'Round Town (Oct. 16, 2019)

Posted 10/15/19

Attention all of you Aggies from the Class of ’74 and all of you Air Force servicemen and women: If you were an Aggie in the 1970s, you may have known Lester Travis Pepin. If you were in the Air Force during the late 1970s, or at some point during the following two decades, you may have served under Lt. Col. Lester Travis Pepin.

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'Round Town (Oct. 16, 2019)

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Attention all of you Aggies from the Class of ’74 and all of you Air Force servicemen and women: If you were an Aggie in the 1970s, you may have known Lester Travis Pepin. If you were in the Air Force during the late 1970s, or at some point during the following two decades, you may have served under Lt. Col. Lester Travis Pepin.

The Lt. Col., who now resides in College Station. During his 26 years of service he served in the Pentagon, had two tours of duty in Germany and one in Italy and twice returned to Texas A&M University, where he also served as the ROTC instructor.

There is much more you need to know about this hero, and I share that with you at the end of my column. First, though, here’s what is going on ‘round town.

It’s the big 5-0 for the MHS Class of 1969! To celebrate the class will hold its 50th reunion from around 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at the MHS High school cafeteria. They would love to see all of you!

Then don’t forget, the class of 1979 is also holding its reunion Saturday at Oak Ridge Country Club. They though plan to gather from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. Don’t reckon the ten years difference in graduation has anything to do with the difference in reunion time, do you?

Speaking of time, if you have a little extra, the CHI Madison St Joseph Auxiliary Gift Shop seriously needs volunteers. Whether it’s a few hours once a week or manning the shop one day a week, you are desperately needed. You can? Great! Contact Maurita Turner at 936-349-1572 or 936-348-2631, extension 1572.

By the way, stop by our hospital’s gift shop and check out their unusual gifts and handmade items. It’s open from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and has great gifts and handmade items.

Congratulations to Lindy Wells! At the recent All-American Quarter Horse Congress held in Columbus, Ohio Lindy who won the $50,000 Amateur Class on her mare Redhead from Denver.

Lindy’s trainer, Bradey Davis of Texarkana, also showed Lindy’s mare and won the Four-Year Open Derby. Later he added won an additional championship on her, winning $4,000 and marking the highest score given a Quarter Horse Congress class.

Lindy’s horse Metallic Twister also did well at Congress, winning Reserve Champion of the 5/6 Classic Open and making the finals in the 5/6 classic Amateur. Good horses can surely make you smile!

It’s Fall Festival time for all ages in Madison county. Kicking off the festivities is the Haunted House sponsored by our fire department at the Madison County Fairgrounds. It’s open from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. Oct. 25 to Oct. 31 and one of their fundraisers so if possible, drop by and make a donation.

Crossroads Cowboy Church will host its Second Annual Chuckwagon Chili Cook Off and Festival Oct. 26, so find your best recipe! That afternoon you can eat some good chili, play in 42 tournaments and corn hole tournaments and toss horseshoes. For the kiddos it’s game booths and a jump house. Those with nerves of steel of any age can test their luck on the mechanical bucking bull. Mark your calendar!

The following Thursday, Hallowe’en, plan to have your little princesses and superheroes on the square to trick or treat our local merchants. The photo ops are always endless.

Afterwards drop by the First United Methodist Church for their community-wide festival for all ages. From 4:30-6:30 p.m. chow down on a hotdog, indulge in a game or two and watch the smiles grow on the kiddos faces as they do a little Trunk-or-Treating.

On to this week’s birthday list: Happy birthday to Barbara Clute, who celebrates her special day Friday. Denise Smotek, Rae Kubiak and Butch McDaniel have birthdays Saturday, while Monday is birthday time for Clint Cannon and Tracy Farris.

And finally, the passing years have a way of changing our values. We slowly realize life isn’t about new cars and bigger houses, but more about friendships and family and helping one another. Lt. Col. Pepin has spent a lifetime helping and protecting our family and friends. It hasn’t always been easy though.

The evening of Sept. 14, 1977, minutes after refueling at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, a US Air Force Boeing EC-135K crashed into the steep terrain of the Manzano Mountains, bursting into a ball of fire and scattering the mangle human remains of all 20 servicemen aboard across the mountain.

Travis Pepin, then a young lieutenant, and the men under his direction were called to help secure that area. Then for several days they retrieved those scattered human remains.

In a blog about that crash, servicemen wrote about the horrors of that night, sharing their emotional and physical problems since that experience. They wrote about the stench of the mix of blood and jet fuel and how their uniforms were burned since that stench could not be eradicated. One soldier wrote about stuffing soap in his nose for days in an attempt to rid himself of the smell.

Jet fuel is one of the PTSD triggers for Lt. Col. Pepin. Only after retirement though, has that night returned to haunt him.

I’ve learned a lot about PTSD through research and visiting with Lt. Col.’s wife Jane. Usually PTSD is the result. of a repressed trauma that rears its ugly head decades later. The triggers are real and the chemical reactions of the brain often unpredictable, running the gamut from anxiety to anger to irritation to violence to fear. Sometimes it’s the fight or flight syndrome, no matter if they are asleep or awake.

“This happens to him daily,” said Jane, who now recognizes the oncoming symptoms immediately. “PTSD can also get worse with age. Twenty-two service men a day kill themselves because of PTSD.”

Nowadays, more than a decade since his first PTSD symptoms, Les, as Jane fondly calls him, requires 24-hour care. While he goes out to eat and enjoys his woodworking shop, PTSD attacks come unannounced and his can be severe. Jane tries to always be nearby. Only last week was that need driven home when she took a nap.

“Les went outside. He becomes overheated really fast so while outside he fell and couldn’t get up. We have no idea how long he was there before he was able to get into the house and awaken me.”

The incident hospitalized him.

Service dogs are answered prayer for PTSD vets. Now, needing constant care, Lt. Col. Pepin needs a service dog.

“A dog is trained to lay on him, to get him totally awake and break up the nightmares,” continued Jane as she recounted that Pepin may have three or four nightmares in one night. “A person with PTSD can be really physical and hurt someone or himself, but a dog won’ let him to that. “Anxiety is a major issue and a dog wraps himself around the person’s leg and puts his head in his lap to comfort him. The dogs help in all kinds of day-to- day activities. One would alert me if Les is sleepwalking or has passed out. A dog picks up things like canes and because of his back, Les can’t bend over to pick up what he drops.” Lt. Col. Pepin has undergone three back surgeries and has a rod on each side of his spine and recently underwent neck surgery as well.

“All service dogs that are free to veterans usually have a two-to-five year wait list,” she continued as she discussed the training that can cost more than $30,000. When a dog is located the person may need to spend as long as two months working with the trainer and the dog and sometimes that still dog may not be the right one.” Presently a dog is available at Rivers Edge Service Animals, a private organization in College Station for $10,000. Another is available in Tennessee. Service dogs are in such need, however, neither will be available for long.

Bum Phillips Charities is heading a fund to help Lt. Col. Pepin get a service dog. If you can help, please send your contribution to Bum Phillips Charities, 2981 S. Riverdale LN., Goliad, TX 77963. You can also donate on the Bum Phillips Charities Facebook page.

Also send your encouragement to Let Col. Pepin and Jane at 18000 Mourning Dove Drive, College Station, TX, 77845. As Charlie Daniels once said, “Only two things protect America, the grace of almighty God and U.S. military. “

Thank you Lt.. Col. Pepin for your service. Hopefully we can now help you quickly get the service dog you need.

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