The Hillsdale County Veteran of the Year committee presented its 65th annual Veteran of the Year award to local veteran Russell McLogan, who received a Purple Heart award after being wounded in the Phillipines during World War II.
The committee also honored local veteran Gerald Chase, who served a total of 23 years with the U.S. Air Force, as runner-up. The ceremony took place at the Nichols Bandshell on Monday and was concluded by the playing of taps and a minute of silence to honor veterans who died in combat.
McLogan received the Purple Heart after being shot in the leg by a Japanese machine gun during combat in the Philippines. He spent 89 days in recovery afterward.
“They called it a million-dollar wound,” his son, Greg McLogan, said. “The doctors said it went right in between the two bones of his lower leg, which is amazing; if it had hit either bone, he would have been disabled the rest of his life.”
McLogan was drafted into the war in 1944, when he was 18 years old, and he served in the 6th infantry division in the Philippines. After receiving an honorable discharge from the U.S. military in 1946, he began his studies at the University of Detroit while working full-time for the Ford Motor Company.
During high school, McLogan had attended a Henry Ford Trade School, where he often saw Henry Ford himself walking around during his visits to the school’s plants.
“That was a long time ago,” Russell McLogan said.
McLogan married in 1950 while he was still in school and graduated in 1953 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He continued working for the Ford Motor Company afterward, and later on, he worked for General Motors before moving to an aerospace company in California.
In 1964, McLogan moved to Hillsdale to become the plant manager of Vaco Products, a manufacturing plant in Jonesville. He retired in 1989, and afterward devoted 10 years to writing a book, during which time he traveled to Washington D.C. to do research, in addition to taking writing classes at Jackson Community College.
“He likes to say he manufactured this book, because he’s a mechanical engineer,” Greg McLogan said.
In his book, titled “Boy Soldier: Coming of Age During World War II,” McLogan reflects on the war in the Philippines, the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan during World War II, and the occupation of Korea by American and Russian forces.
“He has received a lot of praise from historians for sharing his story,” Greg McLogan said. “As a family, we’re very proud of him for doing this, because a lot of veterans don’t want to share their experiences — they’re too painful and dark. For my dad, it was kind of a catharsis, a way to make sense of it all.”
McLogan has also been published in the Emerald Coast Review, Catholic Digest, and Purple Heart Magazine.
Greg McLogan said he did not know that much about his father’s experiences in the military until he read his book.
“My dad’s a more quiet man, and humble,” Greg McLogan said. “We call him a hero, but he doesn’t like that. He says heroes were the ones that died in the service.”
McLogan has been a member of the Hillsdale Legion Post 53 for 49 years, serving most of those years as post chaplain and the honor guard.
McLogan and his wife, Terry, have six children, including Greg, in addition to 10 grandchildren.
“He has been in really bad health the past year, and honestly a couple times, we didn’t think he would be with us anymore,” Greg McLogan said. “We think it is God’s grace for him to be there yesterday to accept that award.”
Runner-up Gerald Chase has received over 14 medals for his military service.
Chase grew up in Tecumseh, and was preparing to join the U.S. Marine Corps at age 17, when a recruiter inspired him to join the U.S. Air Force.
“It offered more on the technological side,” Chase said. “I had a little bit of a mechanical background…the opportunity to get on bigger equipment was interesting to me.”
Starting in 1959, he served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years as an active-duty helicopter mechanic and, in 1960, as crew chief for rescue operations.
“That was a big feather in my cap to be offered the crew chief position at such a low rank,” he said.
In 1967, Chase moved to Hillsdale and was employed at the Hillsdale Municipal Airport and later began working in the trucking industry out of Jackson.
“They were concerned because I was a helicopter mechanic,” Chase said. “But I said, ‘Your wings are stationary, while mine rotate; other than that, there’s no difference.’”
In 1987, Chase joined the Michigan Air National Guard, and he served as a noncommissioned officer in vehicle operations during Desert Storm and Kosovo. He eventually achieved the rank of technical sergeant.
Chase retired in 2001 and has been a member of the Jonesville Legion Post for 12 years. He said he would still be in the service now if he could be.
“It’s just the camaraderie,” he said. “Some of the things you go through, you’re like hooked at the hip with everybody.”