Pioneering Marine aviator chosen for National Hall of Fame award

Published: Monday, August 28, 2017 @ 5:30 AM

            The late Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen CONTRIBUTED
The late Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen CONTRIBUTED

The first African-American Marine Corps officer to become an aviator and reach the rank of general was chosen for the 2017 Neil Armstrong Outstanding Achievement Award, the National Aviation Hall of Fame has announced.

The late Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen will be honored at the NAHF enshrinement dinner Oct. 28 in Fort Worth, Texas.

“He continually strove to not let anyone stop him whether it was race or any other reason,” said NAHF Executive Director Amy Spowart, who noted the award was announced by coincidence on the second anniversary of his death Friday.

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The Topeka, Kansas native enlisted as a Navy sailor in 1950, and later entered the naval aviation cadet program before he became a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He flew 350 combat missions during the Korean War and the Vietnam War, where he was once shot down in a F-4 Phantom.

He was the first African American to lead a fighter squadron, an air group and major base, the New York Times reported in a 2015 obituary.

He endured racism in the military, the newspaper reported. A recruiter told him to retake an entrance exam because he suspected he had cheated; he was pushed to become a mess steward in the Navy because of his race; and he was ejected off a bus in Florida during training because he refused to sit in the back with other black passengers, the New York Times reported. When Petersen arrived for his first day of training at a Marine Corps Air Station in California, a captain had him arrested claiming he was impersonating a military officer, the Times article said.

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While in the Marine Corps, he received decorations such as the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit recognizing valor in combat, a Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service medal, and Navy and Air Force commendation medals, among others.

Petersen died at age 83 of lung cancer in Stevensville, Md., the Times reported.

Other recipients of the Armstrong award were Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell in 2015, and Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan in 2016.

Miami Valley veterans chosen for Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 5:30 AM

            Richard V. Reynolds CONTRIBUTED
Richard V. Reynolds CONTRIBUTED

Three Miami Valley veterans are among 20 statewide chosen as the newest inductees into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.

The two Air Force veterans and a former Marine include:

* Blanche Aviles Casey, 73, of Beavercreek, a veteran of both the Vietnam War and Persian Gulf War era who became a federal servant after serving 30 years in the Air Force.

Casey is a member of the Greene County Veterans Service Commission, and serves on the Greene County transit board, according to the state. She’s a member of veterans’ service organizations and won recognition awards for her extensive involvement in public service.

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* William E. DeFries, 57, of Clayton, a Marine Corps veteran who is a small business owner, philanthropist, and mentor, among other roles.

DeFries acts as a mentor at the Ohio Veterans Treatment Court in Montgomery County for veterans suffering substance abuse or mental illness, according to the state. Among a wide range of community public service, he has offered jobs to the unemployed at his restaurants and organized fund raisers through community service organizations for young adults involved in athletics, art and academia, the state said.

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* Richard V. Reynolds, 68, of Beavercreek, a retired three-star Air Force general, was a past chairman, president and CEO of the Air Force Museum Foundation Inc. He led a nearly $41 million fund raising campaign to add a fourth hangar at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force that opened last year and is part of the fund raising effort to build a $6.5 million Fisher House at the Dayton VA Medical Center campus.

Among other post military work, Reynolds co-founded Air Camp Inc., for Dayton elementary and middle school students in the region.

The Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame will induct its newest members Nov. 9 in Dublin, Ohio.

Local group leading ‘Convoy of Hope’ for relief aid to Puerto Rico

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 7:08 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 8:28 PM

            Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employees collected hurricane relief aid for Puerto Rico. CONTRIBUTED
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employees collected hurricane relief aid for Puerto Rico. CONTRIBUTED

Members of PACO, who include Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employees, and several businesses have gathered more than 100 pallets of hurricane relief aid items to ship to Puerto Rico, still reeling from Hurricane Maria, an organizer says.

“The Dayton community came through big time,” said Tony Ortiz, an organizer for the Puerto Rican, American Caribbean Organization (PACO) who coordinated with area businesses and base employees to roll out a “Convoy of Hope” — five semi-tractor trailers filled with aid that left Wednesday.

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“This is a great feeling,” said Ortiz, an Ohio Attorney General employee who is the diversity liaison to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London, Ohio.

Food, water, and cleaning supplies were among items collected, he said. “You name it, it was there,” Ortiz said. “People came out in droves to help.”

The truck will head to a Convoy of Hope warehouse in Missouri and be shipped from there to Puerto Rico, he said.

