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Voices of Service

In the new WKMS series, "Voices of Service," we speak to local veterans about their experience in the military. From all branches and walks of life, we hear their stories about what it means to serve, what inspired them to enlist, and what they want the civilian world to know about the military.

See excerpts from and listen to each veteran's interview below.

Voices of Service: Why You Serve
Voices of Service Collage 2: Your Mission
Voices of Service Collage 3: Camaraderie
Voices of Service Collage 4: Sacrifice
Voices of Service Collage 5: Moments of Impact
Voices of Service Collage 6: Future Recruits

Larry Barnes
Staff Sergeant, U.S. Marines
• Current Army Reservist

Larry Barnes first met with a Marine Corps recruiter after completing an online survey determining which military branch he should join. Barnes joined as a 20-year-old and became an intelligence analyst. He was deployed to Afghanistan for six months in 2013. Barnes spent 12 years in the Marine Corps before getting a civilian job at a private security company. After a security job at the Afghanistan U.S. Embassy fell through, Barnes joined the Army Reserves.

Of his experience in the Marines, Barnes said, "I found that's one of the biggest things I'll carry with me for the rest of my life. It gives you a sense of drive, a purpose, and a strong sense of who you are. That's allowed me to do a lot of things. Going back to college the second time — I wouldn't have had the courage or strength of mind to do back then when I was 20."

As a second-generation immigrant from a Filipino family, Barnes said he feels like the structured upbringing of his childhood helped prepare him for the discipline of the Marines. Barnes also spent time abroad while stationed in Japan and other places, which he says "puts life here in perspective, really makes you appreciate being here a lot more."

Listen to Barnes' full interview here:

Larry Barnes

Dr. Brett Bechtel
Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy

Brett Bechtel joined the U.S. Navy after college with a strong sense of tradition and patriotism. His father and grandfather both served in the military before him, and he received his commission shortly after 9/11 and the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Bechtel worked as an emergency medicine physician, instructor, and the head of a shock trauma platoon. He was deployed to Afghanistan with the Marines as an emergency medicine physician in 2012.

For Bechtel, "the best part of military service is just the brotherhood and camaraderie. You meet people who are all in the same situation. They have put themselves in the same position to serve their country. They're there to make sure that we have the freedom and liberties that we do. So, you really form a bond with those people. You don't join the military for the money. You join it for the life skills, the leadership lessons, and basically something greater than yourself."

Bechtel said he believes it's important for civilians at home to remember their veterans. "It's really important that our country understand that freedom isn't free," he said. "I think it's important that we understand that our military sacrifices a lot in terms of leaving their families, going overseas, helping to keep the world the way it is, and protecting us so that we don't have any issues here at home."

Listen to Bechtel's full interview here:

Brett Bechtel

Ryan Dia
US Army, Human Resources Specialist, Green-to-Gold Cadet
Ryan Dia was born in New York, but spent time growing up in West Africa - where his parents are from. He joined the Army mainly to cover the cost of college at first, but then discovered he liked his job as an HR specialist and it might be his career. In 2018, he deployed to Afghanistan as soon as he got to his first unit at Fort Campbell, and also served in many European countries. He is currently a Green-to-Gold cadet, with the Army sending him to get his degree at Murray State in order to become an officer.

Dia says a common misconception people have about the Army is that everyone is an infantryman. While soldiers are all infantryman first, the Army is such a large organization that there is a "purpose and a job for everyone".

"The United States is obviously a huge country. And we all come from different parts of the U.S. or even different countries. And we all have different cultures, right? But we bring that culture as one."

Listen to Dia's full interview here:

Ryan Dia

Rob Estes
Sergeant E5, U.S. Marines

Rob Estes joined the Marines after realizing he wanted more discipline than his college classes offered. He said that his time in boot camp taught him discipline, endurance, and the history of his military branch. "Marine Corps is a little different than other branches of service because it's not basic training. It's an indoctrination into the Marine Corps. Some people call it brainwashing, but it's being indoctrinated into a new way of life. There's a lot of books that go into boot camp in the Marine Corps — a lot more than what I expected."

After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Estes worked as a police officer for 20 years. He explained that the Marines helped him become accustomed to the "discipline and rank structure" needed to be in the police force. Estes said that the physical fitness and community presence aspects of being a Marine helped him as a police officer, too. He now puts many of his security and planning skills to work as the McCracken County Emergency Management Director.

