Green River Star -

By David Martin

Veterans remember their service


They approach each other like longtime friends, both young and old.

A smile, a firm handshake or a warm hug, then words of gratitude are solemnly spoken.

“Thank you for your service.”

Green River has a long history of its residents serving their country. Their motivations vary from person to person, and while some served in peaceful time or away from the front line, others were literally laying their lives on the line in defense of their country.

Veterans gathered at the Golden Hour Senior Center Monday night for a free meal provided by local Girl Scout troops. While dining on spaghetti, salad and cake, a few veterans opened up about their experiences in the armed forces.

For Ronna Kalivas, her decision to join up with the Wyoming National Guard was to help with her school expenses. Signing an eight-year contract, she served from 1999-2007 with the 133rd Engineer Company based in Laramie. In 2005, she was sent to Iraq.

Kalivas said she and other members of the unit helped lay road foundations, working both inside and outside safe zones. Members also traveled with convoys that occasionally would be attacked by roadside bombs. She spent a year in Iraq before returning to Wyoming and ultimately moving to Green River. She initially planned to extend her service with the National Guard, but decided against it, believing it may interfere with her plans to start a family.

Kalivas said the experience in Iraq was a good one for her, as she believes it helped shape her into the woman she is today.

“I don’t take as much for granted,” Kalivas said.

While many signed up to serve during wartime, not everyone was sent to the front lines. This was the case for John Borzea. He served from 1969-1971. Volunteering for the draft, Borzea was trained as a medic and expected to be sent to Vietnam. However, he was assigned to a base in Germany while 90 percent of his detachment was sent to Vietman or Korea.

“I was just lucky,” Borzea said about this assignment. “The ones in Vietnam didn’t have it so good.”

Serving in Germany, he drove an ambulance and worked as an X-ray technician at a nearby hospital. Much of his work was scheduled like a normal job, giving him most evenings off.

Jim Shoemaker, the vice commander for the VFW Post 2321, had a different experience during the Vietnam War. Volunteering like Borzea, Shoemaker served in the Army from 1965-1968, and was in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. He worked as a heavy equipment mechanic spending time both on base and in the field. Shoemaker also admitted to being attacked by enemy forces while in Vietnam.

Service is something that was passed through the Shoemaker’s family. He said he has a grandson who has had two tours of duty while another wants to sign up for service. Despite being shot at, Shoemaker said he would sign up again if he could and believes many veterans feel the same way.

“I bet 90 percent of the guys here would sign up again to get it done,” Shoemaker said.


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