BANDON — Bill Russell will say he was the "luckiest Vietnam veteran you've ever met," yet his service saved many lives. Russell served from 1969-70 in Vietnam at a radar site on top of
Son Trà Mountain, also known as Monkey Mountain outside of Da Nang.
Bill Russell holds up some of the memorabilia from his Honor Flight last in September. The back of his T-shirt says "If you can read this, tha…
"No one ever pointed a gun at me or shouted at me," Russell said. "I listened to intelligence on the radio and if I heard anything, I would transmit that over the radio."
Russell monitored 14 radar sites and could see when there was trouble. In one instance, he saw streams of B-52s in danger and was able to get the message to the battle commander in time to warn them. For his work there, he was awarded the Bronze Star.
"I was never in danger and I don't claim to be a hero," Russell said. "I just did my job."
Russell, who made a career in the Air Force, also feels lucky to have been included on a recent all-expenses-paid Honor Flight to visit Washington, D.C. with 24 other veterans, along with their guardians and chaperones.
Honor Flights of Oregon is a volunteer, nonprofit organization that takes groups of veterans who served in WWII, Korea and now Vietnam to Washington, D.C. to visit war memorials and other national sites. Russell, along with his daughter Joden Peterston, Bandon resident Howard Hoffer and his wife Nancy, and Sam Sperry and his daughter Denise from Coos Bay all went on the trip Sept. 19-22.
Others who have gone on the Oregon Honor Flight from Bandon include Joseph Bain, who went in 2015 with his father Richard Bain, a WWII veteran who passed away last year; Chuck Salt and Howard Wells went together several years ago; and Breanna Quattrocchi, who went as guardian with her grandfather Duane Amundson in 2017.
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"I can walk but couldn't keep up," Russell said. "My daughter pushed me in a wheelchair everywhere and she had a wonderful time too. The volunteers they have are greatly outstanding. They are just a great bunch of people."
Bill Russell and Howard Hoffer, along with 23 other veterans from Oregon, visited the Oregon Veterans Monument in Washington, D.C. on their re…
Russell tears up when he recalls the reception and loud applause the group received in airports. In Washington, D.C., the group visited all the war memorials with police escorts along the way to the National Mall. Another emotional moment was when one of the volunteers on the trip asked two veterans to accompany her as she put a rose on her husband's grave at Arlington National Cemetery. Her husband had been killed recently in Afganistan.
Russell, was born in Yreka, Calif., where he lived until he was 12, then was orphaned and moved to Portland to live with an uncle. After college, he was commissioned by ROTC into the Air Force in 1956 and served for 21 years, mostly in air defense radar control interceptions. He began working in data processing when the Air Force switched over to the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment system.
After the Air Force, Russell worked in the private sector doing data processing, working for Ford Aerospace and Communications Corp. in Palo Alto, Calif., and spending seven of his 12 years there working in Northern England. In 1989, he retired and he and his late wife Joan moved to Bandon in 1990. He and Joan had a son and daughter who both live in Portland.
Since moving to Bandon, Russell has been the founder or co-founder of three nonprofits: CyberLynx, which provides free computer help; BandonPrepares, an emergency preparedness organization; and Shoreline Education for Awareness, an environmental group devoted to teaching appreciation for and care of the shoreline and its inhabitants.
He can't say enough about the Oregon Honor Flight program and wants to get the word out to others.
"It's an outstanding program," Russell said. "I love it and I want to do as much as I can to support it. If you honor your veterans, go to the website and donate."
For more information, visit www.honorflightoforegon.org.