Lasco Gilbert is featured senior
- Susan Matheny
- Madras Pioneer - News
At 77 years of age, Lasco Gilbert is Warm Springs' oldest remaining World War II prisoner of war and one of the Tribes' most-highly decorated vets.
>Gilbert won purple heart, silver star
Lasco lost his hearing during the war, but with a tablet and pencil was able to communicate a brief history of his childhood and war experience.
Born Sept. 30, 1924 in Yakima, he moved to Warm Springs with his parents Susan (Schoolie) and James Gilbert and grew up in the Simnasho area on the remote Mutton Mountain Ranch. "My parents were farmers and raised cattle and horses. They were very poor and went season to season gathering roots, berries and potatoes to dry and can," he said.
Lasco attended the strict boarding school in Warm Springs and remembers his dad coming with a horse and wagon at Christmas time to pick him up during holiday vacation. Life was very hard, and of the 11 children born to his parents only two, Lasco and a brother, lived to be adults. The rest died of childhood illnesses.
During World War II he joined the Army infantry and trained with the 63rd Division as a light machine gun operator. Information from Warm Springs Vital Statistics notes, aviation and marksmanship were also listed in his record. Battles he fought in included the Rhineland and Central Europe, Europe and Africa, and Middle Eastern campaigns. Besides campaign medals, other awards include the Purple Heart for being wounded in battle, Silver Star for bravery while a prisoner of war, and a Good Conduct medal.
"I injured both legs running away from the Germans," he joked when first asked, but then related the real story. He and two other buddies "were waiting for breakfast in a bunker when the Germans came and took us prisoner." Here the story timeline is a little sketchy, but at some point, "we got away from the guard and we took off and I went back and I got the machine gun," he continued. Later, during one of the battles a mortar explosion injured both his legs and left him almost completely deaf. After recovering in the hospital he returned to the war with the 36th Division.
Traumatized by his war experiences, Lasco isolated himself at the family Mutton Mountain Ranch after he returned home, except for seven years when he worked at Warm Springs Forest Products Industries. His wife, Juanita, passed away and he has a son, Tony Gilbert and two daughters Hattie Gilbert and Sandra Clemens. As he got older, he moved into Warm Springs, where he lives with Sandra within walking distance of the tribal Senior Center. Even though he's crippled up by injuries, Lasco is very independent and continues to make daily walks to the grocery store for the newspaper. He enjoys sitting on his porch, watching traffic and reading the paper. He also likes sharing meals at the senior center, where everyone knows him by his nickname "Bugs" and greets him with a handshake.
Just a few weeks ago, Lasco was one of the POW honorees invited to ride in Prineville's parade during the dedication of its new Circle of Honor monument for POWs and MIAs. In 1995 he was also specially honored at the annual Veteran's Day Powwow in Warm Springs and proudly wears the "Indian Veteran" cap he was presented. The powwow is an event he looks forward to. "I'm waiting for Veteran's Day to go war dance," he said with a smile.