MOSES LAKE — Most people think a legislator’s job is solely about making and passing laws. While a lot of their time is spent on the legislative floor working out the details of bills and the budget, sometimes lawmakers get the opportunity to do something special.
Earlier in the summer, 13th District Rep. Tom Dent’s office was asked to assist Vietnam War veteran Loren Gee in receiving citations for awards he earned during the war. Dent’s legislative assistant, Syl Wiles, talked with Gee and found an award ceremony had never taken place to honor the veteran’s service. Wiles in turn contacted Lt. Col. William Blakely, of the 66th Theater Aviation Command, and relayed Gee’s story.
“Most of the focus of our job as a legislator revolves around what we do in Olympia. However, the most interesting and sometimes the most rewarding part of the job is having the opportunity to meet the people we represent in our district and around the state and provide them assistance on the issues they are working on,” Dent explained. “Helping Loren obtain his citations was the least we could do compared to what he did for his fellow soldiers and his country.”
The 66th Theater Aviation Command invited Gee and his family to attend a ceremony at the Aviation Readiness Center and Joint Base Lewis-McChord with the newest pilots in the Washington National Guard. Gee received a Certificate of Appreciation for his actions in Vietnam and was recognized for receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross by Chief Warrant Officer Noel Larson.
“I would like to thank Rep. Dent and his staff. I was honored he would attend such a ceremony,” Gee wrote. “I was very impressed with the young folks I met who are now serving our country. It is the most generals I have ever met in a day, but every soldier I met that day made it very special for me and my family.”
Dent’s office says Gee saved the lives of numerous soldiers who were in the 75th Infantry Regiment Rangers, which was a long-range reconnaissance patrol that came under fire in Vietnam. Gee responded to a call for air support after hearing the unit had sustained several casualties. Despite being told not to go in, Gee broke formation and went into help the battalion in its time of need.
“It was amazing to hear firsthand accounts of Loren’s heroics. The enemy had a group of Rangers pinned down but thanks to his actions they were able to escape and care for the injured soldiers. I don’t think many of us realize what those brave men and women went through in Vietnam and any wars or conflicts,” Dent said. “With all of the discord and dissension across the country, it is important we do not lose sight of and honor those who provided our freedoms for us in the past and continue to fight to make sure we have them in the future.”
As a helicopter pilot, Gee is credited with flying more than 1,000 hours and logging more than 750 missions, including flying in the Battle of Hamburger Hill, in which more than 70 Americans died and more than 350 were wounded.
Richard Byrd can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.