November 11, 2009
Host: Ted Simons
- Rick Romley, who served as Maricopa County Attorney from 1988-2004, and Robert Ashby, the first black pilot to fly for a commercial airline, talk about how their experience in the armed forces shaped their lives, careers and accomplishments after military service.
- Rick Romley - Arizona veteran and Maricopa County Attorney, 1988-2004
- Robert Ashby - Arizona veteran and the first black pilot to fly for a commercial airline
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Former Maricopa County attorney Rick Romley had a distinguished military career. He retired from the marine corps after suffering severe combat wounds in Vietnam. But his injuries didn't stop him. Besides becoming county attorney, he also ran a retail business, was a founding member of a partnership for a drug-free America, and was named the national disabled veteran of the year by disabled American veterans. Robert Ashby served proudly in the military as one of the original Tuskegee airmen. He also distinguished himself in life later after the military. He was the first African-American pilot to fly a commercial airline and he's traveled the world, helping to raise over $2 million in scholarship funds. Both Romley and Ashby were named to the Arizona veterans hall of fame society for their achievements after their military service. Here now are Rick Romley and Robert Ashby. Good to have you both on "Horizon." That you so much for joining us.
Both: Great to be here.
Ted Simons: Bob, let's start with you. Let's get personal here. Why did you go into the military?
Robert Ashby: Well, World War II came about and we had to make a decision. You were either drafted and assigned wherever the service felt they needed, or you can select where you wanted to go and after viewing all of the possibilities and so forth, and the air force, you fly on a mission and at the end of the mission, you come back to a bed. So it was a no-brainer for me. [Laughter]
Ted Simons: Rick, let's go to you. What about your decision?
Rick Romley: I can't top that one. I was relatively young. Starting out and I was going to Phoenix college and in my first semester and I was so unfocused and I realized it and one of my very good friends, Thomas Shafer, who I grew up with in the valley, he was not as focused as well as he should have been and we decided, let's take a couple of years and go into the military and even though Vietnam was going on, I -- I don't think we recognized the seriousness of that decision and we chose the marine core.
Ted Simons: When you were a kid, did you play army or think -- when you were a kid, did you think army, firefighter, army?
Rick Romley: Yeah, I mean, it was wearing a white hat and I do believe the military, to this day, they -- they are -- they are selfless in their service to this country. And I guess I wanted to wear that white hat a little bit.
Ted Simons: Bob, how about you? When you were a kid, did this occur to you that this was an option or did it gradually come into view?
Robert Ashby: No, it was nothing I even thought about. I would see a plane flying overhead or in the movies, because I had no -- you know, contact with anything of this type. Never been near an airplane. But I determined that, hell, if anyone else can fly, I can fly. So I elected to go and fly.
Ted Simons: What about reaction from family?
Robert Ashby: My mother supported me and everyone supported me really well.
Ted Simons: No one saying you're nuts, don't do this?
Robert Ashby: No, they felt I was mature enough with what I was going on in my life at that time, they felt I made a good decision.
Ted Simons: What about your family, Rick?
Rick Romley: They were very much opposed. Very worried about Vietnam. The news media, although it had been there, they thought it was a very, very bad decision.
Ted Simons: When you went in, did you see yourself spending a long time? Did you see yourself maybe having a military career?
Rick Romley: I thought it was a possibility. But I was -- I think that during boot camp, I was offered officer candidate school because I did real well on the tests and those things. And I went in as enlisted and they told me I had to make a commitment for five years and I chose not to so I guess I didn't look at it as long term.
Ted Simons: How about you?
Robert Ashby: When I went in, the war was going on and I thought this was going to be something just primarily during the war and that was it. But I got to love flying so much and after the war, and I was given the opportunity of having a career in the service, I elected to stay in and have a full career.
Ted Simons: Interesting. Let's talk about individual -- what happened during your military service. Rick, I want to get to you in a second here. You experienced obviously racism in the military. It was inbred in the time you were serving. How glaring was it and how did it change over time?
Ted Simons: Well, it was very glaring at that time. All of our training, the Tuskegee airmen were trained at one base. In concept, a black base but the commander of the base had to be white and the instructors, being we did not have black pilots previous to this, the instructors teaching us to fly were white also. Those fellows were ok. The base commander -- and it seemed like this went on for sometime throughout the military during the '40s, they were so concerned with the segregation, on this black base we had separate drinking fountains.
