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SALUTING PULASKI COUNTY’S VETERANS

(Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series of stories spotlighting Pulaski County’s military veterans.)
PULASKI – He was just a young “country farm boy who wanted off the farm.”
A little more than two decades later, James “Bud” Blankenship found himself as the captain of his own patrol boat for the U.S. Navy.
Blankenship, who grew up in Wythe County, joined the Navy in 1943 at age 17. Besides wanting to escape a life spent working on a farm, he said he also felt that his country needed him during World War II.
He soon headed to Maryland for basic training at the U.S. Naval Training Center, Bainbridge. Once Blankenship completed his training, he said, “They had the USS J.D. Blackwood waiting for me. It was brand new, sitting in the skids. We saw it christened, and we stood there and saw it hit the water. Then, we went aboard and cleaned it up.”
Aboard the USS J.D. Blackwood, Blankenship traveled to Guantanamo Bay for a short period of training and then headed to the South Pacific.
In 1946, Blankenship was discharged from the U.S. Navy. However, he couldn’t seem to stay away from military life long, and soon joined the U.S. Army, where he served for two more years.
During those two years, Blankenship spent one year training at the Constabulary School in Sonthofen, Germany, and spent the other year in Germany putting his training into practice, as the U.S. Army’s Constabulary Force acted as an occupation and security force in the U.S. Occupation Zone of West Germany and Austria in the aftermath of World War II.
Blankenship was discharged after his two years in the U.S. Army, but he said after the Korean War broke out, in 1952, he joined the military yet again, this time returning to the U.S. Navy.
Blankenship said he preferred the Navy to the Army, adding, “I guess the Navy was in my blood — the deep blue water.”
Blankenship and his younger brother had planned to join the military together at the start of the Korean War, but his brother went ahead and joined first and ended up getting killed. His brother was 18 years old.
Once Blankenship did re-enlist, he stayed in for 20 years and served in numerous locations, including Korea and Vietnam.
When serving as a crew leader, Blankenship was known for his abilities as a leader. In a commendation letter written about Blankenship, R.R. Ross, the commanding officer of the USS Liddle, states, “You [Blankenship] are an ideal leader in that you not only work your men well, but you work well with your men. The forecastle, as well as your other assigned spaces, is always kept in a ‘ready for inspection’ state. You willingly accept additional duties, performing them with a minimum of delay.”
Eventually, as a boatswain’s mate first class, Blankenship became the captain of his own patrol boat, the “Big B,” during the Vietnam War. He noted that during this time, his boat would patrol the coast and participate in mine-sweeping missions.
In a citation from 1968, signed by John J. Hyland, a U.S. Navy admiral, in which Blankenship was presented with a Gold Star (in lieu of the Second Navy Commendation Medal), it states, “From June 1967 to June 1968, Petty Officer Blankenship served as Boat Captain of Assault Support Patrol Boat 111-3, a unit of River Assault Squadron Eleven. Operating in support of the 2nd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division, he participated in over 25 assault missions in enemy-infested waters, and, on numerous occasions, was subjected to heavy rocket, recoilless rifle, automatic weapons and small arms fire in savage, short-range engagements with the enemy. Displaying calmness and bravery under fire, he effectively directed return suppressive fire into the enemy positions. Routinely, he operated day and night during assault operations under the constant threat of enemy attack for periods in excess of three days. He unfailingly met these requirements with enthusiasm and determination. His leadership, supervision and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Blankenship noted that he was also exposed to Agent Orange while serving during the Vietnam War. He said that on many occasions, the herbicide was sprayed about 200 feet from the coast and back, and, while completing his missions, he would have to sail right through where it had been sprayed. Blankenship received medals for his military service, including the Navy Achievement Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, along with numerous others. He was discharged from the Navy after 20 years of service, and he returned to the local area where he began working at Jefferson Mills and worked there for 18 years.
As for why he chose to continue serving his country for such a long period of time, Blankenship said, “I loved it. My flag, my ship, my uniform. I loved it all.”
Today, Blankenship resides in Pulaski with his wife, whom he married in 1955. Together, they have five children, 14 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Currently, one of their grandsons is following in his grandfather’s footsteps, serving in the U.S. Navy. In addition, two of the Blankenships’ sons served in the U.S. Navy as well.
Blankenship is a lifetime member of Pulaski’s VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 1184, where he participates in the honor guard for military ceremonies and funerals.

