a bit of a Christmas theme. I hope you can be there!


From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton 

Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell

A riveting story of American fighting men, “Outlaw Platoon” is Lieutenant Sean Parnell’s stunning personal account of the legendary U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division’s heroic stand in the mountains of Afghanistan. Acclaimed for its vivid, poignant, and honest recreation of sixteen brutal months of nearly continuous battle in the deadly Hindu Kush, Outlaw Platoon is a Band of Brothers or We Were Soldiers Once and Young for the early 21st century–an action-packed, highly emotional true story of enormous sacrifice and bravery. A magnificent account of heroes, renegades, infidels, and brothers, it stands with Sebastian Junger’s “War” as one of the most important books to yet emerge from the heat, smoke, and fire of America’s War in Afghanistan.

Outlaw Platoon by Sean ParnellThe image at right is the logo Lt. Parnell developed and painted in green on the doors of the platoons vehicles, causing the Taliban to refer to the unit as the “Green Skulls”.