By Rachel Raburn for The Bulletin Special Projects
From World War II to Vietnam to Iraq, the heart of a warrior is service.
A child of the Great Depression, Carl Juhl was born in Eugene, Oregon, in 1926. Juhl grew up on a farm and began riding horses at the age of two. He started driving a team by age five and got his own horse for his sixth birthday. By the time Juhl was 15, he was a farm foreman. While he was going about his daily chores, he would watch the eagles and hawks as they floated high above, thinking to himself, “I want to be up there.”
World War II had been raging for four years when Juhl turned 17, and several of his classmates had already given their lives for their country. When his father learned that Juhl was planning to enlist, he tried to talk him out of it. But at the time Juhl was working with three friends at a turkey killing plant, putting in 80-hour weeks for $1 an hour. Longing to be up in the air with the freedom of the birds he loved, Juhl enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1944. After he turned 18, Juhl was called to active duty.
While training in Amarillo, Texas, Juhl felt inferior to the other boys, who were mostly from well-to-do families. But Juhl did exceptionally well and graduated as an aviation cadet in November 1944. His mindset was always to do each task to the best of his ability, which grew out of some advice he received from a friend: when you polish your boots, don’t just polish the toes—polish the back of the heel, too.
Juhl was assigned the position of ball turret gunner in a B-17 bomber. The first time he got to go up in the air on his orientation flight, one wing caught fire. Some of the cadets were terrified by the experience, but it didn’t faze Juhl.
“Nothing scared me,” he remembered.
Training continued in earnest, with Juhl logging more than 500 hours of flight time. Training was not without peril: 4,000 B-17 bombers were lost, the same as the number of planes lost in actual battle. Mock battles with P-39 fighters and tight formation landings were the cause of most of the casualties during training. Juhl’s own crew experienced a near disaster when they were caught in the prop wash of the plane in front of them, flipping their bomber on its side. Fortunately, the pilot was able to pull up and straighten out just seconds before they hit the ground.
After graduating, Juhl’s squad began training for an event that never happened: the invasion of Japan.
“I called my parents and told them I wouldn’t be coming home,” Juhl recalled. “I said they’d been great parents, but not to expect to see me again.”
The upcoming mission was certain to be not only his first but his last. Still Juhl wasn’t afraid, ready to face whatever happened. Then, just before deployment, the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrendered and the war was over.
Juhl doesn’t remember being greeted as a hero when he returned home. That recognition came years later, from his fellow veterans. Now Juhl meets with the local Band of Brothers every week, which also gives him the opportunity to see firsthand how more recent veterans are adjusting to civilian life. The high suicide rate and struggle with PTSD that many go through are all too real, and Juhl has reached out a number of times in an effort to lift up those who are suffering.
The lesson Juhl took with him when returning home was simple: never give up, no matter what the odds. He lived that truth through his long and happy marriage of 62 years, and it led to multiple promotions and success in his 34-year career with the Forest Service. Now a widower at the age of 93, Juhl is still far from giving up. He spends his days working the Bend cattle ranch he bought in 1978.
While Juhl was raising his family and working for the Forest Service, a young man named Lyle Hicks was growing up in the small town of Gilchrist, Oregon. Hicks didn’t want to spend his days working in the local sawmill, and his desire to see the world and escape a difficult home life led him to enlist in the U.S. Navy.
After boot camp, Hicks began studying to become a navigation quartermaster. In 1975, he was on board the USS Durham bound for Vietnam. Their mission was to evacuate refugees from the Cam Ranh Bay area, 185 miles northeast of Saigon. When they arrived, fishing boats loaded with panicked civilians began pulling up to the Durham, and the crew helped 4,500 of them safely on board while the battle on land flared in the distance like a lightning storm.
When Cam Ranh Bay fell, the Durham had to weigh anchor and leave the area. More than 10,000 refugees were still waiting to be rescued, and Hicks watched in despair as they waved at the departing ship, believing that it would return for them the next day. But rescue never came for those people, and Hicks carried that sense of loss with him for many years.
When the USS Durham floated into San Diego, Hicks was expecting a hero’s welcome. He was proud of what his crew had accomplished. But there were no bands playing. There was no welcome at all.
“It was very quiet, just like a normal day,” Hicks said. “It was like nobody knew we were there.”