“We’re all affected by it so we’re trying to do all we can,” he said.

Ortiz, who has family who live in Puerto Rico, said his relatives were “surviving” after Hurricane Maria struck the U.S. territory, the second since Hurricane Irma sideswiped the island weeks before the latest powerful storm caused widespread damage.

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His family remained without power and lacked food and water, he said.

“Everything’s wiped out,” he said. “All of them lost their business. They’re just stuck up in the mountains living off the mountain.”

The Convoy of Hope is collecting aid though out Ohio from Cincinnati to Cleveland, he said. People in those cities are continuing to work with the convoy project, but their participation has not yet been confirmed.

The need remains great: Less than 20 percent of island residents have had their power restored since the storm and the death toll has climbed to nearly 50.

As many as one million Puerto Ricans do not have clean water to drink and many hospitals continue to operate on generator power as the tropical heat soars.

— WHIO-TV’s Kate Bartley contributed to this report.

Middletown soldier killed in Fort Jackson military accident to be laid to rest

Published: Saturday, October 07, 2017 @ 7:26 PM

Private Timothy Ashcraft was a 2017 graduate of Amelia High School in Clermont County.

UPDATE @ 11 a.m. (Oct. 16):

A Middletown U.S. Army soldier killed in a military accident early this month at Fort Jackson in South Carolina will be laid to rest Monday.

Funeral services for Pvt. Timothy Ashcraft will be held at 2 p.m. in Middletown at Wilson-Schramm-Spaulding Funeral Home, 3805 Roosevelt Blvd.

A visitation will be held prior to the funeral from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

According to his obituary, Ashcraft attended Mayfield Elementary and Middletown Middle School in Middletown. He then went to West Clermont school district to finish his education. Timothy also attended Live Oaks, where he was studying to be a welder. 

Interment will be held at Woodside Cemetery.


A U.S. Army soldier from Southwest Ohio was killed Friday after he was struck by a military vehicle while in formation.

Pvt. Timothy Ashcraft, was one of two soldiers who died in the incident that injured six others at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, according to the military. The other killed was identified as Pvt. Ethan Shrader of Prospect, Tenn.

Ashcraft was a 2017 graduate of Amelia High School in Clermont County, our news partner WCPO-TV in Cincinnati reported.

“We are thankful for his dedication and service to our country,” according to a statement released by the West Clermont Local School District. “His impact ... will not soon be forgotten.”

U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson Commander Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson said the Army will thoroughly investigate what caused the military vehicle to crash into the pedestrians.

“We are continuing to support everyone affected by this tragic event,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the Army will thoroughly investigate the cause of the fatal crash.

The six injured were privates Emmett Foreman of Daleville, Alabama; Hanna new of Cartersville, Georgia; Benjamin Key of Cookville, Tenn.; Alan Kryszak of Clarksville, Tenn.; Cardre Jackson Jr. of Laurel, Maryland; and James Foster of Macon, Ga.

DoD: Springboro soldier killed in Niger in attack by Islamic extremists

Published: Saturday, October 07, 2017 @ 1:35 AM
Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 5:39 PM

More details revealed about Niger attack where local solider was killed

UPDATE @ 5:45 p.m. (Oct. 11): Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson of Springboro and the other U.S. soldiers killed in Niger were victims of an attack by Islamic extremists, the Department of Defense tells the Associated Press.


Family and friends of 39-year-old Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson remember the Springboro soldier after he was killed in a terrorist ambush in Niger. 

Staff Sgt. Johnson was killed during a joint operation between U.S. and Nigerian forces near the border of Mali. The Associated Press reported that he and three others were killed by enemy fire after an ambush. Around 40 and 50 extremists ambushed in vehicles and motorcycles, attacking the patrol with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. 

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Jeff and Teena Baldridge are neighbors of where Staff Sgt. Johnson’s family used to live, and saw soldiers outside, looking for Johnson’s mother. 

"We knew when they said that -- we knew who it was and we knew where he was," Teena Baldridge said. 

"Jeremiah was doing what he really wanted to do, he really wanted to be an NCO (non-commissioned officer) in the United States Army," Jeff Baldridge said. Baldridge is also a retired Air Force veteran. 

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Political leaders also shared their condolences, including U.S. Rep. Mike Turner and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Gov. John Kasich tweeted “My heart goes out to Jeremiah’s family. Rest in peace, Staff Sergeant.”

Staff Sgt. Johnson is survived by  a wife and two children. His funeral service will be held sometime within the next week at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.