Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2018

Veterans ceremonies honor those who served

Nov 09, 2017

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


As the clock strikes 11 a.m. on Saturday, American Legion Post No. 29 will hold a program at Blair House honoring veterans of the U.S. armed forces who served honorably in the military, whether in wartime or peacetime.

Legion commander Mike York said the event will start promptly at 11 a.m. with a 21-gun salute and Taps. Veterans Day is always celebrated on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, regardless of what day it falls on, marking the day when Germany and the Allies signed the amistice to end hostilities of World War 1. In 1919, president Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first Armistice Day. In 1954 the holiday was renamed to honor all the veterans of the military.

“Its to reflect on sacrifices people have made in their lives, even if they weren’t in harm’s way, to ensure our freedoms,” York said.

York said after the salute, the events will move inside where speaker Cheyenne Cuddeback Miller will give the keynote speech. Inspired by her grandfather’s stories of serving as a paratrooper in World War II, Miller developed a desire to not only study military history, but to canonize the stories of those who served in the war. Her first book, “We the Lucky Few” was published in 2011 and their latest book, “The Three of Hearts” released Nov. 28, 2014. “The Three of Hearts” was named in honor of Miller’s grandfather’s lucky card that he returned home with from the war.

“One of the paratroopers in my dad’s outfit passed out one card to each of them from a 52-card deck,” Cuddeback explained in an earlier interview. “Later, when the surviving men got back together, less than half of the deck could be produced. My dad’s card was the three of hearts. He carried it in his billfold for the remaining 56 years of his life.”

“The Three of Hearts” tells the stories of men and women who served in World War II from Southeast Iowa counties such as Jefferson, Johnson, Linn, Henry and Muscatine.Cuddeback began working with other community members to locate veterans who would agree to tell their stories in 2010 and he didn’t stop until the last book was finished.

At 6 p.m. the Legion in conjunction with the Washington County Military Museum will hold a veterans dinner at the U.P. Church. York said anyone wishing to come is invited. The event will be to honor veterans.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Nov 09, 2017 22:35

Eastburn served during Persian Gulf War

Fairfield native put in 38 years of active duty in Marine Corps

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Nov 09, 2017
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo David Eastburn poses next to a Marines poster that hangs in his office. It reads: “We don’t promise you a rose garden.”

Fairfield resident David Eastburn wanted to join the military ever since he was a little boy.

“When I was 4, I ran away from home to go to West Point,” he said.

Luckily for his family, Eastburn wasn’t gone long, but his dream of attending West Point was very real. In particular, he wanted to be a Green Beret, a member of the United States Army Special Forces.

Eastburn would end up joining the U.S. Marines in college and put in 38 years worth of active duty service before his retirement in 1997. During the Gulf War of 1991, Eastburn was in charge of operations and training of the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, an infantry battalion responsible for recapturing airfields in Kuwait and protecting a supply base in Saudi Arabia.

Local residents may know Eastburn from his work at Iowa State Bank, where he has been since 1981 and now serves as the president of its holding company and chairman of its board of directors.


Early life

Eastburn was born and raised in Fairfield, and graduated from Fairfield High School in 1972. He has two sisters: Kim, two years younger, who lives in Maryland; and Ann, seven years younger, who lives in Urbandale.

Though he was interested in joining the military in his youth, Eastburn decided against it after graduating from high school. He said the Vietnam War was winding down, and he didn’t feel like being in the military commanded the same respect from the public it once did.

He enrolled at Central College in Pella where he planned to study economics and political science, with an eye toward attending law school. While visiting the Iowa State Fair after his sophomore year, he noticed a Marine Corps recruiting booth. Suddenly, Eastburn felt a surge of emotion pushing him toward the booth. He decided to enlist right then and there.

The Marine Corps put him up in a motel that night and asked him to return the following day for his physical. Not only was Eastburn accepted, he was placed in the Marines’ officer training program.

In retrospect, Eastburn recalled several friends and relatives in the military who might have played a role in his sudden decision to enlist. His father served in World War II. His grandfather and great uncle were in World War I. Another of his influential role models was former Ledger editor Dean Gabbert, a captain in the Marine Corps who fought at the Battle of Saipan during WWII.


