Featured Stories

The honorable thing

Prineville’s Bob Wolverton postpones his retirement from the Navy Reserve to serve a tour in Iraq

by: ANNEMARIE KNEPPER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Bob Wolverton (second from right) stands with his family, Domonick, Kimberly, and Megan outside their Prineville home. Bob, who has more than 20 years of service in the Navy and Navy Reserve is headed to Iraq for a six-month tour. He is scheduled to return in April 2007.

Bob Wolverton Jr., of Prineville, was set to retire from the Navy Reserve in September.
   Instead he made the choice to extend his time with Navy for one year.
   Now, after 16 years in the Reserve, Wolverton, 44, is heading to the Middle East.
   He will be parting from his wife of nine months, Kimberly, and her children, Megan and Domonick.
   Wolverton met Kimberly while activated in Washington state. After dating for four years they married in September.
   "She's been great," he said. "She's really supportive."
   Though Kimberly's eyes filled with water when discussing her husband's approaching departure, she offers him her full encouragement.
   "I want to honor him," she said.
   Wolverton said the difficult decision was made after considering what it would feel like to have his friends from the reserve go without him.
   "It's like a brotherhood," he said. "You're with your friends and it's the honorable thing to do."
   Wolverton describes himself as a patriot, brought up in the era of John Wayne movies, flying the flag.
   "I'm proud to be an American and this is my way to pay that back," Wolverton said. "It's a choice to go and I'm going there for our people to make sure they come home safe and to make sure the Iraqi people are self-sufficient and can police their own."
   Previously, he was on active duty from September 1980 to February 1985 and was reactivated October 2001 through June 2002 as a result of 9/11.
   "I'm also going to speed up our process so we can get our job done and come home," Wolverton said. "All of us."
   Wolverton knew since December it was a possibility he may go to Iraq. He received official orders last month.
   He said he could have gone to a different unit and avoided going to Iraq, "But I like the Seabees," he said of his battalion.
   "There's a tradeoff," he said. "I got to play for so many years. I enjoyed it...like Boy Scouts for adults."
   The Navy Seabees are strictly defensive, Wolverton explained. Their motto is "We build, we fight." Wolverton will be on Convoy Security.
   Wolverton is a part of the Construction Battalion Detachment 0718 out of Eugene. The detachment helps make up the Northwest Seabee 18, which is sending 460 soldiers to Iraq.
   On July 10, Wolverton will depart for six weeks of training in Mississippi, followed by six weeks of combat training in Kuwait. His six months in Iraq will begin in late September.
   He is taking leave from his job as a machinist at Brightwood in Madras where he said his employer and co-workers have been very supportive.
   Wolverton comes from a long line of military men and women. His sister Kris, now living in Springfield, served in the Army. His father was in the Air Force and his grandfather served in the Army during World War I, as a motorcycle courier in France and Germany. One of Wolverton's uncles was killed in World War II as Marine Corps fighter pilot and an aunt served as a WAVE, or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service during the same war.
   His parents, Bob Sr. and Joanne, live just up the road.
   "I haven't made it very far from home," he laughed.
   Joanne said Wolverton's interest in the military started young.
   "He used to play with little toy soldiers," she said. "He read about the military as soon as he could read. He would look at an airplane and tell you what it was and what it was capable of."
   Now she and her husband are supportive of their son, while being honest about their apprehension.
   "I don't want anybody to go," Joanne said. "I want to support my son and all the guys who go, but I want him back in mind and body."
   Bob Sr. shares her views.
   "I wish he wasn't going," he said. "But he's his own man and like he told me, he's 44 and said, `If I go, maybe someone who is 22 who has little children won't have to go.' I support that."
   Wolverton's adult daughter Gina Marie lives in California.
   "I wish we were all back and out of Iraq," Bob Sr. said. "I wish we weren't there. But we can't always have our wishes. My son has been very dedicated to the Navy. He's not a high-ranking official, but it takes Indians and chiefs to do a job. Someone has to get out there in the trenches."
   Wolverton said he doesn't think about the danger.
   "Maybe it's a guy thing," he said. "But I never say "It's not going to happen to me.' I'm going to do my time and come home."