Washington, D.C.--Since Veterans Day 2019, U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) has honored 14 Idaho veterans and servicemembers in a social media campaign he launched called, “Military Monday.” Idaho is home to many veterans and currently-serving members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have demonstrated exemplary military service during their careers.
“Idaho’s veterans and servicemembers have a profound commitment to our community and nation,” said Crapo. “I am honored to have shared these heroic stories over the past year and look forward to sharing more. Recognizing and honoring these patriots is just one small way to express to them how much they are respected and appreciated.”
Brief biographies of the inaugural list of honorees is below.
- November 11, 2019: Retired Veteran Lloyd Gneiting: Mr. Gneiting was a World War II veteran from Rigby. Gneiting served as a member of the 133rd Engineer Combat Battalion, led by General George S. Patton, which cleared mines from the roads to make room for tanks and to build bridges. Prior to his passing in April at the age of 101, Mr. Gneiting wore five Bronze Stars on his veterans hat every day.
- December 9, 2019: Sergeant First Class (SFC) Brandon Vilt: SFC Vilt is a member of Delta Company, 326 Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne” of the 101st Airborne Division. Sergeant First Class Vilt, a Montpelier native, was honored as the Unmanned Aircraft Systems 2019 Soldier of the Year. Vilt was recommended for this prestigious award because he is an extraordinary soldier and extremely selfless. During Vilt's third combat deployment he lost his leg and was eligible to medically retire. He chose to continue the fight and lead fellow soldiers just 8 months later when he volunteered to join his current unit and deploy to Iraq for 9 months in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
- January 13, 2020: Platoon Sergeant (SGT) Cody Brown: Platoon SGT Brown of Hansen is an active servicemember with the 1016th Twin Falls Unit. SGT Brown did one yearlong tour in Iraq and two yearlong tours in Afghanistan. Brown was awarded the Combat Action Badge, two Army Commendation Medals, one Army Commendation Medal with "V" device for services rendered during a mass casualty event in Iraq and four Army Achievement Medals. He feels his military service has given him a profound sense of belonging and instilled in him responsibility, work ethic and integrity.
- February 10, 2020: Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2) Kyle Sam: CW2 Kyle Sam, a resident of Boise, who is currently in the Idaho National Guard, returned home from his second tour in Afghanistan in early 2019 where he served as a medical evacuation pilot with Det 2 C Company 1-168th Guardian. As a member of the Idaho National Guard, Sam is committed to trainings one weekend per month, two weeks per year, as well as maintaining flight minimums and holding a full-time job. He says the tradeoff of the busy schedule is being able to give back to his community.
- March 9, 2020: Retired Staff Sergeant Allen Jake Versteeg: Retired Staff Sergeant Allen Jake Versteeg, earned two Purple Hearts within a nine month period and a Bronze Star. Versteeg is now retired from the U.S. Army and created the Phoenix Quick Response Force based in Idaho Falls to help veterans who are struggling locally in the Idaho Falls region.
- April 13, 2020: Retired Captain Leonard Andrew Crosby lll: Retired Captain Leonard Andrew Crosby III of Post Falls had an extensive career in the U.S. Army. Captain Crosby deployed to Vietnam twice and was awarded a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars for heroism in ground combat, two Purple Heart awards, two Air Medal awards, Army Commendation Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and many more recognitions. He shared that many of his memories center on the men he served with in his various combat engagements and remembers many as honorable and fearless.
- May 11, 2020: Retired Staff Sergeant Bob Johnson: Retired Staff Sergeant Bob Johnson hails from Grangeville served in the U.S. Air Force with the Strategic Air Command (SAC) 379 Bomb Wing from 1976 to 1984. Johnson was responsible for launching the Nuclear Alert Force when ordered to do so by SAC to ensure proper notifications were made.
- June 8, 2020: Retired Veteran David Dean Packer Sr.: David Dean Packer, Sr. of Pocatello, served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Packer was stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War with the Army 81st Maintenance Battalion and was responsible for repairing equipment from Vietnam and sending it back. He received an Army Commendation Medal.
- July 13, 2020: Airman First Class Kelsey Pilant: Airman First Class Kelsey Pilant, a fellow Grangeville native, is an active duty servicemember with the Unit-15th Airlift Squadron. Airman First Class Pilant was previously honored as Airman of the Year for the 15th Airlift Squadron, and has received additional awards during her service. She is responsible for imputing and auditing aircrew mission’s accomplishments and providing information about training level availabilities.
- August 10, 2020: Retired Sergeant First Class Robert Wagner: Retired SFC Robert Wagner served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam. SFC Wagner was awarded the Purple Heart and many other notable awards during his 20+ years of service. His dedication to our country goes beyond the call of duty. Now, SFC Wagner, a longtime resident of Jerome, refurbishes medical equipment for aging veterans and their spouses. Wagner also reads to students at a local elementary school and has continued to support his community in many other ways.
- September 14, 2020: Sergeant First Class Russell “Rusty” Mewes: SFC Russell “Rusty” Mewes is currently part of the Idaho National Guard, stationed in Idaho Falls with Foxtrot Company, 145th Brigade Support Battalion. Before SFC Mewes joined the Guard, he was a proud member of the Marine Corps, where he began his service in 1993. SFC Mewes has deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and has received many awards during his service, including an Army Commendation Medal, an Army Good Conduct Medal and the Idaho Governor’s Outstanding Unit Award, among many others. He says his most decorated award is his wife and daughter for their support.
- October 12, 2020: Retired Airman Second Class Harold Eshelman: Retired Airman Second Class Harold Eshelman served with the Idaho Air National Guard, 124th Fighter Wing, for six years and armed and ensured the accuracy of the F-89. Harold continues to serve his country by supporting our troops and veterans in any way he can, including organizing the Wounded Veterans Alaska fishing trip and multiple Washington, D.C., trips for World War ll Veterans, as well as a number of events for high school students and ROTC programs. He is working to start a new American Veterans (AMVETS) Post in Boise.
- November 9, 2020: Retired Air Force veteran Harold Markiewicz: Veteran Harold Markiewicz of Post Falls served 22 years in the U.S. Air Force. Markiewicz was assigned to 13 different units, has served over five deployments and received numerous awards, including the Air Force Longevity Service Award. His best memories of his military career is going to aircraft school in 1971 before his deployment to Vietnam. He said he remained friends with many of his fellow servicemembers and has a fond memory of his friend, “Lieutenant Peaches,” who was from Georgia.
- December 14, 2020: Retired Corporal Miguel Dominic: Retired Corporal Miguel Dominic served in the U.S. Army and was awarded a Combat Action Badge and a Purple Heart after being struck by an IED. The Dominic family’s military legacy is being carried on through Miguel’s sons and their membership in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. Miguel remains devoted to his community, including serving as the Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the AMVETS Honor Guard in Pocatello.
To be recognized, the individual must be a living veteran, active duty or guardsman; must be in active good standing with or departed on good terms from the U.S. military; and must be from Idaho. Individuals honored by Senator Crapo have provided permission for their photos to be shared by Senator Crapo and his office. The #MilitaryMonday feature takes place on the second Monday of each month, and the next recognition will take place on Monday, January 11, 2021. Check Senator Crapo’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to learn more about the next recipient.