Ted Simons: Mm.
Robert Ashby: We had separate eating facilities and this got to be such a boiling point, that finally, they got rid of the commander we had and they brought in a commander who I considered an outstanding individual and he came in, changed everything, made it a base that everyone cooperated and did everything together.
Ted Simons: But it was still an all-black base?
Robert Ashby: It was still an all-black base.
Ted Simons: The idea of taking orders from white military superiors, that had to rankle a little bit.
Robert Ashby: It did, but we realized we didn't have anybody in that rank category. We were trying to move up to that status because we were kept down so long and so this evolved gradually that we got fellows with promotions and everything that they assumed command responsibility.
Ted Simons: Rick, your military experience includes some serious injuries. Talk to us about what happened, as well as you can and as much as you want to and the recovery process. I want to know about the physical and the mental too.
Rick Romley: I was in the infantry. I was a squad leader and it was April 7th, 1969, I got wounded. And we were doing a sweep right out of DA NANG, because it had been rocketed regularly and compromising the operations out of the airport. And I had a reinforced squad and it had gone well and then the day changed dramatically and we hit a bad area and I lost six of my men and one died in my arms and I stepped on a land mine and it changed my life dramatically, and the results were significant. I mean, I -- I eventually lost both legs above the knee. Hit in the right arm with major damage and in the abdomen and I was in the hospital for a year and got gangrene. And it was a very, very difficult time. But not just physically. Physically, at the very beginning, but mentally, it is probably a little more difficult. I'll never forget, Ted, I finally got back to the states and I had to stay in the Philippines and then Japan and got me back to the states, because I was so bad. But when I got to Balboa naval hospital, my sister eventually came, I overheard her say outside the door -- I was very skinny, like a concentration camp survivor and I heard her talking, what is he going to do? Sell pencils on the street corner? It was an awakening for me but got my back up some. And I talked to a lot of veterans, combat wounded veterans nowadays and tried to talk to them about the psychological side but I'm a very firm believer that, in a way, this won't make any sense to you, I know it won't, but I'm stronger because of my war injuries, it made me focus in my life. I know I have a strength inside of me, so when difficult times come about, I know I can handle it. And you know, I think I'm a better person from it. As crazy as that sounds.
Ted Simons: It sounds crazy, but the way you put it, I mean, you have experienced something that made you what you are. And Bob, I want to ask you, as well. The military, maybe not in that kind of a dramatic fashion, but the military made you what you are. Did you find yourself after military service looking at the world differently? Looking at the rest of us in the workaday world differently? Did you find yourself -- do you still find yourself a military person?
Robert Ashby: Yes, I do. Because the military instilled certain traits in you that you carry on throughout your life. And timing is one. And my wife, she made reference to that quite often, but all of my life has been timing. Flight, you take off at a time, you're at a target at a time. Every place you're assigned to go, there's a time for it. Commercial aviation, you take off and land on time. Timing really took over my life. And -- timing really took over my life and I appreciate it.
Ted Simons: Rick, when you returned with the injuries, with the rehabilitation and all of that entailed, you are still a military guy and even now, you're still a military guy.
Rick Romley: Very much so. I -- there's a self-discipline that comes with being in the military. Timing. A way you do your life. I get up early in the morning. I don't use alarm clock. Probably the best example of me being able to show my military with me, I raised my two boys on my own. And boy, every Saturday, we'd get up. We had certain chores, there's a regimented schedule we’d have to do and they tease about it today. But both of my boys, even though I was so severely wounded they both joined the marine corps as well. Which surprised me. Because they saw what war can do. They saw providing that service to a country can be difficult. But I think that -- I mean, I like to think, I would like to think that my children saw something in me that made them say, I want that characteristic. I want that trait in me and so they joined the service.
Ted Simons: Yeah, gentlemen we're just about out of time. Quickly, yes or no. Would you do it over again?
Robert Ashby: Yes.
Ted Simons: Even with the discrimination, the whole nine yards?
Robert Ashby: Yes, I would do it again.
Ted Simons: Rick, how about you?
Rick Romley: Yes, absolutely. Even with the injuries.
Ted Simons: Even with the injuries?
Rick Romley: Yes, I like myself. I believe -- I believe in service. I think that's -- that adds meaning to your life.