Estes said he would encourage young people "to go into the military and to put something into it. Give it your all, and try to go to every place you can because you can go learn to snorkel in the Persian Gulf. Or you can go see Joshua Tree in Twentynine Palms, or you can learn to boogie board in San Diego."

Listen to Estes' full interview here:

Rob Estes


Lisa Hall
Captain, U.S. Air Force

Murray native Lisa Hall joined the Air Force to gain legal experience for her dream criminal prosecutor job. "I didn't want to get on with a law firm where I would just be pushing paper for someone else and never see a courtroom," Hall explained. She initially assumed she would be enlisting during peacetime for a primarily utilitarian role. But 11 weeks of officer and military training later, former President George Bush declared war on Kuwait.

Hall served from January 1990 to December 1995. She said it had a dramatic impact on her writing the wills and powers of attorney for the young people deploying, "pretty much after they left my slot, they got on a plane. And that's when I think being in the military truly became a serious thing. And it made me grow up in a way as far as respect for what the military does and what a sacrifice they are making for the good of the people in our country."

"At the time I was in, it was still relatively new for women to be in some parts of the service. So, every once in a while, I would run into someone who did not think women should be an officer or did not think a woman should be a lawyer. And I saw I had to learn pretty quick to hold my ground and stand up for myself because otherwise, they would walk over you if you would let them."

Listen to Hall's full interview here:

Lisa Hall

Mike Hall
Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army

Mike Hall enlisted in the Army in June of 1996, inspired by watching Vietnam veterans as a child. He was deployed to Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan three times and retired after 20 years of service. Hall recalled getting wounded in Afghanistan on his wedding anniversary when an RPG landed close to his head. "That's when I realized I was ready to get out of the army," Hall said. Still, he said he would "100%" re-enlist if given the chance to do it over.

After retiring from the military, Hall found work as a welder with the Local 184 in Paducah. While he appreciated his time in the Army, he said that he doesn't use most of the skills he learned as a soldier in his daily life. "I learned how to jump out of an airplane and land on the ground and shoot a rifle. I don't use that at all," Hall said.

Hall is currently a member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, which is comprised of veterans from all branches of the military under the umbrella of being motorcycle enthusiasts. The association helps raise money for less fortunate veterans throughout West Kentucky.

Listen to Hall's full interview here:

Mike Hall

Jincy Hayes
• Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps

Jincy Hayes joined the Marine Corps in the mid-1970s. She served for 30 years, following a long military tradition in her family (her father, two sisters, and brother also served). Hayes said the biggest takeaways from her time in the military were people skills and emotional intelligence. "I can sort of read people," Hayes said. "If they're having a rough day, I can talk them through it."

Although Hayes was considered a "pogue," a non-combat Marine, she said the distinction between pogues and non-pogues isn't as harsh as it once was. "Every Marine is a rifleman. Even the pogues. If you become a part of the Marine Corps, it will never leave you. It's a forever thing. There are no former marines. You're just a marine who's currently unassigned."

"I've been retired almost eight years now from my other job, so I'm totally retired," she continued. "I still celebrate the Marine Corps birthday. Every year, I make cupcakes, and I take them to around three or four guys I know here who are Marines. That's a big thing. The Marines will never be forgotten."

Listen to Hayes' full interview here:

Jincy Hayes

Ron Hopkins
Army Signal Corps

Ron Hopkins was drafted to the U.S. Army on July 4, 1967, first traveling to Nashville from his native Calloway County before being bussed back to Fort Campbell. He arrived in Vietnam in December 1968 and stayed until April or May of 1970. "It was a beautiful country, versatile climate, similar to California, I would say. And a group of people who were occupied by the French for hundreds of years of colonial power. They were tenacious, the people that I was around, the South Vietnamese. Just beautiful people."

Hopkins said that upon arrival to Vietnam, "What goes through your mind is, 'I don't know any of these people. I don't have a bone to pick with nobody over here. And when those first rockets and gunfire started coming in, then you do have a bone to pick. It's personal now."

Hopkins worked for AT&T for 40 years following his years in the service. When asked what advice he would give to those pondering military service, Hopkins said, "Keep a low-profile job and learn to live with it. Unless you've got a career lined out, you know, there are training opportunities. If you want to be a drone pilot sitting behind a desk somewhere, cyber warfare. Do what you're conscience leads you to."