Hicks decided to keep his military service hidden and just blend back in with society. He felt stripped of pride after his return and kept the many difficult emotions he felt locked deep inside. Then on September 11, 2001, Hicks watched in horror as the coverage of the terror attacks unfolded on television. The looks of panic and fear on the faces of the people fleeing for their lives struck a nerve.
“I’ve seen this before,” Hicks said to his wife, Judy. “In Vietnam.”
Memories and repressed emotions came flooding back, and Hicks began experiencing depression and anxiety attacks.
Thankfully, a combination of family support, encouragement from other veterans, and a firm belief that God was guiding his life brought Hicks to a place of healing. At last able to take pride in his service to the country, Hicks became focused on serving others in the community. His renewed sense of direction led Hicks to buy Jake’s Diner in Bend, where he hosts the weekly Band of Brothers breakfast every Monday that has brought camaraderie and support to countless veterans in the area.
Hicks took several life lessons from his experience in the Navy. The biggest lessons were about organization, leadership, and management.
“To lead, you must be respected,” Hicks observed. “To be respected, you must work alongside.”
Those lessons have helped him run a successful business and take action in the community when he sees a need.
When the World Trade Towers fell in 2001, another young man was watching on television. His name was David Deichler.
David had practically grown up in the VFW, hanging out there after school. After the death of his father in 2001, Deichler was raised by his grandfather, an Army veteran.
“There’s a heavy sense of patriotic duty there,” Deichler said of the VFW. “I grew up surrounded by that.”
The events of 9/11 solidified Deichler’s determination to serve his country. Looking for something challenging, he ultimately chose to enlist with the infantry Marines. When he was told that he needed a diploma, that incentive became the driving force for Deichler to graduate.
Deichler entered the Marine Corps in 2006 and was deployed to Iraq twice over his four years of service. His first deployment was in the town of al-Baghdadi on the Euphrates River, not far from Fallujah. Deichler was part of the First Battalion, Second Marines, and their mission was to fortify and protect local buildings and bridges and provide security for the locals.
The desert climate was brutal, sometimes reaching 127 degrees. Deichler’s full combat gear weighed 80 pounds, and the heat was nearly unbearable. But some things are more powerful than suffering, and one of those things is the conviction that serving others and putting their needs first is of utmost importance.
Deichler remembers carrying a load of water bottles to a village in desperate need. Along with a few fellow Marines, he hauled a staggering weight over miles of desert to help people he’d never met. But despite the heat, the work, and the danger, Deichler admitted that leaving Iraq was hard.
“I wish we could have finished the progress we started,” he said. “The people there need education.”
After returning to a hero’s welcome, Deichler still struggled with the heightened senses his training had produced. He felt on edge, constantly scanning crowds for threats. Home didn’t feel like the safe place he’d left, but this new combat zone was emotional rather than physical.
Deichler’s wife, Anna, helped the most with his transition back to civilian life, providing a sense of safety.
Wanting a career that provided the level of challenge he was used to, Deichler went back and forth between law enforcement and aviation, finally settling on aviation. He enrolled in COCC’s flight program with Leading Edge Aviation and began learning to fly helicopters.
While Deichler was working at the Bend Airport, he started David’s Caretaking as a side job. At first, the services he offered were limited: cleaning gutters and a few handyman jobs. In the winter, Deichler added snow removal to the list. Then lawn care requests started coming in from people who’d heard about his business.
From a dozen clients on the side, the job expanded so much that Deichler finally took it full time. He now has more than 70 regular weekly clients and five full-time employees. All of it began with only $6,000, which Deichler used to buy a trailer and a mower, and a heart of service toward others that helped him grow David’s Caretaking into a successful business.
“I want to give credit to fellow veterans and friends who helped get my business off the ground,” Deichler said. “The community is great about supporting local business—they’ve been very friendly and welcoming.”
Another key to Deichler’s success is a lesson he brought home with him: how to be a team leader. His training helped him develop the skills of leading by example and building up those around him.
Deichler insists that his selfless service isn’t unique or uncommon. He believes it is a core value of most men and women who choose to serve their country in the military.
“My story is only one of them,” he said. “For every story you hear, there are tens of thousands never told.”
Three men in three wars over more than half a century, and what they learned, what they brought home with them, can inspire us all: Never give up, no matter what the odds. . . . To be respected, you must work alongside. . . . Lead by example and build up those around you. And though their military experiences were widely separated by time and geography, the common thread that runs through them—the service they were willing to give their country and their fellow Americans—is powerful and deeply moving. Three wars. Three stories. And whatever their reception when they returned, three heroes.