Ted Simons: Gentlemen, it's been a honor and pleasure to have you both on the program.
Robert Ashby: Thank you.
Rick Romley: Thank you.
Sylvestre S. Herrera
- A profile of the first Arizonan to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Ted Simons: After tomorrow, third Street near Indian School Road will be known as S. Herrera Way. It is being named for medal of honor recipient Sylvestre Herrera, who was born in Mexico, but brought to the United States as an infant. He was the first resident of Arizona to receive the medal of honor during World War II. Herrera has since passed away, but here's a story we did on Sylvestre Herrera just a few years ago.
Mike Sauceda: It was not really even his war, but Sylvestre Herrera of Glendale didn't find that out until he was 47. That's when his father told him he was really his uncle. He was born in Mexico and brought to El Paso and his uncle told him his Mexican citizenship meant he didn't have to go to war after being drafted. But he had a family and this was their country.
Sylvestre Herrera: That was the hardest part for me.
Mike Sauceda: And this was the country he loved. So in January of 1944, he was drafted into the army and spent seven months on the front line fighting Nazis in Europe and Africa with the army's 36th infantry division. March 15th, 1945, his odyssey was sealed. He was fighting near the German border.
Sylvestre Herrera: We were ordered to advance, and I was the first scout, I was about a quarter of a mile ahead of everybody. My second scout and I, we were always in the front and we were advancing and we were stopped by artillery, before we took cover.
Mike Sauceda: With his M1 rifle similar to this one and a hand grenade, he took out a Nazi machine gun nest and then went where only angels and war heroes dare tread. His foot found one land mine and another blew up in step with the first and both feet were gone.
Sylvestre Herrera: I kept firing. I think I shot about three guys from the -- from that machine gun. Because I got them, because they all went this way. I must have hit them right in the center. And one I hit him in the shoulder. So after that, I -- and -- I almost passed out. That's when my -- the rest of the squad finished up.
Mike Sauceda: But he never passed out. What kept him going?
Sylvestre Herrera: Love. Love of country, love of fellow man.
Mike Sauceda: He was saved by this medic. They pried this rock from his clenched fist and he later made it into a necklace. He had other exploits before he was injured, like this tank he took out with a rifle grenade launcher. He says the tank spun round and round because only one track was intact. On August 23rd, 1945, while on furlough, Herrera received this telegram informing him he was going to be awarded the country's greatest military declaration. The congressional medal of honor. He traveled to Washington where the president placed it around his neck, a day when 28 veterans were honored.
Sylvestre Herrera: Yeah, I'm proud. I'm proud of it, but I don't go out and telling -- hey, I got the medal!
Mike Sauceda: He says Truman is his favorite president.
Sylvestre Herrera: He took no bull from nobody. Reminds me of myself.
Mike Sauceda: His no-bull attitude got him in trouble but it makes war heros.
Sylvestre Herrera: I made sergeant three times and I was busted three times. Before fighting – for fighting an officer. He gave us an order, and I lost most of my squad. So I went over there and got in it with him.
Mike Sauceda: He says his Mexican heritage may have helped him in battle. His great-uncle fought along side Pancho Villa. After he received his award, Herrera day was declared in Arizona and he was given a parade.
Sylvestre Herrera: I was scared. Didn't know what to do.
Mike Sauceda: And residents raised $14,000 so he could buy a home. He had this home built on the land. He's a hero in the classical sense but he has mixed feelings on how he got his medal.
Sylvestre Herrera: It’s not too fond to remember you had to kill people to be where you are, but we had no choice. They were shooting at us and we had to fight back.
Mike Sauceda: He's the only man in history to have the congressional medal of honor and the Mexican equivalent. He says awards won by him and other Hispanics helped Latinos.
Sylvestre Herrera: Yeah, we -- we got up a little notch, a little higher.
Mike Sauceda: After the war, Herrera went to the school on the G.I. bill and became a leather tooler. He learned silver Smithing and made his living. Herrera keeps his medals and other memorabilia in a room. Pictures of him with presidents and famous people abound. The rooms reflects his heroic nature, as well as the life he settled into after the war. He has five kids, eleven grandkids, three great grandchildren and his wife Ramona died in 1978. Although the world paints him as a hero, he doesn't feel he is one.
