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.

Local veteran Russel McLogan was named Veteran of the Year at the Hillsdale County Fair. Greg McLogan. Courtesy

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.”