First years in military

Eastburn graduated from Central College in 1976 with a major in political science. He entered college thinking he would later obtain a law degree, so it made sense to enlist in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). JAG refers to the legal branch or specialty of a military concerned with military justice and military law.

The Fairfield native went to Drake University as a prelude to entering the JAG Corps, but after three months, he realized a legal career was not in the cards. He spoke to his superiors and they agreed to change his contract so he could be an infantry officer instead.

Eastburn said being in the military was not easy in the late 1970s. The military budget was cut after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. According to the Office of Management and Budget, military spending reached $600 billion (in inflation-adjusted dollars) in the late 1960s, and by the mid 1970s was down to $400 billion. Eastburn described the military as “hollow.”

Not only that, some branches of the military had seen rampant drug use during the war.

“The military had to weed out non-performers during this time,” Eastburn said.


Infantry officer

In the summer of 1977, Eastburn left Iowa for the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia. He said being an officer in the infantry is “physically demanding,” but the tole it took on his body was nothing compared to the stress on his mind.

“The hardest thing I had to do was step in front of a group of Marines and tell them I was their leader,” he said. “You can never say ‘go’; you have to say ‘follow me.’”

Eastburn quipped that officers have to be the first to do everything ... except eat.

Many of the Marines under his command had been in the corps three or four years, and a lot of them had fought in Vietnam. They were an ethnically diverse group, too. Eastburn estimated that about 70 percent of his company was either African-American or Hispanic.

In 1979, Eastburn was deployed to the Persian Gulf after 52 diplomats were taken hostage at the American embassy in Iran. He was deployed at various locations such as in north Africa, Saudi Arabia and just off the coast of Iran. Iran released the hostages in January 1981.


1980s and Gulf War

The same year the hostages were freed, Eastburn started working at Iowa State Bank in Fairfield, where he has been for the past 36 years.

“I think I’ve done every job at the bank, including janitor,” he said.

While working at the bank, Eastburn continued his service through the U.S. Marine Reserves, earning qualifications in amphibious warfare and mountain warfare. He completed the Canadian Command and Staff Exchange College program and the Marine Corps Command and Staff College program.

Eastburn was called to active duty in November 1990, three months after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait. By this point in his career, Eastburn was a major and the operations officer for the 2nd Battalion 24th Marines. He was in charge of translating directives from battalion commanders into orders for his rifle companies.

Eastburn and his battalion had two main missions. The first was to capture Kuwait City’s international airport and another military airfield known as Ahmad al-Jaber Air Base. To do that, Eastburn had to pass through belts of minefields, some of which contained chemical weapons.

The other main mission was guarding a large supply base in Saudi Arabia near the Kuwaiti border. Iraq attempted to destroy supply bases in Saudi Arabia along the Persian Gulf coast, and succeeded in occupying the coastal city of Khafji, but only for two days before they were repelled by American, Saudi and Kuwaiti forces.

“We took the highest casualties defending those supply bases,” Eastburn said. “Those were the most stressful days of the war, even worse than invading Kuwait.”

The bases held the three main ingredients for any successful military: water, fuel and ammunition.

“It would have been a major setback in the war had we lost those bases,” Eastburn said.

The Gulf War ended in February 1991. Eastburn remained in the reserves another six years before his retirement.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Eastburn asked the Marines if he could come out of retirement because he wished to serve again. They told him he had been retired too long.

“I’m sure I could have passed the physical,” he said.

Since then, the United States has fought major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Eastburn said the first Gulf War was like a “drive-by shooting” compared to the ferocity of combat in these more recent wars.


Marines in the news

A few of Eastburn’s acquaintances in the Marines have gone on to have high-profile careers in government. Joseph Dunford, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest ranking member of the U.S. Armed Forces, served in Eastburn’s squad when the two were in basic school in 1977.

Eastburn also has a picture of himself and a few other Marines from the Gulf War that included then Lt. Col. James Mattis, who is now U.S. Defense Secretary.

“When Mattis walks in a room, he strikes you as a history professor from the University of Iowa, and someone you can have a beer with,” Eastburn recalled. “But don’t be fooled. He’s as hard a man as I’ve known. When he puts his mind to something, he doesn’t quit.”

If you wish to comment, please login.