Sylvestre Herrera: No, I don't. It doesn't bother me one way or the other. No, I don't. I don't like to act big, because that will belittle me.
Ted Simons: Tomorrow on "Horizon" -- Hear how green schools are not only good for society and the environment, but how they make a good learning environment for students as well. That's Thursday at 7:00 on "Horizon." That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great evening. Captioning Performed By LNS Captioning www.LNScaptioning.com
Tempe Transit Center
- The heart of Tempe’s public transportation infrastructure is gaining international attention for its world class sustainable design. Architect and Principal Planner for the city’s Transportation division, Bonnie Richardson, takes us on a tour of this award-winning building.
- Bonnie Richardson - Principal Planner, Transportation division,City of Tempe
Ted Simons: All week long we've been looking at the benefits of green building. Tonight we take a look at a ward-winning sustainable building in Tempe.
David Majure: Outside the new Tempe transportation center, buses come and go. Trains arrive and depart, beam get where they need to go by road and rail, on two wheels or more. But buses, bikes and trains can't keep up with the environmental benefits of this building. It's a vehicle of change. One that's taking Tempe in a new, more sustainable direction.
Bonnie Richardson: We did computer modeling when we started the project and used that to figure out how to design the facade. How to develop the glass that we're using. What colors, how much. And we expect from that modeling to be -- reduce our energy footprint by 52%.
David Majure: Bonnie Richardson is the architect and principle planner for the city's transportation division and in charge of the team that designed the Tempe transportation center and they used the latest green building materials which should cut the building's energy bills in half.
Bonnie Richardson: We looked at all the strategies we could bring to this to lower energy because that's the biggest operating costs.
David Majure: One of those strategies is a green roof.
Bonnie Richardson: There are plants on the roof so we can run our building as energy efficiently as possible. What you see are four different types of desert plants. They require very little water.
Bonnie Richardson: This is the first that's a desert green roof. The primary thing it does is insulate the building.
David Majure: The soil about a foot deep also filters rainwater the building collects. Nearby, a solar water heater and room for more photovoltaic panels. Sunshine is a key ingredient to the building's workspace, which often needs no additional light. When daylight is too intense, a solar veil moves into position, protecting the building's eastern exposure.
Bonnie Richardson: This is our lobby area and we have a 12-inch space below the floor that serves at air supply for the offices. It reduces the amount of energy it takes to deliver cool air or heat in the winter.
David Majure: Earth-friendly materials also contribute to a comfortable non-toxic work environment. Throughout the building process, waste was kept to a minimum and whenever possible, recycled.
Bonnie Richardson: This is part of our recycled reassignage program. What you see are different pieces left over from building the building. We were able to reuse and divert 94% of the construction waste on this project from the landfill.
David Majure: Waste isn't the only challenge when building green. Regulations often don't keep up with new ways of doing things.
Bonnie Richardson: We have the first gray water system in Tempe in a commercial building. And we wanted to be able to use that gray water for plants on the roof. Due to overlapping regulations, be it from the state, the county, the city, we're unable to do that right now. We can do it, once the regulations are in sync.
David Majure: Which brings us to another important feature of the building. Its flexible design.
Bonnie Richardson: It's incredibly flexible. This can be reconfigured quickly.
David Majure: Office walls can be moved with ease.
Bonnie Richardson: This may not be a reception area some day so we can take it apart. And leasable retail and commercial office space is easily reconfigured.
David Majure: The building was eight years in the making.
Bonnie Richardson: I didn't know if we'd be able to do it.
David Majure: It came with a huge learning curve and challenges.
Bonnie Richardson: The main certain is financial. Using public funding wisely. And another was just a -- was this a fad?
David Majure: The building costs about $13 million.
Bonnie Richardson: The front end cost is higher than what you would do if you used a -- if we had gone with a standard building. Probably 2-3%, maybe 4% on this building. But again, this building was one of the first. We took a lot of time learning. The next building I suspect we'd be so much better prepared. It would be negligible about the front-end cost. We need to think about the life cycle cost of our building.
David Majure: Richardson says the Tempe transportation center was built to last 100 years. Long enough to prove that building green is more than a fad. It just may be the future.
Ted Simons: The Tempe transportation center has applied for LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The center is still awaiting word as to whether or not it will achieve that highest rating.