Lebanon resident named Veteran of the Year

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

One of Lebanon’s newest residents, Robert Gore, was selected as this year’s Veteran of the Year for the Linn County Oregon Veterans Day Parade.

Gore served the U.S. Army in the 1st Infantry Division during the Vietnam War. He was there from 1967 to 1968, during which time the Tet Offensive took place. A majority of his tour involved search and destroy patrols.

The 76-year-old agreed the experience in Vietnam changed his perception of life.

“It makes you realize that we grew up pretty insulated,” Gore said.

Now he looks back and thinks maybe he should’ve stayed on with the military a bit longer. At the time, he said, he didn’t want a military career.

“Now I can see the benefits of having done that,” he said. “It’s a good career. It’s good for your person, for your character. It’s a discipline and order that comes with being part of the military.”

The Veteran of the Year award is given to a veteran who continues to serve their local community. Donna Dawson, one of the three who nominated Gore for the honor, said he is one who has never given up when things got bad.

Gore, at left, takes a measurement with other veterans who are assisting with a volunteer project. Photo courtesy of Link Up Vets

“Bob has done a lot for (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 584 as a volunteer,” she wrote in her nomination. “He will drop everything he is doing to help. From a volunteer in the kitchen to helping upgrade things, he is always there. Bob never stops. He is very well known in the community and is a very good candidate for your Veteran of the Year.”

Gore first arrived in Vietnam in 1967 when he was 20 years old. As was the case for many American fighters in that country, Gore did not choose the path he then found himself on. Instead, the path was chosen for him when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966.

Still, he would recommend young adults consider joining the military, partly for the reasons he stated earlier about why he should’ve stayed in, but also for the reason to uphold what the country has.

“To serve our country and maintain the freedoms that we enjoy because of what the military does,” he said. “This country could not continue without a strong military. (There’s) too many enemies.”

Gore was born in Kalispell, Mont., and moved with his family to Idaho and Washington while growing up. He received his draft notice a year after his 1965 high school graduation.

Vietnam veteran Robert Gore points at pins and ribbons he earned during his time in the U.S. Army. Photo by Sarah Brown

He arrived in Phuoc Vinh in 1967 and soon pushed up near the Michelin rubber plantation. Not long later, he took part in Operation Shenandoah II, a mission intended to reinforce Highway 13 along the Cambodian border. The campaign earned him a bronze star with a V pin for valor.

“It was a night battle operation; I remember that,” Gore said. “They were trying to overrun us. They didn’t, because we had artillery with us, (which) probably saved us. Not sure I’d be here now without the artillery, the 105 Howitzers.”

As a medic, Gore found himself responsible for basic wound care (hooking up IVs, stopping the bleeding) until a medevac arrived.

“I was right on the front line, but we always set up in a circle ’cause there really was no front line. We’d just go out to an area and start search-and-destroy, just trying to stir ’em up. Sometimes you’d find more than you wanted to.”

For 10 months, Gore lived in the jungle and slept on the ground.

“I just remember the mosquitos, how bad that was. You had to smear yourself with stuff just to keep from gettin’ eaten alive,” he said.

That might be an ironic statement given that his 1st Battalion 2nd Infantry radio call sign was Dracula.

Veteran Robert Gore poses for a photo while stationed in Vietnam. Photo provided by Gore

“We all wore black scarves, which were issued to us by the unit,” Gore said. “(The colonel) saw how hot it was for us down there, so he issued black scarves for us to wear. I believe it’s one of the only, if not the only, unit that ever had non-issued Department of Defense gear.”

The scarves also served to help distinguish his unit from others, he added.

Gore returned to the states in 1968 and found his parents living in Albany, so he settled himself in Oregon on McDowell Creek Road and briefly took up a job at a small veneer plywood mill in Sweet Home. He moved into the construction business and, later, into maintenance for the Stayton school district. Though now retired, he continues to do finishing work for a contractor out of Albany.

Gore married his wife, Sandra, in 1976 and together raised three daughters. They recently moved from Scio into Lebanon. He has remained active at the American Legion Post 10 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 584, both in Albany, since the 1990s.

Robert Gore, at left, uses his construction skills with another veteran to help with a volunteer build project. Photo courtesy of Link Up Vets

At the Legion he participates in the honor guard, and through the VFW he manages scholarship programs and participates in Cooties (a group that visits veterans in hospitals and care homes). Partnering with Link Up Vets and other young veterans, Gore assists with projects for veterans in need, such as building ramps and fences, “just whatever they need.”

“Teaching some of the younger vets how to do carpentry work has been fun,” Gore said.

Tom Nolan and Larry Sales, who also nominated Gore for the award, added, “He volunteers to help work on the canteen and is a cherished member of our community. Bob makes great sausage gravy as well.”

VFW Post 584 Commander Mark Lamberty especially liked that tidbit.

“My favorite is about his sausage gravy. We hold the bar pretty high at the VFW,” he said.

Robert Gore and his wife, Sandra, pose for a photo in front of the U.S. Army flag at Lebanon’s American Legion Post 51. Photo by Sarah Brown

Lamberty has known Gore for several years. The two have worked together at the VFW and on projects for veterans in need, and have participated in fishing excursions through Linked Up Vets. He added that Gore also helps with holiday meals for the community and his wife is president of the VFW auxiliary.

“People really care deeply about these veterans if they’re nominating (them) because of how they impact the community,” Lamberty said, noting that some nomination submissions are a half-inch thick. “I love it because they want people to see how these individuals have not only served our country with honor, but they continue to directly impact the community that they live in.”