Listen to Hopkins' full interview here:

Ron Hopkins

Dave Howe
• Major, Army Reserves

Dave Howe joined the National Guard in 1988 and has held a number of jobs since, from Army medic to fueling helicopters. "I spent the most time as a military police officer in that role. I deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Panama, Ecuador, and Germany a couple of times. So, the majority of my career is spent as military police."

Howe offered an inspirational moment from his time in the service. "This was in 1992 when I was in the Nebraska National Guard. This was when I was fueling helicopters, and I was in an air ambulance unit. And we were in South Dakota supporting a training mission. I was sitting in the backseat of the helicopter, and you can only see out the side, and we were flying along. Then, the pilot brought the helicopter to a hover and spun it around 180 degrees, and they're right in front of me, filling the entire field of view — Mount Rushmore."

Howe said that was the moment he decided he would make a career of the National Guard and Reserves. He said that the military "provides leadership training, responsibility...if that's something that you're lacking, if it's something that you excel at, it's something that will make you more successful."

Listen to Howe's full interview here:

Dave Howe

Brianna Hunter
Specialist E4, Kentucky Army National Guard

Bri Hunter joined a six-year contract with the Kentucky Army National Guard to pay for her college tuition when she was 18 years old. "I wasn't originally planning on it. I'd never given any thought to the military at all. And I guess it kind of was popped right in front of me."

Hunter isn't sure whether she will leave the Guard after her six-year contract expires, but she's had a lot of experiences through her service - including serving at the Capitol after the January 6th insurrection and being stationed overseas in Kosovo. "I've gotten a lot more confident in myself as a person," Hunter said. "Anybody is capable of doing anything you put your mind to as long as you work for it and you put in the effort."

"That's one of the big things that basic is — they tear down your confidence, and then they build you right back up, which is weird. Overall, I'm not afraid to speak up for myself and defend myself. I think that's been one of the best things for me, too, is learning communication because it can be so easy to lash out."

Listen to Hunter's full interview here:

Bri Hunter

James Ouderkirk
• Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps

James Ouderkirk was inspired by his grandfather to join the Marine Corps. "There was something about his story, something about the gleam in his eye when he would talk about his time in the service. I wanted that. I wanted that sense of purpose."

Ouderkirk enlisted at 18 years old. He was medically retired in 2009 after an IED exploded under his humvee and he had to get both knees replaced. But he's still passionate about his service, "When things do happen in the world, somebody does need to step up so others can stay home. And my mindset is: I know my mother was fearful of me joining the military. But if it wasn't me who did have the heart and the will to do it - somebody else would have had to stand in my place. And could they have done what I did? Could they have gone through it or would you want to ask them to?"

He is currently the CEO of the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club and says, just as his mission in the military was to help build futures and democracy for those overseas, now he has the important mission to help a generation of young people find who they're going to become.

"If you're considering a military career, do it for yourself, and do it for the right reasons. I came from a military background, but I joined because of me and the way I felt. I think it's a great future. I did it, and I would absolutely do it again."

Listen to Ouderkirk's full interview here:

James Ouderkirk

Roger Tison
Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps

Roger Tison grew up in rural Oklahoma. Although Roger Tison's father was also a Marine, he said the main motivator for joining the military was to help pay for his education. "We were always told if we were going to want to go to college, we would have to go in the military," Tison said. He joined in 1990 and served until August 1995.

Tison explained that most of his former career was spent working in the Marine Corps Security Forces on Naval Submarine Base Bangor. He also was stationed at Guantanamo Bay helping to manage refugee camps there for migrants wanting to come to the U.S.

The Haitian migrants helped inspire him, "These people are wanting a better life to just live their lives free. And I'm serving my country and my Marine Corps and not able to be the true free that I am." As a closeted gay man serving on the cusp of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Tison felt it would be better to retire from the Marines to not jeopardize his VA benefits and to see the world as his true self.

He advised those thinking of enlisting, "Think about it long and hard. And follow your heart. Serving your country is something that you want to do for whatever reason, whether it be monetarily to get on your feet or to go to school or whatever. They say, 'Once a Marine, always a Marine,' and that's true. There's just a different level of camaraderie and stuff. I cherish that to this day."

Listen to Tison's full interview here.

Roger Tison

Asia Burnett is WKMS Station Manager.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
Hurt is a Livingston County native and has been a political consultant for a little over a decade. He currently hosts a local talk show “Daniel Hurt Presents”, produced by Paducah2, which features live musical performances, academic discussion, and community spotlights.
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