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SALUTING PULASKI COUNTY’S VETERANS

(Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series of stories spotlighting Pulaski County’s military veterans.)
PULASKI – He was just a young “country farm boy who wanted off the farm.”
A little more than two decades later, James “Bud” Blankenship found himself as the captain of his own patrol boat for the U.S. Navy.
Blankenship, who grew up in Wythe County, joined the Navy in 1943 at age 17. Besides wanting to escape a life spent working on a farm, he said he also felt that his country needed him during World War II.
He soon headed to Maryland for basic training at the U.S. Naval Training Center, Bainbridge. Once Blankenship completed his training, he said, “They had the USS J.D. Blackwood waiting for me. It was brand new, sitting in the skids. We saw it christened, and we stood there and saw it hit the water. Then, we went aboard and cleaned it up.”
Aboard the USS J.D. Blackwood, Blankenship traveled to Guantanamo Bay for a short period of training and then headed to the South Pacific.
In 1946, Blankenship was discharged from the U.S. Navy. However, he couldn’t seem to stay away from military life long, and soon joined the U.S. Army, where he served for two more years.
During those two years, Blankenship spent one year training at the Constabulary School in Sonthofen, Germany, and spent the other year in Germany putting his training into practice, as the U.S. Army’s Constabulary Force acted as an occupation and security force in the U.S. Occupation Zone of West Germany and Austria in the aftermath of World War II.
Blankenship was discharged after his two years in the U.S. Army, but he said after the Korean War broke out, in 1952, he joined the military yet again, this time returning to the U.S. Navy.
Blankenship said he preferred the Navy to the Army, adding, “I guess the Navy was in my blood — the deep blue water.”
Blankenship and his younger brother had planned to join the military together at the start of the Korean War, but his brother went ahead and joined first and ended up getting killed. His brother was 18 years old.
Once Blankenship did re-enlist, he stayed in for 20 years and served in numerous locations, including Korea and Vietnam.
When serving as a crew leader, Blankenship was known for his abilities as a leader. In a commendation letter written about Blankenship, R.R. Ross, the commanding officer of the USS Liddle, states, “You [Blankenship] are an ideal leader in that you not only work your men well, but you work well with your men. The forecastle, as well as your other assigned spaces, is always kept in a ‘ready for inspection’ state. You willingly accept additional duties, performing them with a minimum of delay.”
Eventually, as a boatswain’s mate first class, Blankenship became the captain of his own patrol boat, the “Big B,” during the Vietnam War. He noted that during this time, his boat would patrol the coast and participate in mine-sweeping missions.
In a citation from 1968, signed by John J. Hyland, a U.S. Navy admiral, in which Blankenship was presented with a Gold Star (in lieu of the Second Navy Commendation Medal), it states, “From June 1967 to June 1968, Petty Officer Blankenship served as Boat Captain of Assault Support Patrol Boat 111-3, a unit of River Assault Squadron Eleven. Operating in support of the 2nd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division, he participated in over 25 assault missions in enemy-infested waters, and, on numerous occasions, was subjected to heavy rocket, recoilless rifle, automatic weapons and small arms fire in savage, short-range engagements with the enemy. Displaying calmness and bravery under fire, he effectively directed return suppressive fire into the enemy positions. Routinely, he operated day and night during assault operations under the constant threat of enemy attack for periods in excess of three days. He unfailingly met these requirements with enthusiasm and determination. His leadership, supervision and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Blankenship noted that he was also exposed to Agent Orange while serving during the Vietnam War. He said that on many occasions, the herbicide was sprayed about 200 feet from the coast and back, and, while completing his missions, he would have to sail right through where it had been sprayed. Blankenship received medals for his military service, including the Navy Achievement Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, along with numerous others. He was discharged from the Navy after 20 years of service, and he returned to the local area where he began working at Jefferson Mills and worked there for 18 years.
As for why he chose to continue serving his country for such a long period of time, Blankenship said, “I loved it. My flag, my ship, my uniform. I loved it all.”
Today, Blankenship resides in Pulaski with his wife, whom he married in 1955. Together, they have five children, 14 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Currently, one of their grandsons is following in his grandfather’s footsteps, serving in the U.S. Navy. In addition, two of the Blankenships’ sons served in the U.S. Navy as well.
Blankenship is a lifetime member of Pulaski’s VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 1184, where he participates in the honor guard for military ceremonies and funerals.

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