“Seabee” Veterans Changed Lives in Vietnam
106 year old Doris Lochness was the 55th helicopter pilot to serve for the Women’s Air Force Service Pilot in WWII. --Photo by Rick Sloan
Rancho Cordova Recognizes Veterans of the U.S. Naval Construction Forces
Veterans of the U.S. Naval Construction Forces, best known as Seabees, were recognized at Rancho Cordova’s 11thannual Veterans Day Ceremony. The event was held at Sacramento VA Medical Center, Memorial Plaza in Mather.
The event provided musical performances by the Rancho Cordova River City Concert Band, as well as speeches from Congressman Ami Bera, Senator Jim Nielsen, Assemblyman Ken Cooley, Mayor David Sander. A flyover was conducted by the Vultures Row Aviation Team.
One of the honorees was David Cooper, who enlisted in the Seabees in his 20s after graduating with an engineering degree from UCLA.
In 1969, David was deployed to a Marine Firebase in Vietnam where he operated heavy machinery, surveyed construction, and participated in combat. On Christmas Eve, he and a group of Seabees visited a Vietnamese village to participate in a church service. During the service, a group of children came down the aisle in white robes singing “Silent Night” in Vietnamese. A child jumped into his lap, and David began to cry, realizing that the locals were just people like him. David decided to join the Navy’s “Civic Action” team, which supports underdeveloped villages and are considered “Navy Goodwill Ambassadors.”
For four months, Cooper helped build a new marketplace and school building, as well as install a sewer and drainage system. He also protected the village when it was attacked, earning him a Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal for his heroism. When he left the village to return home in 1970, the villagers held a huge party and presented him with carved elephants as a gift – a gift he cherishes to this day.
The City of Rancho Cordova is a vibrant community that values its veterans, having been the site of an active air force base. Many who served decided to establish roots in Rancho Cordova, and an estimated 5,000 veterans continue to call it home to this day. On this year’s Veterans Day, the City recognized the Seabees for their unique role as skilled fighters, builders, and goodwill ambassadors. The Seabees have a history of building bases, bulldozing and paving thousands of miles of roadway and airstrips, and accomplishing myriad other construction projects in a wide variety of military theaters dating back to World War II. “We build. We fight.” is their motto. The Seabees have continued to serve to this day and now include 7,000 active personnel and 6,927 reserve personnel.