Las Vegas sons and daughters serve military in U.S. and abroad

Throughout each year, numerous individuals serve in the nation’s military all over the world. In many cases, those servicemen and women have families that reside in Southern Nevada. Here are some individual stories from information supplied during the past year by the U.S. military that tell about the good work many are accomplishing while their family members, and their friends and former neighbors, live locally.

A long from Durango High School

When fighting the war on terrorism, at least one soldier says he had to pack heavy when leaving home. With bitter cold, snow and ice in the winter where he is stationed, the summer is like living in a convection oven infested with vipers and cobras. One cannot forget the sleeping bag, assault rifle, ammunition, body armor, helmet and other standard equipment. Army Pfc. Kristopher R. Sam, son of John Q. and B.J. Sam of Las Vegas, is a member of Coalition Joint Task Force 180, the lead military agency for operations in Afghanistan. Locating and engaging the enemy, Sam said, “Our job is a hard job that no one really wants to do. It deals with a lot of movement, and we are called upon at any given time to serve our country.”

Sam is a 2002 graduate of Durango High School and is stationed at an air field in a location that couldn’t be more different than his former school campus in southwest Las Vegas. Fifteen miles from Kandahar, the city’s air field is one of the most remote, landlocked and desolate places at which the Army has ever tried to build a combat base. But it is ideally located to carry out its mission.

“As infantry, our role is to put the enemy on the run and make it hard for them to operate,” Sam added. “Everyone here has an important role in this war on terrorism or they wouldn’t be here.”

Assisting Space Missions

At Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the Air Force space program was spawned more than 50 years ago. Today, Air Force 2nd Lt. Sarah M. Goyen, daughter of Las Vegas residents Larry and Ruth Etnire, contributes to the space mission as a flight control officer. The graduate of Rancho High School and Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., said, “Our jobs ensure critical satellites make it to space to support the war fighters. We also make sure other satellites that are commercial in nature, such as those that support Google Earth, make it there as well.”

Airmen such as Goyen support space missions for the Department of Defense, along with cooperative support to private companies and other U.S. governmental agencies. Being a part of space missions that hold international interest can be exciting for even the most salty of scientists or airmen. Goyen said the Vandenberg program will leave a lasting impression on her. “Launches are exhilarating and stressful — but all the hard work pays off knowing that we protect the public here and fellow airmen abroad,” she said.

Working the Control Tower

In Portugal, Lajes Airfield in the Azores was created during the early years of America’s entry into World War II . Today, Air Force Senior Airman Erron D. Sayas is an air traffic controller with the 56th Operations Support Squadron there. He is the son of Earl and Lori Sayas of North Las Vegas.

“In the control tower, we are constantly at work dealing with aircraft carrying goods for the people stationed here at Lajes, as well as to other overseas locations,” said Sayas.

Although they are 900 miles from the mainland, the Azores are a part of Portugal and contain many of the customs and traditions of that country. From the running of the bulls in a nearby city to the outdoor markets and European-styled houses and farms, the Air Force says the small island gives Sayas and other Americans stationed there a slice of life that is thoroughly and delightfully foreign and not at all like Las Vegas.

Pushing the Aviation Envelope

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Steven W. Mahoney is part of an elite program at California’s Edwards Air Force Base that over the decades has left countless marks in aviation history. From Capt. Chuck Yeager’s shattering of the sound barrier to numerous world speed records to the test and launch of the first space shuttle, the base has been pushing the envelope in air and space exploration. Mahoney is a crew chief with the CV-22 Osprey aircraft that flies like both a helicopter and an airplane for special operations missions. He is the son of Henderson residents Stanley and Patricia Mahoney.

The area Mahoney works in contains numerous runways and tarmacs, and at least 20 are active with X-planes over a dry lakebed. He works with people from various military commands. “Working with the Marines on the aircraft is a little bit different,” the Air Force member pointed out. “They have other ways of doing business, so it took a little getting used to, but we learned from each other.” And once the TV show “JAG” filmed an episode with one of his aircraft. “They enjoyed it as much as I did and had a good time,” he said.

When it concerns the military, what happens in Las Vegas doesn’t always stay in Las Vegas. The sons and daughters of the city are spread far and wide in the U.S. and abroad in service to their country.

Journalist and author Chuck N. Baker is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a recipient of the Purple Heart. He is the managing editor of Nevada’s Veterans Reporter newspaper and the host of the “Veterans Reporter Radio Show” on KLAV (1230 AM) from 8-9 p.m. Thursdays and of the “Veterans Reporter TV Show” at
2:30 a.m. Fridays on VegasTV KTUD Cable 14.

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